The Auto Selection tool
in Photoshop Elements

The Auto Selection tool was added to Photoshop Elements 2018.

We'll see exactly how it works in this tutorial. We'll also look at the choices you have for the Auto Selection tool down in the Tool Options panel.

The Auto Selection tool in the Toolbox.

Click on the video below to see exactly how it works.

Under the video is an illustrated step-by-step guide showing how to use the Auto Selection tool in Photoshop Elements.

How to use the Lasso Tool in Photoshop Elements

How to use the Quick Selection Tool in Photoshop Elements

The Step-By-Step Guide

STEP ONE- Click The Lower-Right Corner Of The Select Section.

You'll find the Auto Selection tool over in the Toolbox nested with other Selection tools.

It shares the lower-right corner of the Select section of the Toolbox with the Quick Selection tool, Magic Wand tool, and a couple others.

Click on whichever Tool is showing in the spot. In the screenshot below you can see that mine shows the Quick Selection tool.

STEP TWO- Click The Auto Selection Tool In The Tool Options.

Go down to the Tool Options panel where you'll see icons for the five tools that share that space in the Toolbox.

The Auto Selection tool is the bottom icon. It looks like a magicians wand with three stars around it.

Click on the icon to make it the active tool.

Click on the Auto Selection tool icon in the Tool Options panel to make it the active tool.

STEP THREE- Understanding The Options.

Let's see what some of the Options are for the Auto Selection tool.

Down in the Tool Options there are three icons. Going from left to right they represent making a New Selection, Add to a Selection, or Subtract from a Selection.

You can tell which option is active because it will be highlighted in gray and it will say New, Add, or Subtract below them.

The next four icons determine what kind of shape you draw around the subject that you want to Select.

You can choose from a Rectangle, an Ellipse, a Freehand Lasso, or a Polygonal Lasso.

Below the Refine Edge button there are two boxes. The first one is labeled Sample All Layers.

If you check that box by clicking on it and you have multiple layers in your document, Elements will try to select all visible pixels where you draw your selection with the Auto Selection tool.

If you leave it unchecked it will only select pixels from the active layer.

The next box is labeled Constrain Selection.

This refers to when you're drawing out your Selection. If you leave it unchecked it might include some pixels outside the area that you define with the Auto Selection tool.

If you check it, it will only select pixels inside the area that you draw around.

STEP FOUR- Making A Selection.

The way this tool works is you draw a shape around the object or area that you want to select and it automatically makes the selection.

Let's say that we want to select the two people in the photo below.

Photo by Jonathan Pendleton on Unsplash

It works best if you select each person one at a time. We'll start with the girl on the left.

Down in the Tool Options we have "New" selection and "Rectangle" chosen.

I'll place my cursor above and to the left of the girl. Then click-and-drag down and to the right.

Once the girl is completely surrounded by the rectangle I'll release the mouse button and a selection is applied to the edges of the girl.

Click-and-drag diagonally around the subject that you want to select.
Release the mouse button and a selection is applied to the edges of the girl.

It's not a perfect selection. Some parts were not included like her hands and part of her boots.

And some areas were included that we didn't want like under her right arm.

Now let's add the guy to the selection. I'll click the "Add to Selection" icon. If I left it on "New" it would replace the selection of the girl instead of adding to it.

I clicked the "Add" icon in the Tool Options.

I'll place my cursor above and to the left of the guy. Then click-and-drag down and to the right.

Once the guy is completely surrounded by the rectangle I'll release the mouse button.

Now in addition to the girl, the guy is also part of the selection. And just like with the girl it's not a perfect selection of him.

Look closely and you can see that both subjects have "marching ants" around their edges indicating that they are selected.

To get a better idea of what the selection looks like you can temporarily switch to the Refine Edge dialog box.

To do that click on the Refine Edge button located down in the Tool Options.

The Refine Edge dialog box appears.

In this case we're not going to change any of the adjustment settings in the dialog box. We just want to use the viewing options to get a more accurate visual of our selection.

You can do that by clicking on the box labeled "View". When you do you get a popup list of different ways to view your selection.

The two views that I use the most are probably "On White" and "On Black".

It does what it sounds like: it allows you to view your selected areas as they would appear on a white background or a black background.

It defaulted to "On White". Now we can really see how bad this selection is. Not only are we missing parts of our subjects but the edges overall are very jagged.

Let's switch to "On Black" by clicking on it so you can see how that looks.

You can tell it's a poor selection in this view too. But because a lot of their clothing is dark it was easier to see the selection edges when viewing
"On White".

So use the Refine Edge dialog box and try out some of the different views from the popup list to see the edges of your selection much more accurately than you can with the marching ants.

Since we were only using Refine Edge to view our selection results I'm going to click on the Cancel button located at the bottom of the box to close the Refine edge dialog box.

At this point we have a couple different ways that we could try to improve our selection.

We could use the Options for the Auto Selection tool. Or we could switch to a completely different selection tool to adjust the selection.

For example if we wanted to try and improve the selection by using the Auto Selection tool we could keep the Tool Options set to "Add to Selection". Then we could draw another rectangle around her shoe to get the shoe included as part of the selection.

But I think this selection is so bad that I would probably not use the Auto Selection tool for this particular image. It would take too much adjusting.

Instead I would try selecting these two people with the Quick Selection tool.

So the Auto Selection tool didn't do a very good job on this photo. But to  be fair there were a lot of different tones and colors in the background that could make it hard to distinguish the edge of our subjects from their background.

It does work better when there's more contrast between the subject and the background. For example it did a pretty decent selection of the woman in the photo below:

If you look closely you can see from the Marching Ants that Auto Selection did a pretty good job selecting this woman from the background.

It would take much less time and effort to fine tune the above selection compared to the selection we started with on the previous photo of the couple on the railroad tracks.

And that brings us to the end of this tutorial on how to use the Auto Selection tool in Photoshop Elements.

Until next time, this is Rick saying . . . Take care!

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