Making Proportional Selections


Created July 23, 2002 © Copyright SuzShook
Made "Version-Independent" March 2009
Property of SuzShook

This tutorial is my own creation;
however, most of the techniques used in this tutorial, I have learned from others!
Therefore, if you recognize any contribution you have made, I thank you!
And I thank you as well for respecting this as my work by not posting it,
in whole or in part,
in any other location without written permission from me!

Individuals and PSP graphics groups are invited to share my tutorials with others with TEXT LINKS ONLY.
You can e-mail me to let me know you are adding one or more of my tutorials to your list if you like -
it's always fun to know who is doing them!

This is a "how-to" tutorial that will teach you how to make selections that are proportional to the area you want to fit them into. So many times I have seen photos and artwork pasted into areas that were far too wide or tall or narrow for the image, creating a distorted final image. I have been wanting to share my ideas on how to make selections that will "fit", without being distorted. And so, this tutorial was born. It is pretty text-intensive, as it walks you through the steps needed to make good selections. I hope it helps you to make better selections so you can show off your photos as artistically as possible.

I make my tutorials as brief as possible, without the customary paths, details, and how-to's. For those veterans among you, this will be welcome! But for those less familiar with PSP, I included a "Glossary" that contains all the details omitted in the tutorial. If you need a little extra help, check the Glossary section. Just click on the button below - the Glossary will open in a new window.

PSP glossary button

This tutorial assumes you have a working knowledge of Paint Shop Pro at the intermediate level (or advanced beginner level with the Glossary). It was originally written in and for PSP Version 7, then revised for PSP 8, and now made "version-independent". Screen shots for this tutorial can come from any version of PSP - where there are significant differences from version to version, a green "Version Note" will be included, along with multiple screen shots if necessary.

Where a note/tip refers to a version of PSP and all higher versions, a + sign will be used to indicate this. For example, if a note/tip applies to PSP X and higher versions, I will use the convention "PSP X+".

If you try this tutorial, and find something is inaccurate for your version of PSP, please EMAIL ME to let me know so I can fix it!

Screen shots in this tutorial are resized - your work will be larger than this!

Supplies - For this tutorial, you will need the following:
  • Paint Shop Pro - any version. The latest version of PSP can be found at the Corel site HERE.

  • The three images used in this tutorial - you can get them HERE. ~ ~ Unzip into the folder where you keep your current PSP work.

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Ok, now we're ready to begin! Grab your mouse and let's get started!

Remember to save often!

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STEP 1 - Setting the Stage

Opening Notes
  • In this tutorial, I will often give keyboard shortcuts for activating tools or commands. These shortcuts save a lot of time, and I use them constantly. When I give keyboard shortcuts, they will follow the tool or command names, often in parentheses.

  • Whenever any tool is used, always reset the Tool Options to the default values, unless directed otherwise. Only the values different from the defaults will be listed.

There are several instances in which you are asked to copy an image into a selection. The first instance is when you make the selection yourself. This is the simplest example, and the easiest to explain.

When you are asked to draw a rectangle or any selection in a tutorial, the status bar at the bottom of the screen gives you some valuable information. When the status bar is enabled and you move your cursor in the workspace, the coordinates of the cursor appear in the status bar. When you begin drawing, several more numbers appear on the status bar:

status bar

The first pair of numbers, or coordinates, always indicates the cursor starting position. The second pair of coordinates indicates the moving cursor position as you draw out your image, and will continue to change until you stop moving the cursor. The third pair of numbers, which also changes as you move your cursor, indicates the dimensions of your image (width by height). Finally, the last number, which appears in brackets [ ], indicates the aspect ratio of width to height of your image. This is the number we're concerned with when selecting areas to copy images into.

The selection that produced the above information was started at coordinates (30,30) and the cursor was dragged to coordinates (270,270). This produced a selection that was 240 x 240 pixels. That's a prefect square, so the aspect ratio of width to height (width divided by height) should be exactly 1 - as it was!

Note: This information is also available in the Overview palette, Info tab, as follows:

overview palette - info tab

Information similar to the above is also available in the Overview palette for Preset Shapes.

To practice using this information, open a new 300 x 300 pixel image. Using the Selection tool selection tool (S) set to rectangle, make a selection starting at coordinates (30,30), and ending at coordinates (180,80). Before releasing your mouse button, check the size of the selection on the status bar or on the Overview palette. It should be 150 x 50, with an aspect ratio of 3.000 (150 divided by 50 = 30).

Try making selections using other selection types, noting the information displayed on the status bar.

STEP 2 - You Make the Selection

Now let's put this information to work copying an image into a selection. This time, with the Selection tool (S) set to rectangle, make a selection starting at coordinates (30,30), and ending at coordinates (292,161). Notice on the status bar that this selection has an aspect ratio of 2.000. Leave selected, and open the flower image provided with this tutorial, ss-image1.jpg:

flower image

This image is not the same shape as your selection - in fact, this particular image is square, and if you were to copy this entire image into your selection, it would be quite distorted.

However, if you make a selection from this image that has the same aspect ratio as your target selection (remember, we determined that it was 2.000), the image will fit into your selection with no distortion. Try that now - make a selection that is approximately twice as wide as it is high, watching the coordinates on the status bar. When you have something you are satisfied with that has an aspect ratio of 2.000, release the cursor.

Don't worry if the selection is not exactly where you want it - it can be moved.

Note: There are two ways to move the selection marquee:
  • With the current selection tool, place the cursor inside the marquee, hold down the right mouse button, and drag the marquee, or
  • Activate the Move tool move tool (M), place the cursor inside the marquee, hold down the right mouse button and drag the marquee around until you are happy with its placement.

Now copy that selection (CTRL + C), return to the target image, and paste it into the selection (CTRL + SHIFT + L) you made there.

Here are the two copies I did - in the first, I copied the entire flower image into the selection, and in the second, I made a selection from my image with the correct aspect ratio of 2.000:

distorted flower image     proportionate flower image

The first one looks ugly, doesn't it? It looks so much nicer when the selection is made proportionally.

This works the same way for circles and squares or any other shape you draw! Just keep an eye on the aspect ratio while you're drawing, jot that number down, and when you go to make your selection from another image, use that same aspect ratio.

Here's another set of examples using an elliptical selection. For the image on the left, I copied the entire sample photo into my selection. The distorted results are a sad reminder that this is NOT the proper way to make a selection. For the sample on the right, I determined the aspect ratio of the ellipse to be 0.507, and used this number when making my selection from the source image - the results are much more pleasing.

distorted flower image     proportionate flower image
Note: You don't have to get the aspect ratio EXACTLY the same, even to the third decimal place, but you need to be at least in the ball park!. For this selection, whose aspect ratio was 0.507, making a selection with an aspect ratio of 0.500, or even 0.510 would work fine, but one with an aspect ratio of 1.000 would give results that are not proportional at all.

It is very important to remember this: it's not the size of the selection you make from the source image that's important - it's the aspect ratio. The following images all have the same aspect ratio (1.000), but note the differences in sizes! You could copy any of these into a selection whose aspect ratio is 1.000 with perfect results!

169 x 169
213 x 213
299 x 299
381 x 381

This means you can usually get the portion you want from a photo or image without sacrificing quality by using a proportional selection. Wonderful, isn't it? Just remember, though size is not important, the selection size should be at least as large as the area you are copying into, or you risk losing image quality. And remember, too, that you are resizing the image when you copy it into a selection, and after resizing, many images can be improved by using the Sharpen filter.

STEP 3 - Selecting a Predefined Area

Okay - on to the second type of selections you're asked to copy into. These are the ones where the selection has already been predetermined for you. An example would be a frame with a cutout area where you can insert a photo.

Let's take a closer look at this type of selection. Open ss-image2.psp:

oval frame

This image consists of 2 layers - a frame with a blank oval shape in the center and an empty layer beneath the frame. To insert a photo or image into this frame, you need to determine the aspect ratio of the opening.

The easiest way I know to do this is to select the blank area in the center of the frame with the Magic Wand tool magic wand tool, copy it, and paste it as a new image. If you determine the aspect ratio of this new image, you'll have the aspect ratio of the oval.

The quickest way I know to get the aspect ratio of the new image is to use the Image...Resize dialog - the aspect ratio is always there in the box near the bottom of the screen:

aspect ratio from resize dialog
Version Note: In PSP X2, the Resize dialog changed - to display the additional Resize settings, including the "Lock aspect ratio" field, mark the Advanced Setting checkbox (red arrow in image below):

resize dialog in PSP X2

Now you go ahead and try this with ss-image2.psp. Come back here when you've determined the aspect ratio of the oval cutout in the frame, and we'll compare notes. Note that once you've determined the aspect ratio of that new image, you can delete it.

Your "test" image should have had an aspect ratio of 0.6878. That's exactly what you determined, right? If not, let's go through the steps, one by one - and for those of you who got it, this is a review:

a. On the frame layer, use your Magic Wand tool to select the blank area inside the ellipse.

b. Copy this area (Edit...Copy, or CTRL + C).

c. Paste this area as a new image (Edit...Paste...As New Image or CTRL + V).

d. Access the Resize dialog for the new image to read the aspect ratio (Image...Resize or SHIFT + S) .

e. Jot down the aspect ratio for future reference.

f. Cancel the Resize operation.

g. Delete the new image.

Now activate the source image - I'm using the flower image (ss-image1.jpg) again - and make a selection with the same aspect ratio as the oval cutout shape (0.6878). This selection, no matter how large, will fit perfectly into your ellipse within the frame!

Here are a few framing tips to keep the edges of your selections clean:

  • Expand the selection in the frame by 1-2 pixels.
  • Paste your image on the layer below the frame.

The tiny difference in the size of the target selection is not enough to distort your image. Now, isn't that easy? Don't forget to sharpen your image.

STEP 4 - You Need A Specific Sized Image

One other instance of trying to fit an image into a selection occurs when a tutorial author tells you to use an image of a certain size. Maybe the image you want to use is not that size at all. Can you use it? Sure you can. Here's what you need to do:

  • Create a new target image the size called for in the tutorial.
  • Determine the aspect ratio of this image using the Resize dialog.
  • Use this aspect ratio to make a selection from your source image.
  • Copy this selection to your target image as a new layer, or Select All in your target image, and copy into the selection.

Now you have an image the size called for in the tutorial. Of course, sometimes it's easy to figure out the aspect ratio in your head, like for an image 200 x 100. You knew that aspect ratio was 2.000, didn't you? But maybe you're not a math person, or the tutorial asks for an image that's 173 x 259? Doing that math in your head is - well, rather impossible! However, using the methods described in this tutorial, you could easily determine that the aspect ratio is 0.668.

Let's practice! Say a tutorial calls for an image 141 x 179. Use any source image you want, or the ss-image1.jpg image from Step 2 above. See if you can create a great 141 x 179 image from that source. Go ahead, I'll wait!

Did you get it? I determined the aspect ratio to be 0.7877, and here's my resulting image, well-proportioned, and exactly 141 x 179:

141x179 image

STEP 5 - Using the Crop Tool to Make Selections

These same methods work when using the Crop tool. When you use the Crop tool, a visible crop rectangle appears on your image. As you draw out this rectangle, the "from", "to", and "size" information appears on your status bar, as well as the aspect ratio of your crop rectangle. Once you've made a selection with the correct ratio, you can move the selection around by clicking inside the crop rectangle and dragging. You can even change the size of the rectangle by clicking on one of its sides and dragging it.

Caution: Moving the sides of the rectangle will change the aspect ratio of the crop rectangle, which continues to display on the status bar as you move the edge. You must maintain the correct aspect ratio or your image will be out of proportion! Click the 'Maintain aspect ratio' checkbox in the Crop tool Tool Options palette to ensure the aspect ratio is not changed as you move the sides of the crop rectangle. When you are happy with your selection, double-click to complete cropping the image (or click the Apply button - apply button )!

STEP 6 - Summary

In summary:

a. If you are making a selection into which you will copy something, note the aspect ratio on the status bar when you create the selection and use this number when selecting from your source image.

b. If you are copying into a selection of unknown proportions, copy the selection to a new image, determine its aspect ratio by viewing the Resize dialog, and use this number when selecting from your source image.

c. If you need an image of specific dimensions, make a new target image with those dimensions, determine the aspect ratio of the target image, and use this number when selecting from your source image.

STEP 7 - Practice Session!

Now it's time to see if you've really learned how to make proportional selections. I've included the template used in the opening image in the ZIP file for this tutorial as ss-image3.psp. Open it now and fill with images of your choice. Remember to expand each selection by about 2 pixels before copying into the selection, and do the copying on the layer below the template. You many even want to add a new layer for each image. When you're done with your selections, add a frame to your image, and that's it.

Hope you've had fun, and have learned something about making proportional selections.

If you have any problems, comments, or questions, please do not hesitate to Email me.


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