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Selecting Areas by Their Color

So, would you select an entire solid-blue sky using the Rectangular Marquee tool? You probably wouldn’t. Oh, you might use a combination of the Lasso and Rectangular Marquee tools, but even then it could be somewhat of a nightmare (depending on the photo). That’s where the Magic Wand tool comes in. It selects by ranges of color, so instead of clicking-and-dragging to make a selection, you click once and the Magic Wand selects things in your photo that are fairly similar in color to the area you clicked on. The Magic Wand tool is pretty amazing by itself, but you can make it work even better.

Step One:

Open a photo that has a solid-color area that you want to select (in this case, it’s the orange part of her dress). Start by choosing the Magic Wand tool from the Toolbox (or press the W key). Then, click it once in the solid-color area you want to select. You can see that part of the orange section is selected, but not all of it (because, although the section is orange, there are all different shades of orange in it, caused by shadows and highlights. That’s why this is such a good example—sometimes one click is all it takes and the whole object will be selected, but more often than not, you’ll need to do a little more Magic Wanding to get all of the color).

Step Two:

As you can see above, the first click didn’t select the entire area, so to add other areas to what you already have selected, just press-and-hold the Shift key, and then click on those parts of the orange section that aren’t selected. Keep holding down the Shift key and clicking on all the areas that you want to select until the entire orange section is selected, as shown here. It took about seven Shift-clicks with the Magic Wand for me to get this orange section selected.

Step Three:

Now you can use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to change the color of the bottom section of her dress. Click on the Create New Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette, and choose Hue/Saturation. In the Adjustments palette, drag the Hue slider until the bottom section of the dress looks the way you want it.

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