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Photoshop Tips for Beginners 2

Manipulating selections By Dave Nagel
In our first collection of tips for Adobe Photoshop, we looked at some methods for simplifying the selection of a layer's contents. We presented some shortcuts to save time and allow you to select elements of your composition precisely and with a minimum of fuss. Now we'll go a bit more deeply into selections with a look at how to manipulate any type of selection with an equal amount of precision and ease.

Before we get started, if you have not done so already, you could probably benefit by going back and reading our first installment in this "beginner tips" series. You can find it by clicking here. In the future, you will be able to find all of our beginner tips in our Tutorials section by clicking here or sorted and filtered on our search page by clicking here.

In the spirit of our first tutorial, this new one will look at methods for making your life easier when working with selections. We'll look first at basic selection transformations in Photoshop CS and CS2. Then we'll explore the more advanced selection warping feature available only in Photoshop CS2.

Basic transformations
One of the problems users will encounter early on in their Photoshop careers is how to create selections on precise portions of their images. For example, maybe you want to select the left half of your image and fill that with a pattern or solid color. So you might go about it the roundabout way, using guides and then making the marquee selection manually. Or you might even just eyeball it and hope for the best. That's easy enough if your selection is 50 percent. But when you get into odd percentages--or even odd shapes for your selection--the task becomes more difficult.

The solution is to use Photoshop's "Transform Selection" command. Here's a look at how it works and what options are available to you.

Example 1: centered selections
First we'll begin with something simple: We're going to select the inner 25 percent of a square image, then rotate it so that we can create a color fill in a diamond shape.

1. To begin, select your entire canvas (Edit > Select All, or just Command-A).

2. Now choose Select > Transform Selection. (You will use this feature often, so you might want to assign this command a keyboard shortcut. You can customize your keyboard shortcuts by going to Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts.) When you select this command, your selection will turn into a bounding box with handles, just as if you were transforming a layer. We're not. We're just transforming the selection itself, not the contents within the selection.

3. Now, when you're in this mode, the top Tool Options bar in Photoshop will display special parameters for manipulating the selection. To make this selection precisely 25 percent the size of the original canvas, go up to the parameters labeled "W" and "H" (width and height, respectively). Enter a value of 25 in each. (Note that if you click on the little link icon, you need only enter the value once, and the other value will be adjusted proportionally.)

Here's the result.

4. Now we want to change the angle of the selection to create a diamond shape. So in the rotation parameter, adjust the value up from 0 to 45 (degrees).

Now we're done with the transformation. Hit Enter/Return to apply the transformation permanently. (You may need to do this twice: once to set the value for the last parameter you entered, another to apply the whole transformation.)

Then you return to a regular marquee selection in the shape of a perfectly centered and perfectly proportional diamond, which you can then fill using the Paint Bucket tool.

Example 2: off-center selections
That's simple enough. But what if you want to create a selection that isn't centered? Say, for example, that you want to select the left-hand 75 percent of the image and fill that?

The process is almost identical, but you need to adjust the anchor point of the selection before proceeding.

1. Once again, select your entire image (Command-A on the Mac, Control-A on Windows).

2. Then choose Select > Transform Selection. You'll see the transformation bounding box appear again.

3. Now, because we want to transform this selection to cover 75 percent of the image on the left-hand side, we're going to switch the anchor point (or reference point) for the selection to the left-hand side of the selection. Do this up in the top Tool Options bar, where, on the left, you'll see a little square representing your transformation bounding box. Click the left handle in this little diagram.

4. Then enter the value of 75 percent for the W parameter.

And voila!

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