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Selection Wizardry in Photoshop 6

You can use Photoshop to crop, rotate, and adjust contrast. But to really take advantage of this powerful program, newcomers must learn the secrets of 2D image editing. In any photo, there are interesting shapes within, just waiting to be tweaked. This month, weíll explain the Magic Wand, a primary tool in Photoshop for selecting shapes within an image. Once youíre wielding it with facility, youíll be transforming ordinary pictures into enchanting, if not downright unnatural, creations.

For starters. Start a new folder on your Desktop and name it Practice. Copy several photos into the Practice folder. If you donít see the Tools palette, go to Window, Show Tools to open it.

The Magic Wand

Open a practice image and select the Magic Wand tool (second from the top on the right) on the Tools palette. The Magic Wand selects portions of an image based on color, such as leaves on a tree or the blue background of a sky. To get a feel for it, click anywhere on your picture. Youíll see a selection with edges that seem to move. These are the marching ants. Click the selected area again, and the ants are gone.

What exactly gets selected depends on specifications you make in the Options menu, the horizontal menu located above the picture. The first section of the menu is for specifying an action. Select the single square, New Selection. Next, set the tolerance, or color range, for the pixels in the selection.

Learn Tolerance

The greater the number entered in the Tolerance box, the broader the color criterion for the selection. Place a check mark in the Anti-aliased checkbox to ensure a smooth edge on the selection. Next, check the Contiguous option. This ensures youíre selecting similarly valued pixels that touch each other. Otherwise, you will select similar-colored pixels throughout the image. Leave the Use All Layers box unchecked.

Use The Wand

Pick an area of your picture youíd like to duplicate. (We selected a flower on a rosebush.) Set the tolerance to 30. Click the target area. The object here is to see marching ants surround the perimeter of the object; click the ants marching inside the image until they disappear. If too many extraneous pixels are selected at once, reduce the tolerance. If there arenít enough, bump the tolerance up.

Key commands. Be prepared for false starts. To deselect everything and start again, press CTRL-D. To add more pixels to your selection, hold down SHIFT and click. (The pointer will sport a little plus sign [+].) To remove pixels from a selection, hold down ALT and click. (The pointer will bear a minus sign [-].) Select until there are no more marching ants in the object. If necessary, use the Magnifying Glass tool to hone in on tough-to-select areas.

Duplicate selections. Once youíre satisfied with your selection, click Edit, Copy and then Edit, Paste. Select the Move tool, just above the Magic Wand, and then click the target object (the ants will be gone) and move the duplicated image elsewhere on the page. We set the new bloom on the rosebush off to the side, so as to appear natural and inconspicuous. Save your work.

Adjust Color Appearance

The Magic Wand is also useful for adjusting colors that appear throughout an image. Our rosebush photo serves as a good example. The flowers are bright and highly saturated with color, but the leaves of the bush are dark and dull.

Open another sample image and select the Magic Wand tool. In the menu options for the tool, remove the check mark from the box next to Contiguous. Now, select a shadowy area of your image. Youíll see that particular color value selected wherever it appears in the image. To render these shadowy areas more prominent, go to Image, Adjust, Brightness/Contrast. Move the sliders far to the right so you can sense the possibilities. Still feeling bold? Go to Image, Adjust, Hue/Saturation and slide the values up. Deselect (CTRL-D) to see what youíve affected.

Wizard In The Making?

You canít become a Photoshop wizard in a day; it takes time to master the Magic Wand. Start looking more closely at your photos. See if you can spot areas that need a little, well, magic. Practice selecting and duplicating objects and selecting and editing color across images.

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