Sample Size for Selections

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Today’s Question: I was watching one of your (great!) videos recently, where you covered the creation of selections using the Magic Wand tool in Photoshop. In this lesson you suggested increasing the Sample Size for the Magic Wand tool to “3 by 3 Average” using the popup on the Options bar. However, I am using a slightly older version of Photoshop, which does not include this setting. Is it possible to create the same effect some other way?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The “Sample Size” popup on the Options bar when you select the Magic Wand tool in Photoshop is actually a “shortcut” of sorts to the same setting for the Eyedropper tool. So the “trick”, in this case, is to first select the Eyedropper tool, then set the Sample Size setting on the Options bar, and then return to the Magic Wand tool. The setting you established for the Eyedropper tool will apply to the Magic Wand tool.

More Detail: In many respects the Magic Wand tool is essentially an extension of the Eyedropper tool. The Eyedropper tool is used to sample a specific color value in a photo, and the Magic Wand tool also samples a color from a photo. The difference is simply that the Magic Wand tool creates a selection based on the sampled pixel value along with the other settings for the Magic Wand tool.

In older versions of Photoshop it was not as obvious that it was even possible to adjust the Sample Size setting for the Magic Wand tool, or that the Magic Wand tool was even related in some ways to the Eyedropper tool. Fortunately, relatively recently there was an update that added a Sample Size popup to the Options bar for the Magic Wand tool.

The important thing to keep in mind is that the Sample Size popup for both the Eyedropper tool and the Magic Wand tool is actually a single setting in Photoshop. In other words, if you change the Sample Size setting for the Magic Wand tool, that same setting will be reflected for the Eyedropper tool. And, conversely, if you change the setting for the Eyedropper tool the same setting will be reflected for the Magic Wand tool.

Fortunately for those using an older version of Photoshop, the bottom line is that the same option is still available, so you can adjust the Sample Size setting for the Magic Wand tool using the settings for the Eyedropper tool.