Mastering the Marquee Tool in Photoshop

While designing, designers will inevitably be faced with the need to select and extract specific elements from an overall graphic. Do you need to remove an image’s background or cut out a specific portion from a photo? Well, have no fear… the Marquee Tools Selections are here!

There are so many ways to make selections and in this tutorial, I will try to show you the majority of them. You might not think some of the tools are important but eventually, you will see how beneficial they can be when combined with other selections and masking tools.

Let’s stop talking the talk, and get to it!

Marquee Tool

Marquee Tool are one of the simplest Selection Tools that Photoshop can offer. If you open the Marquee Tool from the Toolbar, you will see four different tool options:

  • Rectangular
  • Elliptical
  • Single Row
  • Single Column


Note: you can quickly select the Marquee Tool by pressing M then, you can switch between the Rectangular and Elliptical Marquee Tool by pressing SHIFT+M.

Let’s select the Rectangular Tool then click on our canvas and drag. As you might have expected, it makes a rectangular selection. There are two important keys you want to keep in mind when using Marquee Selections. First, if you press and hold the SHIFT key, you will get a square selection. If you press and hold the ALT key, your selection will be created from the center of where you clicked. Of course, if you press SHIFT+ALT, you can make a square from the center of your click.

When you select a tool in Photoshop, notice that the option bar under the menu changes depending on the tool you’ve selected. This is the option for the Marquee Tool:



By default, New selection is checked in the options bar which means every time you click and drag with this Marquee Tool, a new selection will be created.

Let’s explore the other three button options:

Add to selection

Make a selection on your canvas, then click on the Add to selection button from the option bar. Now, create another selection over the left corner of the current selection. You will notice that the existing selection did not disappear and the new selection is added.



Play around with this option and have some fun. 🙂 For Shortcut fans, like me, you can use also click SHIFT from the default selection and it will add a selection to the existing one.

Subtract from selection

The next button does the exact opposite… instead of adding a selection, it subtracts. You can use the click ALT from the default selection to subtract. Again, play around a little and you will already start creating cool things



Intersect selection

Instead of adding or subtracting one selection from another, the Intersect selection makes a new selection where the first and the second selection meet. Make a Magenta shape selection then use the Intersect selection to overlay the second Cyan shape. The dark blue shows the new selection where the Magenta and the Cyan selection overlay. And, of course, I can not continue without giving you the Shortcut… press and hold ALT+SHIFT together and your mouse cursor should become a small X.




Other Marquee Tool options on the options bar include the Feather value. Enter a value around 35px and create a New selection. As soon as you release the mouse button after dragging, you will notice your selection edges have softened.



While this may not look powerful at first glance, it’s very useful:



Another cool option is the Style drop-down from the Option bar:

  • Normal (default)
  • Fixed Ratio
  • Fixed Size

Until now, the Style value was set to “Normal” which allows us to create a selection in any size we want. It’s great that we have the flexibility to create a selection in any size. However, sometimes designers need to create a selection in a specific ratio or size. Imagine, for example, that you want to create a button that’s 80 x 30 pixel. It would be quite hard to measure this size by eye or to create guides to help you. Therefore, we have the Style option!

Set the Style to Fixed size and enter 80 x 30 pixel for Width and Height. Once you click on your canvas, a selection will be made in that size.



Now, let’s change the Style to Fixed Ratio and take a look at this option. If you enter a value of 1:1, your selection will have the same width and height — a square. If you want to create a selection with double the width of height then you can enter the value Width: 2 and Height: 1

Refine Edge

The Refine Edge tool can be found under Menu > Select > Refine Edge or with the Shortcut ALT+CRTL+R. This is a really powerful tool for any selections and we will learn more about it when we start masking difficult objects. For now, take a look at this tool’s options and make yourself familiar for my future tutorials.



Elliptical Tool is the same as everything you have learned, so far, about the Rectangular Tool. Click and drag to create a circle and hold the SHIFT key if you want to create a perfect circle.

Single Row Tool creates a selection in the width of your document and a height of 1 pixel.

Single Column Tool create a selection in the document height and 1 pixel width. Sometimes this tools can be useful when you want to remove a 1 pixel line from your background edges. So that was the Marquee Tool, this tool doesn’t look really powerful but it has really a lot of power and can be used in many situations.


Here is a quick example of what you should be able to do from what you’ve learned in this tutorial:



Even a quick, basic graphic can be created within just a few minutes. I used the Elliptical Tool and subtracted another Elliptical selection.



I filled this shape with a color and rotated two copies and vola! We’ve created a simple graphic — you can call me logo stock designer, haha. 😉



I have not even scratched the surface on all of the wonderful tools Photoshop has to offer. SO, be ready for a lot more tutorials very soon. Here is a quick preview of the upcoming techniques and tools we will be taking a look at:

  • Lasso Tools
  • Quick Selection
  • Magic Wand
  • Eraser Tools
  • Pen Tool
  • Color Range
  • Quick Masks
  • Layer Masks
  • Vector Masks
  • Channels
  • Refine Edge Tool

As you can see there is A LOT to learn… and that’s what makes graphic design so rewarding! 🙂

Any questions or tips about the Marquee Tool? Please post it in the comments.

Related articles

How to quickly remove a background in Photoshop

How to quickly remove a background in Photoshop

Photoshop offers many different techniques to remove an unwanted background from an image. For simple backgrounds, using the standard Magic Wand tool to select and delete the background may well be more than adequate. For more complicated backgrounds, you might use the Background Eraser tool. This tool samples the color at the center of the…

Photoshop vs. Illustrator vs. InDesign

Photoshop vs. Illustrator vs. InDesign

From photo editing to typography tools to sound design, the industry-standard Adobe Creative Suite gives creators of all kinds everything they need to create professional work fast—for literally any type of design project. For now, let’s get graphic. Whether it’s creating a logo, designing social media graphics or putting together a brochure, Adobe has created…

3 ways Photoshop Actions can speed up your workflow

3 ways Photoshop Actions can speed up your workflow

Photoshop Actions are a great starting point for graphic designers looking to become more efficient in their workflow. With the help of this computer automation technique, designers can quickly accomplish tasks that would otherwise take countless manual hours. We’ve already walked you through the basics of Photoshop Actions, so now it’s time to teach you some of the effective ways to…

Current Design Contests

Designers, check out these contests so you can start building your career.