Marching Ants


Marching ants is a visual effect in computer graphics, commonly used in image and video editing software. It consists of a border of moving, dotted lines that are often seen surrounding a selected area or object. The purpose of marching ants is to provide a clear visual indication of the selection without altering the selected pixels themselves.

Key Takeaways

  1. Marching Ants is a visual effect that imitates the movement of ants, often used to represent a selection in computer graphics applications.
  2. The effect is created by animating the dashed outline of a selection, giving the appearance of a continuous marching pattern around the selected area.
  3. While helpful for some users in identifying the active selection, Marching Ants can potentially be distracting and consume system resources, so many programs provide an option to disable the effect.


Marching ants is a term used in graphic design and technology, referring to an animated border of dashed or dotted lines surrounding a selected area in an image or design.

The term is derived from the idea that the movement of these lines resembles ants marching in a row.

This visual effect is significant because it provides an easily distinguishable and non-obstructive way for designers and users to identify selected areas within an image or design.

By using marching ants, software applications can communicate usage of tools such as the marquee or lasso without obscuring users’ view, thus enhancing the user experience.

Moreover, it has become an industry standard across various graphics and design software, making it an essential aspect of user interface design in the technology realm.


Marching ants is a widely recognized visual effect in many computer software applications, particularly in graphic design and image editing programs, which serves the purpose of highlighting a selected area or object within an image. This animated effect creates the illusion of moving or “marching” ants by displaying a dotted or dashed line that surrounds the chosen selection, drawing attention to the specified region.

By utilizing the marching ants effect, users are able to quickly discern the active selection area without it being obstructive to their overall view, ensuring efficient and precise modification of images. The primary use of marching ants is to provide a clear indication of the selected region while allowing the user to perform editing functions such as copying, cutting, moving, or applying filters within the boundaries of the selection.

This feature greatly benefits photographers, graphic designers, digital artists, and anyone working with visual elements, as it simplifies and streamlines the editing process. Additionally, marching ants can be customized in terms of appearance and behavior to suit the preferences of individual users and the requirements of specific projects.

Overall, the marching ants visual cue enhances both the accuracy and user experience in digital image manipulation, making it an indispensable tool in any creative software suite.

Examples of Marching Ants

Marching ants is a term used in graphic design and software programs to refer to the moving, dotted or dashed line that outlines a selected area or object within the application. It is called marching ants because the appearance of the moving dashed line resembles ants marching in a line. Here are three real-world examples related to the term “marching ants”:

Adobe Photoshop: In Adobe Photoshop, when a user selects an area of the image using tools such as the Lasso Tool, Rectangular Marquee Tool, or Magic Wand Tool, a dashed line appears around the selected area. This line, commonly called marching ants, indicates the area that can be manipulated or edited without affecting the rest of the image.

Microsoft PowerPoint: When working with objects, such as shapes or text boxes, in Microsoft PowerPoint, a user can select the object by clicking on it. Once selected, a moving dashed line (marching ants) appears around the object to indicate that the object can now be moved, resized, or modified.

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program): In GIMP, when a user selects an area using the Selection Tools like Rectangle Select, Ellipse Select, or Free Select, marching ants appear around the selected area. This allows the user to see the area that can be modified, painted, or moved without affecting the rest of the image.

FAQ: Marching Ants

What are marching ants?

Marching ants is an animated border often seen around a selection made in graphic design software. It consists of animated dashed lines that give the appearance of ants marching along the border of the selection.

Where and when are marching ants typically used?

Marching ants are mainly used in graphic design programs, such as Adobe Photoshop and GIMP, to indicate an active selection or where an operation will be applied. They are also sometimes used in other applications to indicate a selected region or active area.

How do marching ants help in designing?

Marching ants help designers by visually informing them of their current selection and the area that will be affected by any subsequent actions. By using a moving pattern, they can be easily distinguished from the static elements of the image.

Can marching ants be turned off?

In most graphic design software, it is possible to turn off the marching ants display if it becomes distracting or unnecessary. This is usually done through the software’s View menu or Preferences settings.

Are there alternatives to marching ants?

Yes, some graphic design software offers other types of selection indicators, such as a solid or dashed outline, an overlay color, or even no indicator at all. The choice usually depends on the software used and the preferences of the designer.

Related Technology Terms


  • Selection Outline
  • Animated Dashed Border
  • Graphics User Interface (GUI) Element
  • Image Editing Tools
  • Visual Indication of Active Selection


Sources for More Information

  • Techopedia – A comprehensive IT and tech dictionary that may include information on the concept of Marching Ants.
  • Computer Hope – An extensive resource with a broad range of information related to computer terms and concepts, which may feature the term Marching Ants.
  • How-To Geek – A website dedicated to simplifying technology concepts and providing explanations for various tech terms, which might include Marching Ants.
  • Webopedia – An online tech dictionary that covers a wide range of IT and tech terms, possibly including the term Marching Ants.

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