Photoshop Basics : Lasso Tool

by Vargis.Khan

There are three different versions of Lasso Tool in Photoshop. The one that we are going to discuss here is the Standard Lasso Tool. Lasso Tool comes in handy when you have to make selection around a complex subject. This tool, though very basic, does require a very steady hand, lots of patience, decent drawing skills and a good quality mouse. T o select the Lasso Tool, click on the rope shaped icon. Photoshop by default highlights the last used tool in the tool bar. For example, if the last used tool was Magnetic Lasso Tool, this will be the one that will show in the toolbar. To go back to Standard Lasso tool then, either click and hold for a few seconds on the lasso tools and then select from the drop-down or right click and then select.

Keyboard shortcut for selecting the Lasso tool is “L” however it is the same shortcut for all the Lasso tools. If last used tool was Magnetic or Polygonal, pressing “L” will again reselect it. You will have to again either right click on lasso tool or left click and hold for a few seconds for the drop down to pop up.


Using Lasso Tool is fairly easy to understand. You select a starting point, left click, keep the mouse button pressed down and start drawing around your subject. Once you have circled back to the starting point, release the mouse button and Photoshop will highlight the selection area. You do not have to necessarily circle back to your starting point but if you do not, Photoshop will automatically close the selection by drawing a straight line from your starting point to end point.

If you do not circle back to the starting point, Photoshop draws a straight line to close the selection

If you do not circle back to the starting point, Photoshop draws a straight line to close the selection

As I mentioned above, you do need to have a steady hand to draw using the Lasso Tool. It is definitely not the most accurate tools of Photoshop and even a slight shake of hand will ruin the entire selection. The only thing that saves the day while working the Standard Lasso tool is Photoshop’s ability to add to and subtract from selections. The best way to work with this tool is to first draw an initial selection without worrying too much about being precise and then make corrections. Let’s take a look at the image below for example.


You can notice that I was not very precise while making this selection. To bring my selection close to the edges of the flower, I will have to add the part that I missed out during my initial selection. To do this, with Lasso Tool still selected, press the Shift key and draw again around the area that you need to correct. Make sure that you are starting and end points are within the first selection.



Likewise, there will be times when you would end up selecting area that you do not need within the selection, like in the image below. This can be corrected using the Alt key. With Lasso tool still selected, press the Alt key and start drawing the area that you need cropped out from the selection. Make sure your starting point is outside the existing selection and you circle back to that point.



In both these cases, you do not need to keep the Shift or Alt key pressed all the time. Just press it before you start making the selection and then you can let it go. With the shift key, you will notice a + sign added while you draw which means that you are adding to the existing selection. With the Alt key a – sign will appear which means that you are subtracting from the existing selection.

If you have zoomed into an image for the purpose of making selection and need to scroll your image around inside the document window as you’re drawing the selection, you can do it by holding down your space-bar, which will temporarily switch you to Photoshop’s Hand Tool. A hand sign will appear which you can use to scroll the image as needed. Releasing the space-bar will then take you back to Lasso Tool and you can continue drawing the selection. Benefit of this feature is that you do not need to have you entire subject fit in to the screen while you draw. Zoom as much as you need, start making the selection, press the space bar when you need to scroll up or down, and continue drawing. Remember to not release the mouse button even when you have the space bar pressed.

And that is pretty much all about the Lasso Tool. Make a selection, add to it, subtract from it, till you are satisfied. You may want to switch to a full screen mode as you draw so that you can be as precise as possible. To do this, before starting to make the selection, press the F button on your keyboard. This will switch you to a full screen with the Toolbar still visible. Pressing the F key again will take you to a complete Full-screen mode and even the toolbar will be gone. Once you are done drawing and you selection is highlighted, press the F key again and it will take you back to the regular mode. Remember, you need to use the F key before you are start to draw or after you are done with it. This function will not be available while you are making the selection.

The word Lasso literally means “a rope with a noose at one end, used especially in North America for catching cattle” and I guess that is where this tool gets it name and rope shaped icon from.

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