Photoshop Magic Wand Tool Issue

Posted on 2011-10-07
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-08-13
So I was giving a basic photoshop lesson to a client yesterday - something I normally don't do, but they just purchased the software, so I thought I'd explain layers, masking, selecting and other basic photoshop skills...

Apparently my "skillz" leave a lot to be desired!  She (my client) wanted me to show her how to remove the background from an image.  The image we chose was the Detroit Tiger's logo (go Tigers!)  - it was a Tiger, going through the "English D"  on white background.

So, what I normally do is, duplicate the layer.  Turn off the original.  Select the new layer - then using the Magic Wand tool, I select the "white" background.  The tolerance was set to 30, but the background was solid white - no variations, so it shouldn't have mattered if the tolerance was just 1...  Anyway, when i clicked on the white,  the orange of the tiger (no where near i clicked) was selected.  I tried again, and it would select the whole image - not just the white.

I remote logged into my computer and did the same operation on the same photo on my computer, and it worked as it was supposed to.  I had no problem selecting the white and removing it.

So - I'm wondering if there is a setting that I am missing.  I've never had this happen before, so I wasn't sure how to fix it.  Is there a reset for tools?  Or maybe a tool-specific option that's been turned on that I can turn off?

Any help you can provide would be helpful!  Thanks!
Question by:slightlyoff
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LVL 26

Accepted Solution

David Brugge earned 2000 total points
ID: 36932326
People ask me all the time where I learned Photoshop (assuming that I took classes). I tell them I learned it by making LOTS of mistakes.

It doesn't sound like you made a mistake, but it does show the kind of detective work we sometimes have to go through to get the feature to behave the way we want or the way we expect it to.

With the little information I have, I'm going to venture a wild guess based on times that the exact same thing has happened to me. My guess is that you had the Quick Selection Tool selected instead of the Magic Wand. They are both in the same place and if you are like me and never use the Quick Selection Tool, you may forget that it is the default tool (until you change it).

The Quick Selection tool is much more aggressive in making selections and because it uses "logic" to select pixels, it often doesn't make the same selection twice.

The fact that you got two different selection results on her computer and didn't on yours is what leads me to guess the Quick Select. That being said, that is unusual even for the Quick Select Tool. The Quick Selection Tool needs to be dragged to really mess thins up. Clicking it like the Magic Wand usually gives you a dinky selection. My next guess is that she has a corrupted preferences file.

It seems sometimes that half of the problems that I answer can be solved by resetting the preference file. To do so, restart Phogoshop and hold down Alt, Ctrl, and Shift keys (Mac: Command, Option, Shift) as it loads. A box will pop up asking you if you want to delete your Photoshop Settings file, say yes. (if you get a dialogue about your scratch disks, you didn't get the shift key down in time)

Resetting the pref file is a great cure all for all kinds of quirky behaviors with the tools and cursors.

One last thing. I very rarely come across an image with an all white background. Most people save files as jpegs and the compression algorithm breaks up solid color backgrounds into patterns. These patterns, while nearly invisible to the eye, play havoc on selection tools, because they have a hard time discerning what is noise and what is important detail.

Best of luck.
LVL 26

Expert Comment

by:David Brugge
ID: 36951629
I've been waiting to see if I was anyway near in my guess as to the cause of the mystery behavior. Any update?

Author Comment

ID: 36955844
Hi D_Brugge,

I'm hoping to find out soon!  Thank you for responding - I'll be over to her office this week and I should be able to try it out.

Thanks again!

Author Comment

ID: 37250217
Hi D_Brugge,

This problem cleared up somehow.  I'm guessing through updates?  I dunno.  Anyway, Thanks for answering, and helping out.

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