Photoshop CS5: If I only wish to select the black portion of the below image (to create a layer mask with it), how would I do so? It was generated by clicking "Make Selection" from a vector shape that's made up of several paths (each of the triangles, then the rectangle that encloses them). Thank you in advance!

enter image description here

As a related follow-up, how do I add to a selection? i.e. If I make one selection, how do I keep adding more parts to it? Necessary to use paths?

  • 1
    The answers are good and its a good question but for your particular problem why not just open it in illustrator and add a stroke and remove the fill. Since you already have it in vector that would be the best result
    – Ryan
    Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 17:19

3 Answers 3


The modifiers for selection tools are alt and shift in various combinations. The tool icon will change to reflect the mode (+/-, etc)


  • make a square selection

  • hold alt and then select a square within the existing selection (-)

  • hold shift, add a square (+)

  • hold alt+shift, select a portion of the existing selection area (x [intersection])

One can ctlr (cmd) click a layer icon in the layers palette to use that as a selection, and the same key modifiers can be applied (with the addition of ctrl).

I frequently store portions of complicated masks as hidden layers for easy mixing and matching while working.

  • Hi Horatio. This is really useful, thank you, but two more q's based on it: 1. Is there a way to see which parts of a multiple-shape selection are "added" vs. "subtracted," i.e. Selected vs. removed from the selection? Also, 2. With my example above, this is a selection made from a workpath, so I'm not sure how the above would apply, as I am not making the selection from scratch... Is there a way to do it here? Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 12:21
  • It is worth experimenting, but the ability to add and remove is tool based. You can easily switch tools without destroying the selection. If you need to break it into steps to get your head around, you can select a part you want to remove, create a temp layer, flood it with black and hide it. Deselect, make a new selection, and then ctrl+shift+click the icon of the temp layer to subtract the temp layer. etc. etc.
    – horatio
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 14:57
  • Once selected, consider the selection itself an object which can be worked on.
    – horatio
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 14:58
  • I'm sorry - I understand the suggestion, but does that mean this method is not possible if a selection already exists from a work path? To be clear, I already have the above selection from the vector shape - i do not wish to make another one - but I simply wish the parts in black to be selected, and nothing else... I'm not sure how to accomplish this based on your suggestion. Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 17:26
  • 1
    try it. I was pretty explicit about selections remaining active when switching tools.
    – horatio
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 17:30

I would just use Select>Color Range. If you want something cleaner I'd use a vector mask.


To simplify @horatio's above answer:

When you choose a Selection tool (Marquee, Lasso, Quick Selection tool) you will find options for adding/subtracting/intersecting with an existing selection in the Tool Options Bar(up).

Screenshot 1:

enter image description here

Screenshot 2:

In this screenshot I am first creating a simple square selection with the "New selection" option of the "Rectangular Marquee Tool".

After I have the existing selection I am subtracting a part from it using the "Subtract from selection" option of the "Rectangular Marquee Tool".

enter image description here

UPDATE - 25/02/2013:

What the asker, is actually looking for is something like the Pathfinder Tool in Illustrator, but for selections not for Shapes... he is trying to use the Selection Tool in a matter that the Shape Tool usually works,

A kind of workaround:

First work with the shapes you are trying to alter then recreate the selection from the shape. Since Photoshop CS6 there are some similar options when creating a new shape(see screenshot). So your workaround here would be something like this: Again, first alter/modify your shape then remake your selection from that new modified Shape.

enter image description here

  • Thanks, Flavius. I understood his answer well, but the primary question is how to do this with sections of a pre-existing selection, such as the one above? I made this selection from a work path, but now I just wish to isolate the black sections. One answerer suggested Select -> Color Range, which I will probably do, but I was wanting to know if there was a way to do it with a similar method to the one outlined by horatio or yourself.... Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 11:16
  • you use the "substract" option from the above mentioned and you take out what ever is extra in order to isolate the black sections... maybe I don't understand correctly what you are trying to achieve... I'll think about it Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 11:53
  • I guess I'm not explaining it well. That suggestion you just made would involve making a NEW selection in order to subtract... What if I wish to "select" part of the selection that has ALREADY been made and tell it to subtract from the selection behind it? i.e. If I did not want to alter the shape of the already-made selections, but still wanted one of them to subtract from another? Does it make more sense now? Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 16:40
  • no, it doesn't .. Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 9:56
  • OK. What you and horatio have suggested is great for controlling selection areas when you have not already got a selection in front of you to begin with. In the case that I've shown with the envelope, it is a selection that was made from a work path. I am looking to add/subtract parts of this already-existing group of selections from other parts in the group, rather than priming the selection tool to add or subtract in the way that yourself and horatio have suggested. The selections are already there, so how do I configure one of them to subtract from another, for example? Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 14:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.