The magic eraser

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As I just mentioned, the magic eraser, found on the same flyout as the regular eraser, erases background pixels. Or, at least, that's the idea. When used incorrectly, the magic eraser wipes out any pixels that it touches.

If you're familiar with the magic wand, which I cover in Chapter 8, using the magic eraser is a cinch. The two tools operate virtually identically, except that the wand selects and the magic eraser erases.

When you click a pixel with the magic eraser, Photoshop identifies a range of similarly colored pixels, just as it does with the magic wand. But instead of selecting the pixels, the magic eraser makes them transparent, as demonstrated in Figure 7-30. Bear in mind that in Photoshop, transparency requires a separate layer. So if the image is flat (without layers), Photoshop automatically floats the image to a separate layer with nothing underneath. Hence the checkerboard pattern shown in the second example in the figure — transparency with nothing underneath.

Figure 7-30: To delete a homogeneously colored background, such as the sky in this picture, click inside it with the magic eraser (bottom).

The Lock check boxes in the Layers palette affect the magic eraser. When you have no check boxes selected, the magic eraser works as I just described it. But if you lock transparent pixels, the magic eraser paints opaque pixels in the background color and leaves transparent areas untouched. You can't use the magic eraser at all on a layer for which you've locked image pixels.

You can further alter the performance of the magic eraser through the controls on the Options bar, as described in the following list. Except for the Opacity value, these options work the same way for both the magic eraser and magic wand:

* Opacity: Lower this value to make the erased pixels translucent instead of transparent. Low values result in more subtle effects than high ones.

* Use All Layers: When turned on, this check box tells Photoshop to factor in all visible layers when erasing pixels. The tool continues to erase pixels on the active layer only, but it erases them according to colors found across all layers.

* Anti-aliased: To create a soft fringe around the outline of your transparent area, leave this option turned on. If you'd prefer a hard edge — as when using a very low Tolerance value, for example — turn this check box off.

* Contiguous: Select this final check box, and the magic eraser deletes contiguous colors only — that is, similar colors that touch each other. If you prefer to delete all pixels of a certain color — such as the blue pixels in Figure 7-30 that are divided from the rest of the sky by the lion — turn the Contiguous check box off.

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