Complex Selections with the Quick Mask Mode

The Quick Mask mode is another one of those overlooked features that really should make its way into your skill set. In Quick Mask mode, you can use Paintbrush tools and the Smudge and Blur tools to generate an accurate selection. Enter this mode from a button near the bottom of the toolbox. It is a good idea to build a rough selection first.

Don't like red? The mask color and transparency can be changed. Just double-click on the Quick Mask icon.
Use the Smudge tool or Blur tool to touch up your mask; at low-pressure settings, it is easy to feather your edges.

The Navigator serves two purposes: it's a great way to quickly zoom and pan around a large image and it gives you a large reference image when you are zoomed in making small corrections.

The Navigator serves two purposes: it's a great way to quickly zoom and pan around a large image and it gives you a large reference image when you are zoomed in making small corrections.

Open up the image Ch04_Quick_Mask.tif from the chapter folder. Use your selection tools to build a rough selection. When you are satisfied, click on the Quick Mask icon or press ©. Depending on user preference, either the masked or selected areas will be covered with a color overlay signifying the masked areas. By default, this is a 50% rubylith mask. This is customizable: just double-click on the Quick Mask icon. You may find it helpful to pick another color that is higher contrast or to make the mask more opaque.

As you work your way in to the finer parts of the mask, particularly soft edges, it is a good idea to zoom in. If you are scanning your own images, scan at a higher ppi so that you can zoom in farther before the image begins to degrade. You can always resize the image after you perform the extraction or mask. While painting, holding down the tSPflGimM will temporarily switch you to the Hand tool. This makes it easier to move around the work area without having to slow down. Some people will also place the Navigator palette in plain view. The red box signifies the current view area and can be dragged around easily. The Navigator gives you a visual interface to the work area.

Now you need to clean up the quick mask. To start, press the d key to load the default colors, pure black and white. When you create the quick mask (or any mask), using black will add to the mask; white will subtract. If you use the brush at less than 100% opacity, you will generate feathered edges. It is a good idea to paint as close as you can with a large, soft brush. You can make your active brush larger by pressing the O key; the Q will reduce the

Better Edges through Feathering

^ Feathered edges are important for creating believable composites. A feathered edge uses graduated steps to go between selected and unselected. Think of it as the difference between a ballpoint pen and a felt-tip marker. You can feather after making a selection by going to the Select menu and choosing Feather. You can feather up to 250 pixels, but the amount needed will vary based upon the resolution of the source image. You can also modify the Marquee tools to have feathered edges. Experiment with feathering to improve your selections.

brush size. To soften the edges of your brush, use the ^S and O or O keys.

The final touches to a quick mask come from the Smudge and Blur tools. Adjust the pressure setting to a low value. Zoom in so you can clearly see your edges. By employing a series of short strokes, you can touch up the soft edges of your mask. When you are satisfied with the Quick Mask, click on the icon or press @ to turn the Quick Mask into a selection. It is a good idea to save the mask in a format that other programs can recognize. You can convert it to a Layer Mask or save it an alpha channel.

Look for Paths in Stock Photos it—I Most high-end stock pho-I * I tos come with paths, not channels. You will have to convert these for video use.

(X+click (L+click) on the path's name in the Paths palette.

(Optional) You can choose to feather the selection.

Then switch to the Channels palette and click on the Save Selection as Channel icon at the bottom.

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