What is the Marquee Selection Tool in Photoshop?

The Marquee selection tool is the most basic way to interact with objects in Photoshop, allowing you to draw a shape (i.e. rectangle, ellipse) or one-pixel line that selects any object inside its dimensions. Admittedly, this tool lacks precision, but if you have simple images or shapes that need editing, the Marquee will get the job done. Below, we've shared how to use the various Marquee selection tools, how to add or subtract from a current selection, and other important tips.  

Marquee Types
There are four main versions of the Marquee selection tool, located in the Tools panel:

  • Rectangular Marquee: Draw a rectangular box around your selection.
  • Elliptical Marquee: Draw an ellipse around your selection. This is also a handy tool for creating vignette effects. 
  • Single Row Marquee: Make a horizontal selection that's only one pixel tall, and as wide as you like. This is an excellent way to create lines and divide images into segments. 
  • Single Column Marquee: Make a vertical selection that's one pixel wide, and as tall as you like. 

Making a Selection
Launch your current Photoshop project and select one of the Marquee tools from the Tools panel. By default, the Rectangular Marquee should be the only visible icon in the panel, but if you click and hold your cursor over the icon, you'll see a submenu with the other Marquee tools. 

Now, click and drag anywhere on your image to make a new selection. When you release the mouse button, your marquee should still be visible as a dashed line. For an even more precise selection, you can input specific dimensions by choosing "Style" > "Enter Specific Values" from the top menu bar. Then, enter the pixel height and width, and click on the image to create a selection with those exact specifications. 

Drawing a Square or Circular Marquee
When you make a selection with the Rectangular or Elliptical Marquee, there are no limits to how skinny or wide you can make the shape. If you'd like the shape to be a perfect square or circle, hold the Shift key while drawing your marquee and Photoshop will constrain the dimensions for you. 

Adding, Subtracting, and Intersecting
Once you've drawn an initial marquee, you can amend it with a variety of options, which are located in the top options bar. For a given selection, you can use these options as many times as you like. They include:

  • New Selection: If you're not happy with your current selection, click this icon to eliminate it, and then start dragging anywhere on the image to start over.
  • Add to Selection: If you'd like to expand your current selection, click this icon and then draw a new selection that intersects with the previous one. Photoshop will combine the two marquees into one large selection. 
  • Subtract from Selection: If you'd like to remove an area of your current selection, click this icon and then drag over the area that you want to subtract. 
  • Intersect with Selection: After clicking "Add to Selection" and drawing a new addition, choose this option to only keep the areas that overlap between the two selections. 
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