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Selecting color with the Magic Wand

From: Photoshop for Designers: Color

Video: Selecting color with the Magic Wand

In this first chapter on selecting colors, we are going to use the Magic Wand tool, the old faithful. It's been in Photoshop forever. It is right there on the Tool panel. Its purpose is to select pixels that are like the pixel that you click on, and it does so based not upon color similarity, but upon the similarity in brightness values, and it does so according to its Tolerance setting. Remember, we have levels on a scale of 0 to 255. The Tolerance setting also goes from 0 to 255. 32 is the default.

Selecting color with the Magic Wand

In this first chapter on selecting colors, we are going to use the Magic Wand tool, the old faithful. It's been in Photoshop forever. It is right there on the Tool panel. Its purpose is to select pixels that are like the pixel that you click on, and it does so based not upon color similarity, but upon the similarity in brightness values, and it does so according to its Tolerance setting. Remember, we have levels on a scale of 0 to 255. The Tolerance setting also goes from 0 to 255. 32 is the default.

Higher numbers will result in bigger areas being selected, lower numbers in smaller areas. A Tolerance level of 32 means that it's going to select 32 levels brighter than the pixel that you click on and 32 levels darker than the pixel that you click on, so a range of 64 levels. When I click right there, we see that we get most, but not all of the sky selected. You've probably got a similar result, but a slightly different result and that's because you clicked in a slightly different place, no matter.

So I could, at this point, realizing that I've not selected, although I wanted to select, increase the Tolerance. But rather than do that, what I am going to do is I am just going to hold down the Shift key and come and click on the area that didn't get included first time around. And now I have a full selection of the sky. How come it works so well? Well, it works so well because we have very well-defined contrast with the buildings against the sky. So what I can do next is select the buildings, which is really what I'm after and I do that by inversing the selection.

So I've started by selecting the inverse of what I want and then inversing it to get what I really want which is the buildings. What I do with the buildings, well, that's up to me, but now that I have that active selection, the change that I make, whatever change that is will only affect the buildings. Let's look at a slightly more involved scenario here and we want to do the same thing; we want to select the sky, maybe because we want to mask the sky, we don't want to see the sky any longer or we want a different sky. Whatever we want to do, we need to begin by selecting the sky.

And I'll click on the sky and we see that what happens is we get a full selection of the sky until we come up against a barrier, until the pixels aren't alike enough. Now I could, based upon what we did in the previous example, hold down the Shift key to get all these trapped areas of sky. But that's going to be really dull and it's going to take me a very long time to do that. And the result wouldn't be very good. So instead, what I am going to do is come to the Select menu and choose Similar.

And then that's going to select all of the pixels that are like the one I initially clicked on regardless of whether they are separated from the original area by a color barrier or not. So, that's fine except that I now have more stuff selected than I actually want because I've got some areas down in the foreground that have become part of my selection and I don't want them to be part of my selection. So what I am going to do is get my Polygonal Lasso tool and remove these. Let me just mention that in the previous step, as an alternative to using Select Similar, I could have anticipated the problem and turned off the contiguous option, so a couple of different ways to get that.

But, I now need to remove these foreground pixels from the selection. And to do that, I am going to hold down the Alt or the Option key and then just draw a marquee around them very roughly and they are now removed from that selection. I can now inverse the selection, Command+Shift+I, I now have the Waltzer sign selected rather than the sky and whatever I want to do with that. Well, I'll probably want to refine the edge of it and then use this selection as the basis for a mask.

But I am going to skip the Refined Edge part; I am just going to go straight to making it into a mask. I'll double-click on the background layer to unlock that and then click on the Add layer mask and there we have the mask. And this is going to require some refinement just by painting on the mask itself. So that's our starting point, needs a bit of refinement. But this was achieved using the Magic Wand tool to select the color, or more accurately, the brightness of the sky, inverse that, make that selection into a mask.

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This video is part of

Image for Photoshop for Designers: Color
Photoshop for Designers: Color

75 video lessons · 17453 viewers

Nigel French
Author

 
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  1. 1m 41s
    1. Welcome
      1m 0s
    2. Using the exercise files
      41s
  2. 25m 26s
    1. Defining color terms
      2m 38s
    2. Understanding the color wheel
      4m 3s
    3. Understanding color relationships
      1m 7s
    4. Using Kuler to understand color harmony rules and create color palettes
      4m 2s
    5. Using the Kuler web site
      3m 10s
    6. Colors on screen and on paper
      1m 42s
    7. Color as a signifier
      3m 14s
    8. Color inspirations
      2m 39s
    9. Color and accessibility
      2m 51s
  3. 38m 22s
    1. Demystifying the Color Picker
      2m 57s
    2. Understanding the role of foreground and background colors
      5m 39s
    3. Choosing colors
      6m 41s
    4. Managing swatches
      7m 40s
    5. Transparency
      9m 42s
    6. Color channels
      5m 43s
  4. 41m 4s
    1. Understanding additive and subtractive color
      2m 57s
    2. RGB mode
      1m 56s
    3. CMYK mode
      2m 41s
    4. Lab mode
      3m 49s
    5. Indexed mode
      2m 16s
    6. Grayscale mode
      5m 0s
    7. Color management
      14m 15s
    8. Color depth (8-, 16-, 24-, and 32-bit)
      4m 19s
    9. Monitor calibration
      3m 51s
  5. 26m 43s
    1. Evaluating color with the Histogram panel
      3m 18s
    2. Evaluating color with the Info panel
      1m 48s
    3. Boosting color with levels
      3m 48s
    4. Auto Tone and Auto Contrast
      7m 38s
    5. Manually setting the black and white point
      3m 50s
    6. Curves
      6m 21s
  6. 18m 30s
    1. What is color correction?
      5m 45s
    2. White balancing in Camera Raw
      1m 46s
    3. Color correction with color balance
      1m 34s
    4. Color balancing using photo filters
      1m 26s
    5. Color correction with variations
      4m 27s
    6. Color correction by the numbers
      3m 32s
  7. 33m 14s
    1. Selecting color with the Magic Wand
      4m 43s
    2. Selecting color with the Quick Selection tool
      2m 26s
    3. Selecting color with Color Range
      4m 0s
    4. Neutralizing whites with the Multiply blend mode
      2m 55s
    5. Neutralizing blacks with the Screen blend mode
      57s
    6. Masking colors with the Blend If sliders
      2m 54s
    7. Masking hair with a channel mask and removing contaminant colors
      2m 58s
    8. Shifting targeted colors using Hue/Saturation
      5m 4s
    9. Matching colors using Hue/Saturation
      3m 16s
    10. Matching colors using the Match Color command
      1m 36s
    11. Matching colors using the Color blend modes
      2m 25s
  8. 21m 8s
    1. Saturating colors
      4m 9s
    2. Desaturating colors
      1m 57s
    3. Desaturating in Camera Raw
      3m 1s
    4. Creating a color accent with selective saturation
      2m 38s
    5. Enhancing a sunrise with a gradient map
      5m 49s
    6. Increasing vibrance
      1m 19s
    7. Using selective color
      2m 15s
  9. 32m 42s
    1. Designing with spot colors
      12m 15s
    2. Adding a fifth color to a CMYK image
      5m 0s
    3. Adding spot colors to a grayscale image
      5m 24s
    4. Create a metallic print effect
      3m 8s
    5. Creating duotones, tritones, and quadtones
      6m 55s
  10. 30m 45s
    1. Creating a silkscreen print look with a limited color palette
      7m 59s
    2. Combining color with black and white
      2m 22s
    3. Creating a nostalgic travel poster using the Cut Out filter
      6m 27s
    4. Mapping an image to a color look up table (CLUT)
      7m 56s
    5. Converting to black and white
      6m 1s
  11. 48m 34s
    1. Creating a hand-tinted portrait (the easy way)
      3m 29s
    2. Creating a hand-tinted portrait (the harder way)
      11m 23s
    3. Creating an Andy Warhol look
      4m 44s
    4. Applying a gradient map
      4m 4s
    5. Sepia toning an image
      8m 41s
    6. Color tinting an image
      5m 15s
    7. Split toning an image
      2m 9s
    8. Working with line art
      8m 49s
  12. 23s
    1. Goodbye
      23s

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