Bair Art Edition's Tutorial on:
Adjusting Color & Exposure
In Adobe Photoshop

How to Make Selections With the Magic Wand

Using the Magic Wand tool won't separate out a portion by itself (unless you don't plan on using layers). This is what I mean: If you have selected an area, and apply any adjustments (including using a paint brush, or a curves adjustment for example), only the selected area will be effected. This is nice, but as I keep saying, that will permanently alter the information of that area!

You would do well to make either New Layers of the selection, or apply an Adjustment Layer to the selection.
Basic Operation

To start with, let's make sure we are using the right tool. You can use the keyboard command by simply typing W, or select the tool from the tool palette. In the image to the right, the Wand tool is shaded and depressed, because it is active:

Now that you have the tool ready, you will be using it to select areas of the same color density. As you click on an area, photoshop will create a feathered selection of all the adjacent pixels that have similar color values as the one you clicked on. The degree to which the pixels need to be similar is controlled in a fill-box called Tolerance, which is located near the top of your screen, and displayed above this text on this page.

Anti-aliased tells Photoshop that you want no hard, defined lines (if it can help it), it feathers the selection. When Contiguous is selected, it will only select similar pixels if they are adjacent to where you clicked. If this is not engaged, it will select all similar pixels in the image.

If you select Use All Layers, the selection will be made on all layer, not just the one you are working on. This is neat to activate in other tools as well, such as the Rubber Stamp Tool.

Increase and lower your Tolerance until you acheive a selection that is practically acceptable. Once you have done that, you may consider using the following selection techniques to enhace what you have already done.


By going to Select/ Grow, the current selection will do just that, grow. It is useful sometimes, but I find it usually grows too much for my images and the finite work I need to do. Try it and see for yourself.

It only works off of the current layer, so using the magic wand tool and increasing the Tolerance might be a better way to go.


This is a more useful addition. It is applied by clicking Select/ Similar. It is much like clicking off Contiguous when you make your first selection. It selects silmilar areas. It only works off of the current layer as well.


This modification is also similar to an original option of the Wand tool; however, I find it beneficial even if I used it's counterpart to start with.

It is basically like Anti-aliased, but it gives you plenty of control after the fact, and can even improve the job Anti-aliased did in preventing hard lines. It is found in Select/ Feather..., and it allows you to determine the pixel radius of your feathering. Feathering is basically taking a hard edge and softening it so it fades to nothing.

Well, that's all about the wand, try it and use it with the other techniques of the module, or just use the other techniques instead.

These are the other sections of this module: