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How to Set the Tolerance of the Magic Wand Tool in Photoshop CS6

The Magic Wand Tolerance setting in Photoshop CS6 determines the range of color that the Magic Wand tool selects. Sometimes, an image may contain a few shades of a similar color. Consider a cloudless sky, for example. A few shades of blue make up the bright blue yonder.

By using the Magic Wand tool, if you click a darker shade of blue in the sky, Photoshop selects all similar shades of blue, but the lighter shades remain unselected. This is usually a sure sign that you need to increase your Tolerance level.

Tolerance is based on brightness levels that range from 0 to 255:

  • Setting the Tolerance to 0 selects one color only.

  • Setting the Tolerance to 255 selects all colors — the entire image.

To use the Magic Wand tool and adjust Tolerance settings, follow these steps:

  1. Select the Magic Wand tool in the Tools panel.

    Press the W key and then press Shift+W until you get a tool that looks like the weapon of choice for many Disney characters.

  2. Click the portion of the image that you want to select; use the default Tolerance setting of 32.

    The pixel that you click determines the base color. The default value of 32 means that the Magic Wand tool selects all colors that are 16 levels lighter and 16 levels darker than the base color.

    If you selected everything you wanted the first time you used the Magic Wand tool, stretch your arm and give yourself a pat on the back. If you didn’t (which is probably the case), go to Step 3.

  3. Enter a new Tolerance setting on the Options bar.

    If the Magic Wand tool selected more than you wanted it to, lower the Tolerance setting. If it didn’t select enough, raise the setting.

  4. Click the portion of the image that you want to select.

    Changing the Tolerance level doesn’t adjust your current selection.

    The Magic Wand tool deselects the current selection and makes a new selection — based on your new Tolerance setting. If it still isn’t right, you can adjust the Tolerance setting again. There isn’t a magic formula that you can use to determine the right value. It’s all about trial and error.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/caracterdesign Image #1907585]
    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/caracterdesign Image #1907585
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