Improving Selection Visibility


Today’s Question: When I use a selection tool [in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements] that produces the “marching ants,” such as the Lasso tool or Quick Selection tool, the selection outline is so light I can hardly see it. Is there a setting that allows me to darken them?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While you can’t alter the “marching ants” animated dashed line that represents the selection outline, you can use Quick Mask mode as an option for being able to better see the selection area.

More Detail: Quick Mask mode is a feature in Photoshop that provides an alternative way of viewing and modifying selections, and while it isn’t exactly an included feature in Photoshop Elements, it can be accessed there as well. When you activate Quick Mask mode by default you’ll see a translucent red overlay over non-selected areas of the image, with selected areas appearing normally.

In Photoshop you can switch to Quick Mask mode by pressing the letter “Q” on the keyboard, or by clicking the button at the bottom of the toolbar that has an icon of a dashed circle within a rectangle. If you double-click on that button on the toolbar you can bring up a dialog that enables you to change the color display settings for Quick Mask mode.

In Photoshop Elements there isn’t a Quick Mask button on the toolbar, but you can still access Quick Mask mode with a little workaround. After creating a selection, regardless of which tool you’ve used, switch to the Selection Brush tool. This is found along with the Quick Selection tool, so you can start by selecting the Quick Selection tool from the toolbar and then click the Selection Brush button at the left side of the Tool Options panel.

To the right of the Add and Subtract options on the Tool Options panel you’ll find a popup with a default value of “Selection”. Change that to “Mask” and you’ll see the equivalent of Quick Mask mode. You can switch to a different tool or change the popup back to “Selection” to hide this Quick Mask display.

I would certainly appreciate it if Adobe would provide some better options for making the animated dashed line that represents selections in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements easier to see. But in the meantime, the Quick Mask mode option can be helpful for evaluating and modifying selections.