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Magic Wand

Pen and Magic Wand ToolsFirst, we’ll show you how to use the Magic Wand to make selections. The Magic Wand automatically creates selected areas based on defined shapes and areas with the same hue. It defines borders based on contrasting colors. As long as an object doesn’t have heavy shading or complex colors, this tool is a one-stop shop to making quick selections.

To get started, open an image in Photoshop by using File > Open or by click-dragging an image into Photoshop. We went with a Spider-Man logo. The blue background and red icon offer a pretty decent contrast, which helps the Magic Wand create a more defined selection. After, select the wand tool from the Tool Panel.

 

Pen and Magic Wand Tools

With the Magic Wand, all you need to do is click within an object to create a selection. In our example, however, we don’t get perfect results because the Spidey logo actually contains a few red hues. But, that’s alright, we’ll show you a few tricks. Here’s what our original selection with the wand looks like:

 

Pen and Magic Wand Tools - Wand First Selection

As you can see, the dotted lines representing our selection aren’t quite right. The edges don’t fully envelope the legs or spider body, and the selection excludes a chunk of the central body. Instead of being satisfied with this lackluster selection, we’re going to use a function called Inverse. By going to Select > Inverse, our selection chooses the borders outside the icon rather than color values within. The good part is that we have a better selection of the Spider-Man icon. The bad part is that we also selected our blue background.

Pen and Magic Wand Tools - Inverse

Fortunately, we can exclude the blue background from our selection by going to Select > Deselect and clicking on the blue background. Now, we just go to Edit > Copy and our red bug icon can be pasted into a new document.

Pen and Magic Wand Tools - Red icon

The Pen is Mightier

No disrespect to the wand, but the Pen tool is a stronger, more versatile tool to create selections. The Pen does much, much more than creating selections, but creating selections is undoubtedly one of its handier uses. For this example, we’re using a Spider-Man illustration where his pose and color rendering make the Magic Wand useless. Take a look at how the wand selects Spidey:

Pen and Magic Wand Tools - Bad Selection

Not so great, and even the wand tricks I showed you won’t help much. This is a job for the Pen tool.

In the Tool Panel, the Pen tool looks like an old fountain pen. With it selected, you want to click around your object’s contours. Each click creates an anchor point represented by a tiny block. It’s best to zoom in on your object to set tighter anchor points around your object. You can never have too many anchor points, but don’t go overboard. Take advantage of smooth contours and space out anchor points when you can to save you time and tedium.

Pen and Magic Wand Tools - Zoomed

If you don’t have the steady hands of a surgeon, you will probably set a few anchor points way off the mark. Just use the Undo function and try again. Your last anchor point should come all the way back around to touch your first anchor point to “close” the area. With your object fully enveloped, go up to the Pen tool’s toolbar (atop your document and below the main toolbar) and click on the “Selection…” button. This opens a dialogue box that lets you customize the properties of your selection. Hit enter and your anchor points will become a selected area.

Pen Selection

All there’s left to do is copy your selection and move it to a new document. Go to Edit > Copy and then paste within a new document and you will have an object all alone without its background.

That’s It!

Now you know how to create quick selections of objects and create custom selections of highly dynamic objects. No matter what tool you use, once an object becomes selected, you can copy that selected area and move it to a new document. It’s like a disappearing act: using sleight of hand (clicking the mouse), you make an object disappear (by cutting or copying it) and reappear somewhere else (in a new document). Using these tools, you can pull objects from any number of sources into a single image. Or, you can remove a photobomber from your favorite photos. You may have to play around with your selections a bit to get them perfect, but with a little patience and the Undo button, and you’ll get it right every time. Good luck!

Recap…

Magic Wand:

  • Open your image and select the Magic Wand
  • Click within your image to select objects of similar colors
  • Use the Select > Inverse and Deselect functions to improve your selected area
  • Edit > Copy to create a copy of your final selection
  • Edit > Paste within a new document

Pen:

  • Open your image and select the Pen tool
  • Click repeatedly within your document to set “anchor” points around your object
  • Close your anchor point by making the last anchor touch the first one
  • Click the Selection…button in the Pen toolbar to convert your anchor points to a selected area
  • Edit > Copy to create a copy of your final selection
  • Edit > Paste within a new document