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Photoshop 101 - The Magic Wand Tool

Especially for high contrast images the Magic Wand tool makes selection simple. A tool for daily use this example shows how to remove a background quickly and easily.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Table of contents

Sample based selection

A little like the Magnetic Lasso tool the Magic Wand does much of the hard work for you. It works by selecting pixels based on settings defined by you. Select the Magic Wand tool by pressing W.

In this example we are going to remove the background of a picture. This is a common task in Photoshop and one that is simple with the Magic Wand tool.


The Magic Wand tool is primarily a selection tool so you will see the same options that you get in the Lasso and Marquee tools:

Magic Wand Settings

There are a number of other options too:

Knocking out the background

Before starting you should copy the Background layer. This is a good idea so you can recover the image if anything goes wrong. Select your copied layer to begin working on it.

I’ve selected the Magic Wand tool using W and clicked into the background. You will see that at a tolerance of 60 it has selected some but not all of the background.

Magic Wand Selection

Tip: If you are not happy with your selection hit Apple + D (CTRL + D on Windows) to remove it and start again.

To select all the background I now use the add to selection option. Hold shift and you will see the icon change. Click in the areas that are not included until all of the background is selected.

Magic Wand Final Selection

Once you have the background selected you can remove it or fill it as you wish. I’ve removed my selection by hitting CTRL + X

Using the Magic Wand to Remove the Background

Have an update or suggestion for this article? You can edit it here and send me a pull request.


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