/Wrangling Photos: An Easy Guide to Using the Lasso Tool in Photoshop
lasso tool

Wrangling Photos: An Easy Guide to Using the Lasso Tool in Photoshop

 Did you know that Adobe Creative Cloud, the part that includes Photoshop, has had over 300 million downloads?

These days, Photoshop is the premier source of editing images. When people want an image edited, they say they want it “Photoshopped” and don’t even realize there are other programs out there.

There is a reason that 90% of artists and professionals use Photoshop… it is simply the best option available.

However, a program of this magnitude has tons of tools to use, and it can be intimidating learning how to use all of them. One tool many people don’t fully understand is the lasso tool.

In this short guide, we’ll help you learn how to get the most from Photoshop’s powerful lasso tool.

What Is It and Why Should You Use It?

In case you are fairly new to using Photoshop, let’s begin by explaining what the lasso tool is and why you should learn to use it. The lasso tool is basically just a way to select a very specific part of your image.

Sure, you could always just make a circle or a box and select everything in it. However, there are many times when that will just not work.

For example, let’s say you want to crop out a picture of your child and make it look like they are standing in front of a mountain. If you just select a box around the kid it will also select all kinds of things in the background that you don’t want.

This is where the lasso tool comes in. You can manually select every single part you want to crop and leave out everything else. This results in clean lines and a final image that you can drop into whatever else you want.

You should be able to see the value in this tool, and why people use it all the time. However, learning to use the lasso tool can be daunting if it is your first time.

When you open Photoshop and click on the Lasso Tool, you’ll see that there are actually a few different options. So let’s break down these options and explain when you may want to use each one.

Basic Lasso Tool for Freehanding

The first option in the drop-down menu simply says “lasso tool” and is what you may use in many situations. You can use the shortcut and press L to select this tool. This is the basic tool that you use for freehanding objects. You essentially just draw or trace, around the objects you want and it will select them.

Using it is easy. Let’s use a simple example to explain it. Let’s say you want to crop a picture of a basketball that you can later make it look like it’s flying through the air.

Start by picking any place around the ball. Just left click, and carefully hold it down while you trace around the ball and end where you started. Ta-da!

This is the easiest way to do freehand selections, although the result may not be perfect. But don’t worry, you can always clean up the edges and even use the other tools to make a perfect selection every time.

Polygonal Lasso Tool for Straight Lines

The polygonal lasso tool is not ideal for complex subjects where you’ll need to do a lot of freehanding. Instead, it excels at straight lines and simple “polygonal” shapes. For example, if you want to select a picture of a refrigerator that is essentially a rectangle with all straight sides.

Using this tool is even a little easier since you don’t have to hold down the mouse and carefully draw everything. Instead, just click on one corner of the refrigerator, then click on each of the corners, going around until you end where you started. Then it will select the image and have perfectly straight lines around everything.

Magnetic Lasso Tool for Details

The final option is called the magnetic lasso tool, is a little bit different since Photoshop will help detect the image and make a selection around it with a little help.

Start by selecting the magnetic tool, and clicking on a point around the image you want. As you start to do your freehand drawing, it will make little points or nodes around the object, unlike the basic lasso tool. This way you can manually edit each little section of the image if you want to.

Continue to draw around the object and if you see that one of the nodes does not look good, just hit the delete button. It will remove the last node but keep everything else, so you can try that part again and keep going.

The magnetic lasso is perfect for cropping out complicated objects from an image since your drawing will help it detect what you are selecting and it will snap to the edges. One example is if you want to select a flower or person, something with a lot of details. You can even use the lasso tool to edit and restore old photos.

There are even a few additional options to make the magnetic lasso tool better:


This is the distance between what you are “drawing” and the edge of the object it will snap to. A low setting will look better, but a large setting allows you to be a little more loose with your drawing.


This is how frequently it will snap to the image and make nodes along the path. Again, a low number will result in a smoother better-looking image, but you can use more points for complicated objects.


This helps Photoshop know what to snap to by detecting the difference between two objects. If you are selecting an image with a solid background, there will be high contrast. Other times with a lot of background images, you’ll have less contrast.

How to Become a Lasso Tool & Photoshop Master

Now you know how to use the lasso tool in Photoshop, but it will take some practice to make it perfect. You can visit our website, PSD Learning, for more tips and tutorials on how to get the most out of this editing program.