Ultimate Guide To Selections: THE MAGIC WAND

"Them" featuring Shelby Robinson and Chris Rivera

I recently started a series of blog posts in which I gab on about the various selection tools of Photoshop. So far I've only gone over the pen tool, my main squeeze when it comes to most selections. It's definitely my go-to selection tool because it's just so dang precise, but let's be real here ... it is NOT always called for. There are going to be many selections that don't require quite the amount of work and attention that goes into penning a path around something. Oftentimes when I know it's going to work quickly and efficiently, I just look no farther than the Magic Wand Tool ... I mean it's got "magic" in the name so it's got to be good for something, am I right? 

So, it was the very first morning of the 2016 Watkins Glen Flickr Gathering (more about that here) and we were all awkwardly hovering around in the, "I know I want to be creating something right now but I'm overwhelmed by the possibilities and don't know how to start," stage of the meetup, before anyone has pressed a single shutter button. Thankfully Loren Schmidt broke the creative ice and was the first person to plunge into the dark deep creative water below. She had Shelby Robinson put on this great black dress (the one that I "melted" at the previous year's meetup), and she tapped into an old idea that was finally ready to be put to good use. This is the image that Loren created to start things off....      

I've had the idea for "Them" in my head for a while ... ok so, it wasn't in my head for that long, but I did apparently write it down in the ever-growing "photo ideas" note that lives on my phone and it's been there for quite some time. As I tend to do when I'm ready to create and not sure what to create, I whipped out my phone and started grazing through my notes. I came across one I'd forgotten all about that involved making a "dark creature" of some kind with glowing eyes and an eerie light within its chest revealing its ribs .... because it would look cool and be fun to edit.

Well I looked over at Shelby currently wearing all black and decided it was time to make this glowy-rib-creature-thingy come to life. Then I noticed that Chris Rivera was also wearing all black and looking quite badass (as he tends to do on a daily basis). Suddenly my creative gears were picking up the pace and my weird creature-to-be had found herself a mate.

It was so much freakin fun to shoot with two of my favorite people, and so stupidly easy. Definitely the perfect way to start off such a magical weekend of shooting. An obviously big huge thanks to my models Chris and Shelby, and to Loren for knocking over the first "domino." Anyway enough about all that, what say we chat a bit about the wand tool, yes?

I'm not going to talk crazy long about the wand tool because it's one of the oldest tools and I'm sure most of you probably know it by now. If not, there are endless tutorials and videos on just about everything ... this is the internet you are on, after all ... you can learn everything here. I'm just going to tell you a few things that I tend to do, in case it will help some of you out.

Firstly, know what the "Contiguous" check box is (if you don't already); it's pretty important. Basically, if it is checked then the wand will only select similar colors that are touching where you click. For example, if I click inside one of the holes between the ribs, it's only going to select that white shape. However, if I uncheck the box (like I did) one click will select all of the white in the image even if it's not touching the area where you clicked. Pretty handy, right?

Above is the image I used for the ribs. It's not the best most realistic-looking image, but I knew for what I was planning it didn't really have to be. In the end I wasn't even going to be using it in the image itself at all, really it was going to be acting more like a stencil. All I needed was a good selection! As you know, my gut reaction would normally be to look to the pen tool to cut the ribs out, but for this particular situation the magic wand tool would be WAY more time efficient. Like a crazy amount. Due to the fact that the ribs were on a solid white background I was able to select them off of the background with ... one click.

I had my tolerance set to 5 - this just tells the wand tool how sensitive to be. The bigger the number the more lenient it is. Since I only wanted the white pixels selected I left it quite low. If I were to turn it up to a higher number it would start selecting the lighter parts of the ribs in addition to the white. No bueno. So this is something you'll just have to mess with for each selection that you deem the wand tool to be the best candidate for. Other than that it's good to know that for the wand tool (and basically every other selection tool for that matter), holding SHIFT will let you add more parts to your selection (you'll see a little plus below the wand) and holding ALT/OPTION will subtract things from your selection (and obviously this will make a little minus appear below the wand).  

Really the big trick to the magic wand tool is just knowing when it's appropriate. Any time like this in which you want to quickly grab an area that's roughly one color, and doesn't require the nice detailed edge achieved more proficiently with the pen tool, the wand is your guy. (Or girl? It's not gender specific ... ) I didn't need a super great selection of the ribs, because after I had them selected I ended up blurring my selection quite a bit by just feathering it a lot. I wanted it to look like the ribs were inside of the creatures and their inner light was silhouetting them through their skin/clothing. So if the edges were too sharp it would look pretty fake. Hence the blur factor.

I'm expecting my Fruit of The Loom sponsorship any day now ..... 

After I had my soft selection of the ribs I inversed the selection so I have all of the other pixels selected besides the rib shape. Then I made a new layer, and threw a layer mask on it using the selection. So now, when I clicked with a big soft teal brush to make the in-body-glow it only appeared between the ribs. Oh and don't worry, we will talk more about layer masks in a future post. ;)   

Well there you have it, I guess it's not the most ULTIMATE post on the wand tool, haha, but hopefully you found it at least slightly enlightening. If nothing else I'm sure you enjoyed all the lovely behind the scenes photos taken by Jess Rohl Photography. Or at least had a chuckle at how much fun Shelby and Chris are in some of these photos ... and also how creepy they can be .... Well, until next time, happy selecting friends!!

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