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Photoshop Tutorials -- Quick Mask

Creating Quick Masks with Photoshop

This tutorial will show you how to create special effects using the Quick Mask. I used PhotoShop 4.01 for Windows. Some things may be done differently with other versions.

NOTE: You can read our updated version of the quick mask technique for Photoshop CS2!

People are always looking for ways to "cut" someone from a photo and replace them with another person, or place the person against a different background. They're also looking for ways to colorize a portion of a photo. The trick, of course, is in how to select the person, or area of the photo, so that you can manipulate it.

For this demonstration we'll need a volunteer from the audience. Miss, yes you in the second row... come on up.

figure 12.1
figure 12.1

The young lady in figure 12.1 is my niece Zoë. She graciously allowed me to use her photo for this demo; at least that's what her mom said.

There are several ways to select a portion of an image, or photo, without selecting the areas you don't want.
  1. You can use the powerful selection tools that Photoshop has.
  2. You can use clipping paths.
  3. You can build a mask using the Quick Mask mode.
There may, of course, even be other methods. I'll be discussing the Quick Mask method, though, as I find it to be the easiest while still being quite powerful.

Figure 12.2 Shows where the Quick Mask icon is on the tool bar.

figure 12.2
figure 12.2

Set the default foreground/background colors by clicking on the small black and white squares icon to the lower left of the current foreground/background colors icon. This will make the foreground color black and the background color white.

Set the Quick Mask mode by clicking on the Quick Mask icon (see figure 12.2)

With the Quick Mask on you can easily "paint" a mask which will be turned into a selection once you pop back into Standard Mode. Painting the mask is as simple as selecting the Paintbrush tool or the Pencil tool. Drawing with black will paint the mask on and drawing in white will remove the mask.

Figure 12.3 shows an area that I've applied black to with the Paintbrush tool (it's the semi-transparent red area).

figure 12.3
figure 12.3

Using this method you can quickly fill in large areas by using a large Paintbrush. To get into the detailed areas you should zoom in and paint with a smaller brush or pencil (see figure 12.4).

figure 12.4
figure 12.4

"What if you color outside of the lines?", you ask. Not to worry. Just hit the Switch Foreground and Background Colors icon (it's the small, rounded, two-headed arrow to the upper-right of the Foreground Color, Background Color icon). With white as the current color you'll be removing the mask, and all of this has no effect on your photo!

When you're done painting your mask (see figure 12.5) you can return to Standard Mode.

figure 12.5
figure 12.5

Now, I've actually chosen, or painted, the wrong area. Instead of painting, and masking out Zoë, I've masked out, and therefore selected, the area around her. No problem. By choosing Select, Inverse I'll have Zoë selected instead.

Choosing Edit, Copy will move Zoë to the clipboard. I can then fill the background layer with white.

By choosing Edit, Paste I can move Zoë to her own layer above the background.

At this point I'm free to apply any sort of effects I like. I can paste Zoë over any background I want and it will (or at least it can) look quite real. Since I like to think that my niece is a little angel why not just render some clouds on the background layer (see figure 12.6).

figure 12.6
figure 12.6

Cute little cherub, eh?

For the last part of this demonstration we'll need another volunteer... someone a little older who's wearing some lipstick. How about you, miss. Yes the lady in the front. That's right, come on up.

Marianne (see figure 12.7) is one of my favorite models and has worked with me on many occasions.

figure 12.7
figure 12.7

Using the Quick Mask I'll isolate a portion of the photo of Marianne and then desaturate that portion. By doing so I'll make most of the image black & white while leaving Marianne's lipstick a nice shade of red ( see figure 12.8).

figure 12.8
figure 12.8

This "look", quite popular in magazine ads, was accomplished for this demonstation in a matter of minutes.

This same method can be used to isolate portions of a black & white photograph which you can then colorize. This can be a long process but well worth the effort. You can also save the selected areas that you create with the Quick Mask.

Again, once you've made the selection, using Quick Mask, you're pretty much limited only by your imagination.

That's it.... Be sure to check out some of our other Photoshop tutorials.

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