Of all the selection tools, I think the Polygonal Lasso Tool is my all-time favorite. I use the Rectangular Marquee Tool a lot, but when I want total control and precision, the Polygonal Lasso Tool (correct pronunciation: puh-LIG-ah-nahl) is my go-to guy.
The Polygonal Lasso Tool works best when selecting things that have straight, angular edges, because it creates selections using straight lines. You can use it for almost any editing task, including replacing skies, correcting color, trimming, and extracting… you name it, the Polygonal Lasso Tool can handle the job.
In this first part of this two-part tutorial, we’ll take a look at an ordinary use for the Polygonal Lasso Tool. In part two we’ll show you how to do something a little artsy with it!
The Polygonal Lasso Tool is nested with the other Lasso Tools in the Toolbar. Click on the Polygonal Lasso Tool, and in the Options Bar, set the Feather radius to 0, and make sure the Anti-alias box is checked for a smoother selection.
If you’re using Photoshop Elements, you’ll click on the Lasso Tool, and in the Tool Options below the workspace, you can choose the Polygonal Lasso Tool.
We’ll start with a sky replacement. The image I’ve chosen is great for the task. It desperately needs a better sky, and it has lots of long, straight lines and angles.
I positioned my cursor at the left edge of the image and began my selection with the granite portion of the wall. To use the Polygonal Lasso Tool, place the cursor at your starting point and click once, and then relocate your cursor to your first “intersection” or angle, click again, and so on. No need to click and drag as with the other selection tools, the Polygonal Lasso Tool will create a nice straight line automatically, so all you have to do is click on straight line segments and around corners. Quick and easy! If you mess up and place the cursor in the wrong spot, you don’t have to start all over… just press the Backspace (Mac: Delete) key on your keyboard to take you back one segment.
You may need to zoom in a bit to get any small, slightly rounded corners or other protrusions, then just keep going with your straight lines until you reach the end of your selection. On this image, I selected from left to right, up the side of the building, across the top, and down the right side. To make sure I got all of the washed-out sky, I extended my selection just slightly outside the image boundaries. The tool will adjust itself to remove only the parts within the boundaries of the image.
As you reach your end point of the selection, you should see a teeny tiny circle right alongside your cursor. That indicates the selection is complete. You can click once to activate the selection (also known as the “marching ants”). If you reach the end of your selection and you don’t see the little circle, but you’ve come really close to your starting point, double-click and Photoshop will finish the selection for you.
Next, I went back to the Toolbar and chose the Magic Eraser Tool (it’s nested with the other Eraser Tools). I clicked inside the selection and the washed-out sky was removed. Time to bring in the replacement!
Bonus Tip 1: When you’re out shooting, always check the sky. If it looks great, take a moment to get a couple of shots. Bring them home and file them away for times like this. I have a whole folder of beautiful skies with varying types of clouds, shot at a variety of angles and horizon lines for just this purpose!
I chose a sky from my file that I thought would look natural from this angle, dropped it in behind the building, and positioned it to my liking.
Bonus Tip 2: When you’re bringing in a nice blue sky shot on a sunny day, you may notice that the selection from the original image looks a little… well, blah. That’s because the light was flat, which sometimes produces a gray or cool-toned image. Use a warming filter or color balance adjustment to give the original image a warmer, sunnier feeling to match the new sky. It will make the image look more natural. I can always spot a replaced sky when people skip that last step!
See the difference? Okay, when you’re satisfied with your image, press Ctrl+E (Mac: Cmd+E) to merge the two layers together.
Do you feel empowered? You should! With the Polygonal Lasso Tool in your toolbox, you can now correct and enhance the details of your photos and your digital scrapbook layouts in so many wonderful ways!