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Chapter 4. Making Selections > Making Selections by Color

Making Selections by Color

The Magic Wand tool allows you to make selections based on a selected color. This tool can seem truly magical—or wildly unpredictable—at first. When you click an image with this tool, it selects all pixels within a color range close to the pixel you select. You control how closely the color must match (also known as the tolerance) to be included in the selection.

In addition to the tolerance, you can set options for anti-aliasing (smoothing), contiguousness (whether the pixels need to be connected to that first selected pixel), and whether all layers are included in the selection.

The Grow and Similar commands, found in the Select menu, can be used with the Magic Wand to expand the selection area. The Grow command expands the range of adjacent pixels, and the Similar command expands the selection based on the pixel colors.

To use the Magic Wand:

1.
From the toolbar, choose the Magic Wand (W) (Figure 4.42).

Figure 4.42. The Magic Wand icon is located right next to the Lasso tools on the toolbar.


2.
On the options bar, choose whether to create a new selection, add to or subtract from an existing selection, or select an area where two selections intersect (Figure 4.43).

Figure 4.43. The Magic Wand options bar.


The default setting on the options bar creates a new selection.

3.
Select the tolerance (a range of pixels from 0 to 255) to establish how wide a color range you want to include in your selection.

The default tolerance level is 32 pixels. To pick colors very close to the selected pixel, choose lower numbers. Entering higher numbers results in a wider selection of colors (Figure 4.44).

Figure 4.44. The Tolerance setting determines how wide a range of colors is included in the selection.


4.
If you want your selection to have a smooth edge, select Anti-aliased.

5.
If you want only pixels adjacent to the original pixel to be included in the selection, select Contiguous (Figure 4.45).

Figure 4.45. Choose Contiguous if you want the selection to include only adjacent pixels. Uncheck the box if you want to select all colors throughout the image.


6.
If you want the selection to include pixels on all the layers, select Use All Layers.

7.
Click a color or shade in the image. Based on your settings, you will now see the selected pixels highlighted, which can now be edited as you like.

Tip

  • When you make your original selection with the Magic Wand, it takes a color “sample” from your image. You can adjust the sample size with the Eyedropper tool. The Eyedropper options bar lets you sample 1 pixel, or the average of a 3-by-3-pixel area (9 pixels total), or a 5-by-5-pixel area (25 pixels total). Whatever option is active determines how the Magic Wand establishes the sample color.


To expand the selection area:

1.
From the toolbar, choose the Magic Wand tool.

2.
Click a color or shade in the image.

3.
From the Select menu, choose Grow to expand the selection of adjacent pixels.

Each time you select Grow, the selection is expanded by the tolerance amount displayed on the Magic Wand options bar (Figure 4.46).

Figure 4.46. In this example we set the tolerance to 50 pixels, with Contiguous unchecked for the first two Grow commands. To fine-tune the selection, we checked the Contiguous box, and reduced the tolerance to 20 pixels.


Tip

  • You can also access the Grow command by right-clicking/Ctrl+clicking once you have made a selection with the Magic Wand. This brings up a dialog box with many other useful selection options (Figure 4.47).

    Figure 4.47. After making a selection with the Magic Wand tool, right-click/Ctrl+click to access selection options.


To include similar colors:

1.
From the toolbar, choose the Magic Wand.

2.
Click a color or shade in the image.

3.
From the Select menu, choose Similar to expand the selection of nonadjacent pixels.

The selection is expanded by the tolerance amount set on the Magic Wand options bar (Figure 4.48).

Figure 4.48. Choose Select > Similar to add pixels to your selection.


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