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Adobe® Photoshop® CS5 Classroom in a Book: Using the Magic Wand Tool


  1. Using the Magic Wand tool

Article Description

This excerpt from Adobe® Photoshop® CS5 Classroom in a Bookshows you how to use the Magic Wand tool.

Note: This excerpt is from a draft manuscript and may not be representative of the final published work.

The Magic Wand tool selects all the pixels of a particular color or color range. It’s most successful for selecting an area of similar colors surrounded by areas of very different colors. As with many of the selection tools, after you make the initial selection, you can add or subtract areas of the selection.

The Tolerance option sets the sensitivity of the Magic Wand tool. This value limits or extends the range of pixel similarity. The default tolerance value of 32 selects the color you click plus 32 lighter and 32 darker tones of that color. You may need to adjust the tolerance level up or down depending on the color ranges and variations in the image.

If a multicolored area that you want to select is set against a background of a different color, it can be much easier to select the background than the area itself. In this procedure, you’ll use the Rectangular Marquee tool to select a larger area, and then use the Magic Wand tool to subtract the background from the selection.

  1. Select the Rectangular Marquee tool (), hidden behind the Elliptical Marquee tool.
  2. Drag a selection around the piece of coral. Make sure that your selection is large enough so that a margin of white appears between the coral and the edges of the marquee.
  3. At this point, the coral and the white background area are selected. You’ll subtract the white area from the selection so that only the coral remains in the selection.

  4. Select the Magic Wand tool (), hidden under the Quick Selection tool ().
  5. In the options bar, confirm that the Tolerance value is 32. This value determines the range of colors the wand selects.
  6. Select the Subtract From Selection button () in the options bar. A minus sign appears next to the wand in the pointer icon. Anything you select now will be subtracted from the initial selection.
  7. Click in the white background area within the selection marquee.
  8. The Magic Wand tool selected the entire background, subtracting it from the selection. Now all the white pixels are deselected, leaving the coral perfectly selected.

  9. Select the Move tool (), and drag the coral to the wooden plate, so it is a little to the right and above the center of the plate.
  10. Choose Select > Deselect, and then save your work.