Day 11: What is Magic Wand Tool in Photoshop

When it comes to selection in Photoshop, we’ve lots of tools available. Each tool is unique in its own way. The same goes for Magic Wand Tool in Photoshop. Although it is bit similar to Quick Selection Tool, but its ability to draw a selection with one single click gives it a slight edge over Quick Selection Tool.

In this tutorial, we’re going to learn what is Magic Wand Tool in Photoshop, when to use it, and how to use it.

What is Magic Wand Tool in Photoshop

If you’re following this article from the beginning, you must know by now that Magic Wand Tool is a selection tool in Photoshop. Being extremely agile in nature, if you want a quick turnaround, you could use this. But speed comes at a cost, and that is quality. You may not get superior quality of selection that you make with Magic Wand Tool. But for day to day use, this tool is all you need.

You could activate this tool by pressing Shift+W again and again until it comes or by grabbing it from the toolbar.



Fig. 1

When to Use Magic Wand Tool in Photoshop

Adobe made Magic Wand Tool for specific tasks. Generally Magic Wand Tools works best when your selection needs same type of color.


Fig. 2

Fig. 2 is ideal for Magic Wand Tool if you want to select the yellow umbrella. The reason is that Magic Wand Tool selects a particular color out of the whole image. It uses Photoshop’s advanced edge detection technique to find edges. Bit confused, everything will get clear in next section.

How to Use Magic Wand Tool in Photoshop

Selection with the help of Magic Wand Tool is probably the easiest thing anyone can do in Photoshop. It is as simple as one single click. All you need to do is to activate the Magic Wand Tool and click on the area you want to select.


Fig. 3

Now suppose you want to select the yellow umbrella in Fig. 3, you just need to click on the umbrella, and that’s it. If the selection doesn’t cover the whole subject as shown in Fig. 3, just click one more time on the area which is not selected. This will give you complete selection like Fig. 4.


Fig. 4

Now you might be wondering “How does it work?”. Well the answer is simple. As I mentioned in the beginning, Magic Wand Tool uses advanced edge detection of Photoshop. It just looks for change in color. Whenever Photoshop finds one, it knows that there’s an edge present out there. With reference to Fig. 4, there’s a huge contrast between the yellow color and the black color. Such huge contrast can only be present because of presence of an edge.

Now let’s get into a bit deeper.


Fig. 5

The Tool Panel of Magic Wand Tool is pretty much similar to the Quick Selection Tool’s but there’s a slight difference. That’s “Tolerance’.

  1. This option lets you do three things with your selection. You have already seen it in action in Marquee Tool and Lasso Tool. It is subdivided into three sections.
    1. New Selection: This option lets you create a new selection every time your releases your mouse button. It’s like one shot. Whenever you’ve selected an area and you release the mouse button, and then you again hold down the mouse button, it’ll automatically deselect the older selections and lets you create a new one.
    2. Add to Selection: This option lets you store sessions. If you lift your mouse up and again holds down, your previous selection doesn’t vanish. Your new selection will be added to your old selection.
    3. Delete from Selection: It works same as above except that it deletes rather than adds.
  2. Sample Size: This lets you select the size of the sample. 5 by 5 average means that Photoshop will consider a square of 5 by 5 pixels and then takes average of 25 pixels to determine the color that it should consider for matching.
  3. Tolerance: The more it is, the more lenient Photoshop edge detection will be. In other words, if the value is 1, Photoshop will very tightly select the adjacent pixels. It keeps on becoming lenient as value goes higher.
  4. Anti-alias: If this feature is turned on, Photoshop smoothen out the color transition between the pixels around the edges of your selection and the pixels in the background.
  5. Contiguous: When you drag the “Magic Wand” to an area of color in a Photoshop image and click, it magically selects a shape with contiguous pixels of the same color. However, if you uncheck “Contiguous,” the “Magic Wand” will select every pixel of that color, whether touching or not.
  6. Sample All Layer: If your file has more than one layer, it’ll consider all layers (while turned on) while making selection.
  7. Refine Edge: Here you can find the complete answer.

And that’s all for today. See you in the next week.

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