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Using the magic wand tool to remove background in Photoshop

In today’s post, Jeff will show you how to remove background in Photoshop using the magic wand tool.

Note: remember to watch the video tutorial Jeff made for you, it will be much easier to follow the steps.

Let’s start!

So when you have something like this where you go this solid color and you want to select it so you that you can then invert it to select the object, you can use the magic wand tool.

The magic wand tool is also up in this little special dual tool section here.

Where to find the magic wand tool

The quick selection tool and the magic wand, these are the two go to powerhouses of selection in Photoshop because magic wand has a tolerance, I think 32 is the default, it means it’s how wide this would look when you select the color.

Also there’s a thing called contiguous and another one that’s called anti-alias (it’s there to smooth out the edges).

And then there’s something called sample all layers, that’s turned off we only have one layer here anyway, but sometimes you want to sample multiple layers.

The default is contiguous meaning it will search for everything, wherever you click here it’s going to look for everything that’s blue that touches the area where you’ve clicked. For all over here but it won’t look inside there because that’s not contiguous it’s separated.

shows what contiguous does not mean

It won’t look there and it probably won’t look there if you see where I’m pointing those are the little spots where it probably won’t look.

But if I just click here once, boom, that’s what it found that’s what I sort of selected. It didn’t select down here but it selected all that based on the tolerance.

Right now it’s just on selection here but if I click again it’s going to de-select what I just did and just keep on making new selections.

That’s the default behaviour of the magic wand, that is to select once and not add to it. If you click on this guy here now from this point forward it will be adding to the selection every time I click.

add to selection photoshop

Down here, now we’re much better off now you see that little spot there wasn’t selected, so inside there I did this spot which wasn’t selected so inside there. That little blue there wasn’t selected, we got a little too far there we’ll fix that later. Maybe inside there wasn’t selected, I think that’s pretty good. We’ve made our selection.

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Now because there’s a little bit of frizz here, it might not be perfectly selected and so when there’s a little bit of frizzy edge to something that’s sometimes when you want to use the refine edge tool.

When you have a selection active like this (with marching ants going all over the place) and the selection tool is active you can use the refine edge tool.

Right now I’ve selected the sky and I want to select the scarecrow. Before I do that I need to invert the selection.

Now a second ago I inverted the colors black and white by doing controller command – I, the invert selection it’s control or command I plus shift so control + shift + I.

So the invert is control I but inverting selection is control command + shift + I.

Now the marching ants are going around the scarecrow which is what we want it to do.

Click on refine edge, now I’ll open up this refine edge dialog here.

It’s not as cool as the one in the 2015 5.5 version but it’s still pretty cool. And first thing is what do you want to see this thing against. Typically what you see it against is this overlay.

refine edge tool overlay

Now the overlay in the last one you had the option of adjusting how bright it was, how transparent it was but you don’t have the option here. I’m looking and I’m seeing little kind of goofy little stuff there where the blue is kind of coming through there a little bit. I’m going to refine the edge.

Let’s refine this little guy is called refine radius tool, refine edge tool is the way to do that.

refine radius tool

You ask Photoshop to look at this a little bit more carefully and see if you can look for edges a little more carefully. I’m going to zoom in on this so I can see them with the control, command, plus a couple of times and it zooms that image. Hold on to the spacebar like this.
I got the refine edge tool active by default, you can see that it’s highlighted in grey there. It’s kind of large, so

hold down the alt option key, right click, drag it until it gets smaller.


I’m going to say Photoshop look more carefully right there and notice what happened the blue went away. Look more carefully here, again it’s fixing it, and there, cool. Isn’t that neat?

I’m telling it do more work on these particular spots right there and boy it’s paying off, isn’t that something. I’m not sure how well you can see that, you can probably see that there. Those edges need to be fixed a little bit so I’ll drag right along the edge here, see how that works? Oh man look at that, that simple.

Here’s the video tutorial:

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I tell you, the wizards at Adobe despite the fact that I’ve got a crush on them, look at what it’s doing there.
Holding the spacebar, drag it up.

Again this is because I saw there’s some kind of little sort of frizzy edges to things and I want to tell Photoshop work harder on this particular spot here and it’s working, isn’t that something.

I should stop saying isn’t that something. You can always step back with control command Z once, you can’t go more than once.

I’m going to select back a couple of times here, that won’t work here won’t it that’s just the inverse. Never mind, sorry close that down. I’ll probably just step back and do what I can.

Right there that’s better, we’re on the edge of the pants there would be better. That’s much better. Again I should stop being so amazed, right there. This is how you would deal with this extra little bit of frizz here. I’ll show you a faster way to work this with that woman’s hair in a little while. Pretty good.

Now we’re happy campers, I think we’ve done a better job.

You do control, command 0


so you can see the whole thing. I better do some work here, that’s a mess. Probably I could repair a few more things, that’s pretty good.

So now the that I’ve done this I’m not going to worry about the adjusting edges you typically do that if you have some hard, sharp edges let’s say buildings and things like that. I’m not worried about that here.

But I do want to output to something other than the background so I need to go to output to a new layer with a layer mask.Then I click okay and it gives me a new layer with a new layer mask, it turns off the background so you can still see your work there.

Output to a new layer with a layer mask

Thank you for watching this video. My name is Jeff Sengstack an Adobe certified expert and the lead instructor here at If you want to watch this entire video lesson as well as other live classes and After Effects crash courses, then I invite you to check out the Blue Fx After Effects Academy. Just click the link below this video to find out what we’ve prepared for you in the After Effects Academy.

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