Pixelart Selection Tips: Mastering Selection Tools

Pixel art is a form of digital art where images are edited and created on the pixel level. Unlike traditional digital artwork which allows for freeform manipulation of images, pixel art relies on deliberately placing and editing pixels in a limited resolution grid. This restriction gives pixel art its distinctive pixelated and mosaic aesthetic.

Selection tools are vital for efficiently creating and editing pixel art. With standard painting tools, it’s easy to accidentally modify pixels unintentionally. Selection tools allow you to isolate specific areas or pixels to edit, while protecting the surrounding artwork. Mastering selection tools is critical for maintaining clean lines, shapes, and color in pixel art.

Magic Wand Tool

The Magic Wand Tool in Photoshop is one of the most useful selection tools for pixel art. It allows you to quickly select pixels of similar color values with just one click. According to the Photoshop training site PSDVault, the Magic Wand Tool works by selecting contiguous pixels that fall within the tolerance set in the options bar (Expert Tips on Photoshop Magic Wand Tool).

When working with pixel art, the Magic Wand Tool can be great for selecting large portions of a single color quickly. For example, you can use it to easily select all of the blue sky in your scene to cut it out from the background. Reddit user u/poison9200 recommends using a lower tolerance setting between 10-30 when working with pixel art to avoid selecting unintended colors (i’m making pixel art in photoshop and i want to use…).

However, the Magic Wand Tool can sometimes leave rough edges on your selection. The Photoshop blog Photorelive recommends going to Select > Modify > Smooth to soften the edges after making a selection (Tips on How to Use the Magic Wand Tool in Photoshop). Overall, the Magic Wand Tool is an indispensable time-saving tool for quickly selecting portions of your pixel art. Just be sure to refine the selection afterwards for clean edges.

Lasso Tool

The Lasso Tool allows for more precise selections than the Magic Wand Tool. With the Lasso Tool, you trace a freeform border around the area you want to select. This gives you more control to follow the specific contours of the selection.

The key difference from the Magic Wand Tool is that the Lasso Tool does not automatically select similar colored pixels. You have to manually draw the selection border. This takes more time but enables selecting irregular shapes. The Magic Wand Tool is better for selecting large solid color areas.

There are a few techniques that are helpful when using the Lasso Tool:

  • Zoom in close so you can see the pixel edges and trace accurately.
  • Work slowly and click to set anchor points around the edges of your selection.
  • Use shorter strokes between clicks for detailed areas, longer strokes for straight edges.
  • If you make a mistake, you can undo or erase anchor points.

The Lasso Tool is useful when you need to select an irregular section with details or contours that the Magic Wand cannot accurately follow. Take your time and work precisely for the best results.

As mentioned on Reddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/ClipStudio/comments/16uip1t/lasso_toolselect_tool_making_my_line_work_all/), using the right interpolation method like Nearest Neighbor prevents pixelation of selections.

Rectangle Marquee

The Rectangle Marquee tool allows you to make rectangular selections in your pixel art canvas (source). It is one of the basic but essential selection tools for pixel artists. Here are some tips for using the Rectangle Marquee effectively:

The Rectangle Marquee is great for selecting horizontal and vertical lines and blocks of pixels. You can select an entire row or column of pixels very easily. When making pixel art characters and objects, the Rectangle Marquee allows you to quickly block out shapes.

When using the Rectangle Marquee, you can hold the Shift key while dragging to create a perfect square selection instead of a rectangle. This is useful for selecting equal blocks of pixels.

A limitation of the Rectangle Marquee is that it can only make rectangular and square selections. It does not allow you to make curved or angled selections. So it is not very useful for making organic or circular shapes.

Use the Rectangle Marquee in combination with other selection tools like the Lasso for best results. Make rectangular selections for the main shapes, and then switch to the Lasso to refine the edges and curves.

Overall, the Rectangle Marquee is an essential pixel art selection tool for quickly blocking out areas and making straight edge selections.

Ellipse Marquee

The Ellipse Marquee tool allows you to make circular or oval selections in your pixel art. This can be useful for selecting round objects or areas with curved edges that would be difficult to select precisely with other tools like the Rectangle Marquee.

One benefit of the Ellipse Marquee is that you can easily adjust the shape and size of the selection by dragging the handles that appear on the bounding box after making your initial click. This allows you to refine the selection to match the exact area you want.

When using the Ellipse Marquee, it’s generally best to make the initial selection slightly larger than needed, then resize and reposition to fine-tune it. Making the selection too small from the start makes it trickier to expand.

A limitation of this tool is that it can only make oval selections, not complex irregular shapes. The edges of the ellipse will always be smooth. So if you need to select an area with straight edges or hard angles, other tools like the Polygonal Lasso would work better.

Overall, the Ellipse Marquee is ideal for quickly selecting circular or rounded objects in pixel art. Taking advantage of the ability to refine the selection after placing it gives the precision needed for pixel-level work.

Polygonal Lasso

The Polygonal Lasso tool allows you to draw a custom selection area by clicking to create straight line segments. This makes it useful for selecting areas with many straight edges and hard angles, like geometric shapes or pixel art. Unlike the other basic selection tools, the Polygonal Lasso allows you to freely form any polygonal selection shape.

To use the Polygonal Lasso efficiently for pixel art:

  • Zoom in close so you can see the pixel edges clearly
  • Click precisely on the pixel corners/edges to trace the selection
  • Double click to complete the selection polygon
  • Press and hold Alt (Opt on Mac) while clicking to temporarily switch to the Direct Selection tool and adjust vertex points

The main advantage of the Polygonal Lasso is the ability to create a complex, customized selection area. This makes it ideal for selecting intricate or angular pixel art. However, it can be challenging to trace smooth curves or organic shapes. It also takes more time and precision than other selection tools.

Overall, the Polygonal Lasso is extremely useful when selecting pixel art or shapes with straight edges. Mastering tracing pixel edges accurately takes practice, but allows for very precise selections.

pixel art character selection using the polygonal lasso tool

Quick Selection Tool

The Quick Selection tool allows you to “paint” the areas you want to select quickly. You simply click and drag over the area you want to select, and the tool automatically detects and follows the edges of the area. Here are some tips for using the Quick Selection tool effectively:

  • Use a soft, round brush tip and adjust the brush size as needed. A larger brush works better for large, smooth areas. A smaller one is better for detailed edges.
  • Click and drag to add to the selection; hold Alt (Option on Mac) to subtract from the selection.
  • Use Quick Selection for soft-edged shapes or busy backgrounds that the other tools struggle with.
  • Refine the edges of your selection with Select and Mask after making the initial selection.
  • You can convert a selection made with another tool into a Quick Selection by choosing Select > Convert to Quick Selection.

The Quick Selection tool makes selecting complex shapes much faster than the other selection tools. With some practice, you can quickly select even intricate pixel art with fine details. Refer to Adobe’s tutorial on making pixel art for tips on mastering selections.

Select and Mask

Select and Mask is a powerful selection tool in Photoshop that allows you to make complex selections and refine edges. It was introduced in Photoshop CC 2015.5 and combines the features of Refine Edge and other selection tools into one workspace.

Some of the advanced techniques you can use in Select and Mask include:

  • Using the Refine Edge brush to clean up selections along edges
  • Adjusting the Radius slider to control how far the selection extends from edges
  • Using the Erase Refinements tool to remove any unnecessary refinements
  • Switching to Onion Skin mode to better view your selection on the image

The pros of Select and Mask are that it offers very precise selections with easy edge refinement. You can fine-tune selections down to the pixel with the Refine Edge tools. It’s also non-destructive to your image. The cons are that it can be time-consuming to master and may not be the quickest workflow for simple selections.

Overall, Select and Mask gives pixel artists much more control over complex selections than the basic Marquee and Lasso tools. Taking the time to learn its advanced techniques allows for very accurate cutouts and refinements. Refer to this Adobe tutorial for more details on using Select and Mask.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Learning keyboard shortcuts can greatly speed up your workflow when creating pixel art. Here are some of the most essential shortcuts to commit to memory:

To select all, use Ctrl/Cmd + A. This will select the entire canvas or all layers at once (Aseprite Docs).

To deselect, use Ctrl/Cmd + D. This will deselect any current selection (MegaVoxels).

To inverse a selection, use Shift + Ctrl/Cmd + I. This will invert or flip the selection, selecting everything that was not selected and deselecting everything that was (Pixilart).

Use Ctrl/Cmd while moving a selection to copy it. Let go of Ctrl/Cmd once the selection is moved to cut and paste the selection (Aseprite Docs).

Mastering these and other keyboard shortcuts will help you work faster and more efficiently when using selection tools.


Being able to master pixel art selection tools is critical for creating great pixel art. In this article, we covered the key selection tools available including the Magic Wand, Lasso Tool, Marquee Tools, and Quick Selection. Learning how to leverage these tools efficiently will save you significant time and allow you to cleanly select pixels you intend to edit.

The most important takeaways are understanding how to adjust tolerance levels in order to avoid selecting unintended pixels. Using keyboard shortcuts can also speed up your workflow. Taking the time to practice and gain proficiency with selection will pay dividends in the future as you advance your pixel art skills.

Having a deep knowledge of pixel art selection will enable you to edit and transform your artwork more precisely. You will be equipped to carry out your creative visions with enhanced control over your images. Mastering these tools is an essential step towards developing pixel art mastery from beginner to professional level. The effort put into selection proficiency will be well worth it for improving workflow and end results.