Curriculum Guide Index

SLP Curriculum Guide #13: Selection Tool, Magic Wand

The Selections Tools are used to select an area or areas of an image or photographs. The tools include Selection, Freehand, Magic Wand and Crop. I also include the Dropper and Move Tools with this set of tools. Each of these tools have their own set of options though in some cases the options may be similar between tools. Thus, exploring each tool and its options allows one to master that tool.


The Magic Wand is a powerful tool for creating selections. Learning to use the various options will provide one various ways to create selections around objects particularly odd shaped objects. In addition to the Magic Wand we will briefly comment on the menu item 'Selections || Select All || Float/Defloat' which can create a selection around particular objects that exist on a transparent background.

One can use the 'Freehand Tool' as noted in the last guide to draw a selection around an object. However, sometimes a quicker and potentially more accurate way to do so is to use the 'Magic Wand'. In this guide we will explore ways it with its various options of 'Tolerance', checking the 'Contiguous Box' and 'Feather'.


A quick way to learn the effect of the various options is to paint a fairly complex type object such as using a preset in the Air Brush. A good preset is 'Rounded Flower'. Use a solid color such as 'pastel green'. Make sure your layer is not a 'background layer' but a 'promoted to layer' layer. Then using black as the foreground color paint your object over the background (and without changing the location of the selection, paint again 2 or 3 times because the edges of this preset are feathered). Another tip when experimenting is to 'duplicate' the background and turn the bottom layer off and work on the duplicated layer. Then one can preserve the original for use again.

  1. Use the 'Magic Wand' with its 'default' settings and click outside of the object. Then click on 'Delete' to remove that part of the selection. Notice that there is still colored areas within the object.
  2. Repeat but this time in the Tool Options Palette deselect 'Contiguous'. (Remember one can use 'Ctrl+D' to remove the selection and 'Ctrl+Z' to undo.) Notice now that all background color areas are removed. However you may have a colored border around the object and if so you can use the 'Delete' again or again and again to remove the colored cast.
  3. Again, start with a duplicated original with values as set in #2. Create the selection but this time don't 'Delete' yet. In the Tool Options Palette again check the Contiguous box. Then in the MODE select 'Remove'. Now 'Delete' and you should have the outer area of the object on transparent background with the center still showing the colored background. Note that one can use the Mode to add, remove or just replace selections.
  4. In this example, make sure the 'Contiguous' is unchecked. Then set the 'Feather'. Note that if you set a too high value for feather, it will not select areas of the object. In our example the highest value for feather is '2'. Then 'Delete' and notice by zooming the image the edges of the object are feathered (ability to see partial transparency of the edges and notice there may well be some solid color cast as well.)
  5. With the object showing on a transparent background another way to get a selection which has a number of inner areas one wants to be select is to use 'Selections || Select All then Selections || Float and finally Selections || Defloat'. Doing so creates a selection that one then can use on other images.


    Additional exercises include trying out other of the options not commented upon. Also, on another picture perhaps a photograph, work with the 'Tolerance' value to attempt to get a selection around a particular object such as a person.


    1. When completing a tutorial or series of tutorials, and having placed them upon your web page, post in the SLP Forum your completed work using this layout:
      • a. Name or Screen Name.
      • b. Web Site URL.
      • c. Version of PSP using.
      • d. List of Tutorials completed.
    2. From exploration of using the Selection Tools on images and/or photographs post some of your results and or comments in response to the exercises.
      • a. Indicate what you did so others can duplicate.
      • b. Indicate what option values.
      • c. Add comments on your results and findings of interest.
      • d. Share your questions and comments in the SLP Forum and your graphic results in the member Gallery SLP Album as well as in the Forum.


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