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The Magic Wand tool in Photoshop Creative Suites 5 is particularly helpful when you’re working on an image of high contrast or with a limited number of colors. This tool selects individual pixels of similar shades and colors.

Select the Magic Wand tool, click anywhere on an image, and hope for the best — the Magic Wand tool isn’t magic. You decide how successful this tool is. That is, you control how closely matched each pixel must be in order for the Magic Wand tool to include it in the selection. You do so by setting the tolerance level on the Options bar.

When you select the Magic Wand tool, a Tolerance text field appears on the Options bar. As a default, the tolerance is set to 32.

When you click with a setting of 32, the Magic Wand tool selects all pixels within 32 shades (steps) of the color you clicked. If it didn’t select as much as you want, increase the value in the Tolerance text field (all the way up to 255).

The number you enter varies with each individual selection. If you’re selecting white napkins on an off-white tablecloth, you can set the number as low as 5 so that the selection doesn’t leak into other areas. For colored fabric with lots of tonal values, you might increase the tolerance to 150.

Don’t fret if you miss the entire selection when using the Magic Wand tool. Hold down the Shift key and click in the missed areas. If the tool selects too much, choose Edit→Undo (step backward) or press Ctrl+Z (Windows) or Command+Z (Mac), reduce the value in the Tolerance text field, and try again.

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