Making the Magic Wand tool work for you
Video: Making the Magic Wand tool work for youThe Magic Wand tool is perhaps the most commonly used of the selection methods based on color and tone, if for no other reason than it's been in Photoshop for quite a long time. But don't always automatically reach for the Magic Wand tool, because it really is a tool that's hard to control. Oftentimes you will find that the Quick Selection tool or the Color Range command are better bets. But if you do want to use the Magic Wand tool, it's useful to know some ways to try to control it, which is what I'm going to cover in this movie. The Magic Wand tool is located here in the toolbox with the Quick Selection tool.
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In Photoshop CS5: Selections in Depth, author Jan Kabili offers a comprehensive tour of Photoshop CS5's selection features. Selection options are the key to performing creative imaging tasks, such as isolating photo adjustments and making image composites. This course covers selection basics as well as the nuances of selections, including selecting hair, refining masks, saving and recalling selections, working in Quick Mask mode, and creating selections based on image properties, such as luminosity and color channels. Exercise files are included with the course.
- Understanding the when and why of making selections
- Combining and transforming selections
- Selecting fine detail with Refine Edge
- Capturing soft and hard edges in one selection
- Understanding the relationship of selections to masks
- Removing color fringe around selections
- Using the Marquee and Lasso tools
- Working with the Color Range command
- Selecting with the Pen tool and paths
- Making easy selections with the Quick Selection tool
- Working with Refine Mask
- Sharing selections between images
Making the Magic Wand tool work for you
The Magic Wand tool is perhaps the most commonly used of the selection methods based on color and tone, if for no other reason than it's been in Photoshop for quite a long time. But don't always automatically reach for the Magic Wand tool, because it really is a tool that's hard to control. Oftentimes you will find that the Quick Selection tool or the Color Range command are better bets. But if you do want to use the Magic Wand tool, it's useful to know some ways to try to control it, which is what I'm going to cover in this movie. The Magic Wand tool is located here in the toolbox with the Quick Selection tool.
Currently, I have the options for the Magic Wand tool set to their defaults in the Options bar. I am going to come into the image and try to select just this single rose by clicking on it with the magic wand. The place that I click affects which pixels will be initially selected, because what the tool does is it looks at the color and tone of the particular pixel on which I happen to click, and then it selects some neighboring, or contiguous pixels within a particular range of color and tone from the one on which I happened to click. So if I click instead over here, I'll get a different selection, or here a different selection, and it's difficult to know exactly what you're going to get before you click.
Notice that I'm not getting the whole rose in this selection. One reason could be that Contiguous is checked by default. Contiguous means pixels that are adjacent to one another, or touching one another. So if I uncheck Contiguous and then come in and click somewhere in the image, I will get a different selection, and hopefully one that includes more pixels, pixels that aren't necessarily touching one another. But the danger of that is that sometimes that will get the pixels I don't want, for example, those over in this area here.
Another way that I can try to have some affect on which pixels are going to be selected is to change the Tolerance here. The tolerance determines the range of color and tone that will be selected. So when Tolerance is set to its default of 32 Photoshop will select 32 levels of color and tone on either side of that of the pixel in which I click. So I want to try to select more, I can increase the number in the Tolerance field. The problem is I never know what number to type here. It's always a blind guess.
I'll try typing 60 levels here, and then I'll move into the image, and I'll click, and this time I did get a larger selection, but I didn't get everything selected that I wanted to. What else can I try to do to change which pixels get selected by the magic wand? By default, when I click on a pixel with this tool, the tool samples the color and tone of just that single pixel on which I happen to click, and it's very difficult to control exactly which pixel I am clicking on. So another thing I can do is expand the number of pixels that I am sampling with my initial click, and that's controlled not by the options for the Magic Wand tool as you might expect, but rather by the options for the Eyedropper tool.
So I'm going to temporarily switch to the Eyedropper tool by pressing the I key on my keyboard and leaving that held down, and then I will move up to the Options bar for the Eyedropper tool, and I will change the sample size from its default of Point sample, which means one pixel, to a larger sample size. I'll arbitrarily choose 11 by 11 Pixels Average, and then I'll release the I key on my keyboard. I will come in to the image and click once, and then I'll click again to get another initial selection.
As is often the case, none of these techniques has gotten me exactly the selection that I want. So at this point, what I would probably do is try adding to my current selection. To do that I can hold the Shift key, or I can go up to the Options bar and click the Add to selection button, and then I'll move into the image and I'll click with the magic wand on those pixels that were not included in my initial selection, but that I do want to include inside the rose. But now I've got another problem, which is that's ended up selecting some of the flowers out here that I don't want included in my selection.
So at this point, I could hold down the Option key on a Mac or the Alt key on the PC or click on the Subtract from selection button here in the Options bar and try removing these areas from my selection. But as you can see, I'm not getting a very satisfactory result. That has not only removed these flowers from the selection, but it's has also removed parts of the rose that I want to select. So ultimately, when I do use the Magic Wand tool, I'll often use it in conjunction with other tools. For example, I might go to the Lasso tool and set it to Add to selection, and then come in and drag a selection free-form around the pixels that I want to add to my Magic Wand selection.
So as you can see, there's a lot of trial and error when you're using the magic wand. If you do want to make a selection based on color and tone, you'll often get better results by using the Color Range command or the Quick Selection tool. Just to show you how that would work in this case, I am going to deselect, go back to the toolbox, get the Quick Selection tool and move into the image and just drag over the rose, and within a fraction of a second, I've managed to select exactly what I wanted to with the Quick Selection tool that selects not only on the basis of color and tone, but also recognizes image edges.
If you want to learn more about the Quick Selection tool, go back and listen to the movie about that tool in this chapter.
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