Selecting Via Masks

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Most Photoshop users don't use masks. If my personal experience is any indication, it's not only because masks seem complicated but also because they strike most folks as being more trouble than they're worth. Like nearly everyone, when I first started using Photoshop, I couldn't even imagine a possible application for a mask. I have my lasso tool and my magic wand. If I'm really in a rut, I can pull out my pen tool. What more could I possibly want?

Quite a bit, as it turns out. Every one of the tools I just mentioned is only moderately suited to the task of selecting images. The lasso tools let you create free-form selections, but none of the tools — not even the magnetic lasso — can account for differences in focus levels. The magic wand selects areas of color, but it usually leaves important colors behind, and the edges of its selection outlines often appear ragged and ugly. The pen tool is extremely precise, but it results in mechanical outlines that may appear incongruous with the natural imagery they contain.

Masks offer all the benefits of the other tools. With masks, you can create free-form selections, select areas of color, and generate amazingly precise selections. Masks also address all the deficiencies associated with the selection tools. They can account for different levels of focus, they give you absolute control over the look of the edges, and they create selections every bit as natural as the image itself.

In fact, a mask is the image itself. Masks use pixels to select pixels. Masks are your way to make Photoshop see what you see using the data inherent in the photograph. Masks enable you to devote every one of Photoshop's powerful capabilities

In This Chapter

An introduction to masking

Painting inside a selection outline

Using the quick mask mode to modify selection outlines

Drawing gradient selections in the quick mask mode

Creating translucent gradient arrows

Using the Extract command to clip away the image background

Selecting images with the Color Range command

Saving a selection outline to a mask channel

Converting channels into selections

Creating a highly accurate mask based on the image itself

Selecting hair and other precarious details ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

to the task of creating a selection outline. Masks are, without a doubt, the most accurate selection mechanism available in Photoshop.

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