The Color Selection Tool

To edit and apply special effects to portions of your pictures, remove unwanted objects, or cut out objects from one picture and put them on another, that portion or object should be selected using a selection tool or a combination of selection tools in Pixelmator.

The Color Selection Tool is useful for making quick, near-perfect selections. Use the Color Selection to select objects or any similarly colored portions of an image by simply clicking and dragging your mouse.

Step 1

Open an image that has an area or object you’d like to select in Pixelmator.

Step 2

Click to select the Color Selection Tool (W) in the Tools palette.

For smooth selection borders, select Smooth Edges from the Action menu in the Tool Options bar (View > Show Tool Options) before making a selection. For jagged but precise edges, deselect Smooth Edges from the Action menu in the Tool Options bar before making a selection.

To use the Color Selection Tool on all the visible layers in the Layers palette, select Sample All Layers from the Action menu before making a selection. To use the Color Selection only on a single visible layer, deselect Sample All Layers from the Action menu before making a selection.

Step 3

Click and drag over the object or area of color and release the mouse button to make a selection.

The selection area instantly grows or shrinks while dragging the mouse.

Step 4

Selection borders can be easily modified if necessary.

To modify the selection borders, choose one of the following selection modes in the Tool Options bar:

New Creates a new selection.
Add To Adds new selection to an existing selection.
Subtract Subtracts from an existing selection.
Intersect Subtracts the overlap of two selections.

And click and drag to add to, subtract from or intersect with the current selection borders.

The selection borders can be modified using any of the selection tools.

Step 5

Once a selection is complete, changes can be applied to the selected region. For instance, a selected area or object can be moved, rotated, scaled, flipped, duplicated, cut, filled, inverted, copied, and pasted elsewhere. Also, color adjustments and corrections, as well as various special effects and filters can be applied to the selection.

The Color Selection Tool simplifies the process of making quick, near-perfect selections.

Tutorial Comments

  1. TomInTulsa

    Love the learn section. This was a HUGE help. I did not understand the concept of “selection modes”. I have been selecting, apply effect, select again, apply effect again…


  2. Lindy Smith

    The tutorial is interesting but how about telling us how to get out of it once we’ve selected an area and changed it? I think the tutorials need more information in them especially if you are new to Pixelmator.

  3. Kilian

    The magic wand is perfect for an initial selection, what you’d usually do afterwards is switch to masking mode and work out the details of the edges with different brushes. Once that is done you’ll make a new layer mask based on your selection and then you can switch back and forth between painting into the mask directly and using the magic wand, switching the selection to quick mask, retouching that and once its refined you can apply that selection to your layer mask.

    This way the original image will never be destroyed and you can always tweak the selection afterwards.

  4. Yonas

    Very magical

  5. Rich

    Please make a lot more tutorials for Pixelmator. Being completely new to this and having never used Photoshop before, I was hoping there would be more resources to learn this program.

  6. marco

    I like UI… so much

  7. Bob

    Please make the black background switchable to white as an option for those who have some difficulty seeing tiny gray type on black. Otherwise, just keep developing and you will eventually do Photoshop in and we will all be saying “I Pixelmatored it.” 🙂

  8. DARY

    Oh, yes !! need more tutorials for Pixelmator…and so need an independent window to review every and all modifications, like in Photoshop…to move back.
    And, please, please, need the Help in French !…. thanks, merci !

  9. RODEO

    Anyone left handed and have difficulty using these tools. I use my mouse with right hand but now that I am trying to edit photos, I am struggling with the right hand mouse.

  10. shawn baker

    Is there no way to select a delicate image and separate it from the background?? most images are too complicated to trace around. Can the separating out happen by eliminating the background color entirely? My background is black in a photo. Can’t I somehow eliminate what is black in my photo?

  11. Ausra


    You can also use the Select Color feature, choose Edit > Select Color. After you’ve selected color, press the Delete key on your keyboard.

  12. Ben Claude

    Really helpful tutorial….

  13. chris t

    photo shop made easy well done 🙂

  14. Tom

    Any plans to have non contiguous selections in the future or to be able to select similar colors? I love this app but the lack of that features is a deal breaker unfortunately.

  15. Tom

    Whoa. I just saw Ausra’s comment. That’ll do it. Awesome.

  16. Lupita

    Very helpful thanks! Now, question. I am only trying to eliminate some background for the image. Once I have selected the white area, what to I do so it “stays transparent”? I cannot find a way to export it as a JPG without the background. When I open it again, it continues to have the same white background…I am going crazy here… thanks!

  17. Ausra


    JPG file format doesn’t support transparency. You should export to PNG file format.

  18. Ol Tex, Jasper Snellings

    A video of this tool would be extremely helpful especially to the new or grey-headed prospective users. It has a number of great applications within the program! Ol Tex

  19. Ausra

    @Tex, here is a direct link to video tutorial:

  20. Gianfranco Cecconi

    +1 for the non-contiguous selection

  21. Red

    How do you deselect? I used the tool but now I can’t get out of it…?

  22. Ausra

    @Red, press Command-D keyboard shortcut.

  23. Damien Lane

    Hi, is there a tolerance setting for the magic wand tool? I’ve been using photoshop for over 20 years & am just starting to attempt a transition to Pixelmator. I find the amount of tolerance of the magic wand tool when making a selection very important when shades are very similar in tonal value. I’ve been unable to locate the tolerance setting, assuming there is one – Please advise – cheers

  24. Damien Lane

    Please ignore previous comment, I just found someone else doing exactly the same as me >
    ‘After 20 minutes of looking through every tool setting and help file trying to find where to adjust the tolerance of the magic wand, I finally consulted Google and found the answer on Youtube. Its simple – click, hold and drag to adjust the tolerance.’
    – Issue solved…

  25. G0bble

    I’ve now spent one hour trying to figure out to unselect the marching ants once the necessary ob has been done. Same as Lynda’s question … Anyone?

  26. Pat Thelen

    Once you use different tools of pixlr, how do you turn them off?