Adjust Tolerance Settings with the Magic Wand Tool - dummies

Adjust Tolerance Settings with the Magic Wand Tool

By Barbara Obermeier, Ted Padova

You can use the Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 Magic Wand tool to adjust Tolerance settings. The Tolerance setting determines the range of color that the Magic Wand tool selects. Just follow these steps:

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

    You can’t miss it. It looks like a wand with a starburst on the end. You can also just press W.

  2. Click anywhere on your desired element, using the default Tolerance setting of 32.

    Remember that the pixel you click determines the base color.

    If the pixel gods are with you and you selected everything you want on the first click, you’re done. If your selection needs further tweaking, continue to Step 3.


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

    If the Magic Wand selects more than you want, lower the Tolerance setting. If the wand didn’t select enough, increase the value. While you’re poking around the Options bar, here are a couple more options to get familiar with:

    • Anti-Alias. Softens the edge of the selection by one row of pixels.

    • Contiguous. Forces the Magic Wand to select only pixels that are adjacent to each other. Without this option, the tool selects all pixels within the range of tolerance, whether or not they’re adjacent to each other.

    • Sample All Layers. If you have multiple layers and enable this option, the Magic Wand selects pixels from all visible layers. Without this option, the tool selects pixels from the active layer only.

    • Refine Edge. Clean up your selection by moving the Smooth slider to reduce the amount of jagginess in your edges. Feather works like the feather option. Move the Contract/Expand slider to the left or right to decrease or increase the selected area, respectively. Click the custom overlay color button to preview your selection with your edges hidden and an overlay of screen-only color in your unselected area.

  4. Click your desired element again.

    Unfortunately, the Magic Wand tool isn’t magical enough to modify your first selection automatically. Instead, it 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. Try, try again.