Join Mordy Golding for an in-depth discussion in this video Using the Magic Wand tool, part of Illustrator CS5 Essential Training.
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The Selection tools inside of Illustrator, both the Selection tool and the Direct Selection tool, allow you to select specific objects. For example if I click on this group right here this is the group that becomes selected. It's a very precise process. Whatever I click on that's what becomes selected. However there may be times when I want to select objects that are similar to each other. For example, take a look at these designs here towards the bottom. They're all pretty much identical except that where the word Seeds appears there's a color background and that color background is somewhat different among these different designs.
Now maybe I feel that I want to able to adjust that background area or I want to maybe resize them or adjust their position just a little bit, or even change their colors. It can be quite difficult for me to make that selection and there are two reasons for that. First of all, if I wanted to select four distinct objects I would need to use a regular Selection tool and then click and hold down the Shift key to add the other objects to my selection. That isn't even something that I can do currently with my regular Selection tool because simply clicking anywhere here selects the entire group. So what I would need to do is use my Direct Selection tool, click on this shape right here, hold down the Shift key, and then continue to click on these other objects to add those to my selection.
Now I'll be able to make some kind of adjustment by moving with the arrow keys for example. However there is a way to have Illustrator select objects based on their content. The tool for that is something called the Magic Wand tool. It's actually a tool that also exists inside of Photoshop. The concept is pretty much the same. If you're inside of Photoshop and you have a photograph of maybe a sky, that sky is made up of beautiful different shades of blue, because everything is individual pixels inside of Photoshop, how do I select all of my blue pixels? I can't choose just one color and tell Photoshop select that one color because this guy is made up of many different shades of blue.
So what the Magic Wand tool allows you to do is select colors that are similar to the one that you click on. There is a setting in the Selection tool called a tolerance which gives you the power to control how close or how different the criteria is for selecting those objects. Let's take a look at what I mean by that. I'm now going to deselect my artworks so nothing is selected. I am going to switch to the Magic Wand tool. Before I actually use the Magic Wand tool I'm going to double click on it because that's going to bring up the Magic Wand panel. These are the settings which control how the Magic Wand tool works.
Let's do a very basic one first. If I want to click on these leaves for example and I want to select all the leaves in my document, I can use the Magic Wand tool to click on this one leaf here and because the Magic Wand panel currently has Fill Color checked and a tolerance setting of 20 it means that when I click on this Illustrator will search through my entire document and it will find the fill colors that are within 20 tolerance levels of the object that I click on and it will select those as well. So let's see what happens. Now I am going to click on this leaf and as you can see all the leaves now in my document were now selected.
The reason is because all those leaves have the same fill color characteristics. They are actually filled with a gradient. If I use a very low tolerance, that means I'm telling Illustrator that when it make its selections I want those selected areas to be very, very close to the object that I am clicking on. If I choose a higher value for tolerance, that means I'm letting Illustrator expand the criteria for making selections and it will select other artwork that is even somewhat close to the artwork that I am now clicking on. To understand a little bit more about how that works let's try selecting some other artwork, for example the color bars that appear behind the words Seeds on these package designs.
I am going to set my tolerance level to something a little bit lower, maybe like 5. Now I am going to click on just this background area right here and you could see that Illustrator right now only selects this one object. That's because there's nothing else in my document right now that has a fill color that falls within this range of five for the tolerance setting. If I increase the tolerance setting now to 20, now when I click on this background color you could see that Illustrator selected this object and also this object. They are different colors indeed but they're close enough within my tolerance level that now both of these have become selected.
Let's change my tolerance setting now to 40. If I now click on this shape I can see that I've successfully selected all the colors here with one click. Now in this example, I only had four objects so I guess you can say it wasn't that much more difficult for me to use the Selection tool or in this case the Direct Selection tool to Shift+ Click on those four different elements. However, if I had a document that had many hundreds of objects and I wanted to select them but they were all slightly different in shades of colors this would allow me to do that in a single click. Perhaps even more valuable is that the Magic Wand tool can have criteria other than just fill colors.
I'll come to the Magic Wand panel here and from the flyout menu, I'll choose to show my options. There are stroke options and they're also transparency options. By checking these options here I could tell the Magic Wand tool to select objects based on the other tolerance areas, for example stroke Weight. If I put in a tolerance of say one point and I click on a one point stroke, that means that everything in my document that has anywhere from a zero point stroke all the way to a two point stroke will become selected. If I specify an opacity with a tolerance of 5% and I click on an object that has 50% opacity, that means anything from 45% opacity to 55% opacity will become selected.
Depending on the type of work that you're doing, you may find that the Magic Wand tool is an invaluable Selection tool that can help you get your work done quickly and efficiently.
- Setting up a new document based on the output destination
- Using rules, guides, and grids
- Making detailed selections
- Drawing and editing paths with the Pen and Pencil tools
- Creating compound vector shapes
- Understanding the difference between point and area text
- Applying live effects
- Creating color swatches
- Transforming artwork with Rotation, Scale, and Transform effects
- Placing images
- Working with masks
- Printing, saving, and exporting artwork