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Adobe Photoshop CS5 : Intermediate Selection Techniques (part 2) - Quick Mask Mode

6/22/2013 7:27:11 PM
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2. Quick Mask Mode

The Quick Mask mode can be a bit time-consuming, but its accuracy and flexibility make it worth using. The primary advantage of editing your selection as a quick mask is that you can use almost any Photoshop tool or filter to modify the mask. You can create a rough selection using a basic tool like the Magnetic Lasso, and then refine it with other tools such as the Brush or Blur tool.


Let’s give Quick Mask a try:

1.
Open the file Ch05_Pump.tif . You’ll create an accurate selection around the water pump.

2.
Select the Polygonal Lasso tool from the Tools panel.

3.
Make an accurate selection around the pump, but don’t worry about perfection. Treat it as if you were cutting out the image with a pair of scissors. Remember, you must return to the starting point with the Lasso tool and click to close the loop.

Tip: Abort a Selection

If you need to exit a Lasso tool without making a selection, you can press the Esc key.

4.
Click the Quick Mask icon (near the bottom of the Tools panel) or press Q. The shielded (tinted) areas will become the area outside the active selection when you exit Quick Mask mode.

5.
The default Quick Mask color is red, set to 50%. In this case, another color may be more helpful. Double-click the Quick Mask icon to call up the Quick Mask Options window. Change the color to blue and set the opacity to 75%. You may want to revisit this window when masking to adjust your settings to improve visibility.

6.
Select the Brush tool from the Tools panel or press B. You’ll paint in the mask using brushes. However, you must first “adjust” the Brush tool, so it’s more accurate.

7.
Press Command+K (Ctrl+K) to call up the Preferences dialog box. Choose the Cursors category from the column to the left edge of the window. In the Painting Cursors area, click Normal Brush Tip (this will show you the size of your brush before clicking) and select Show Crosshair in Brush Tip. While in the Preferences dialog box, change the Other Cursors to Precise.

8.
Call up the Navigator panel. This useful panel makes it easy to zoom in and pan around your image. The slider changes your magnification level; the red box indicates your work area.

9.
Zoom in to a high magnification level (between 200–300%) to make it easier to paint in the rest of your selection.

10.
Examine your Brush options in the Options bar and Tools panel. Black adds to your mask; white subtracts from it.

  • Pressing the D key loads the default black and white values.

  • You can quickly adjust the size of your brush from the keyboard. Press the right bracket ] to enlarge the brush or the left bracket [ to reduce the size of the brush.

  • You can soften your brush if you want a feathered edge. Shift+] makes the brush harder; Shift +[ makes the brush softer. A soft brush usually makes a more photorealistic edge.

11.
Click and paint in the remaining areas of the mask.

  • Use smaller brushes to paint in tiny areas.

  • Use larger brushes to paint in big areas.

  • Use the keyboard shortcuts to quickly change the size of your brush as needed.

  • If you have a long, straight run (like an edge), you can click once with a brush. Hold down the Shift key and click again farther away. Photoshop will “connect the dots.” This is the fastest way to fill in the mask.

  • If you paint too close to the image, you can fix it. Press X to toggle from black to white. Painting with white subtracts from the mask (the color overlay is removed from areas painted with white). Painting with gray creates a semitransparent area, which is useful for feathering edges. (Semitransparent areas may not appear to be selected when you exit Quick Mask mode, but they are.)

12.
To pan around your image, you can move the red box in the Navigator panel. Alternately, hold down the spacebar and drag around in the document window.

13.
If you want to soften the edge of the quick mask, use the Smudge or Blur tool. The Smudge tool set to Darken mode works well. You can change the tool’s mode in the Options bar.

14.
Continue to paint in the mask. For an image of this complexity, it may take 5–20 minutes, but professional work takes time.

15.
When finished, press Q to exit Quick Mask mode. You should now have an active selection.

16.
Let’s test the selection by making an image adjustment. Choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Vibrance. Move the Vibrance slider left or right to see the intensity of the color of the pump change. Move the Saturation slider left to reduce the intensity of the color change. Click OK when you are done with the adjustment to apply it. Because you had an active selection, the adjustment is constrained to only the selected areas.

17.
Let’s make one more adjustment. Reload the selection by choosing Select > Reselect. Then reverse it by choosing Select > Inverse.

18.
You’ll now reduce the balance of the grass using the Levels command. Choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels. Move the middle (gray) input slider. Notice how the image gets darker? You adjusted the gamma or midtones of the image and changed its exposure. Click OK to apply the Levels change.

19.
You may now notice a slight red fringe around the pump. This is easy to fix. In the Layers panel, click the black and white mask icon (which looks like a silhouette of the pump) for the Vibrance adjustment layer.

20.
Click the Masks panel to select it.

21.
Adjust the Feather slider to blend the edges of the mask.

Tip: Saving and Reloading Selections

If you’d like to save your selection for later use, you need to create a channel. With an active selection made, choose Select > Save Selection. Name the selection and click OK to save the selection as an alpha channel. Alpha channels are simply saved selections that can be reloaded at a later time. They are also stored with your document when you close the file (unlike a quick mask, which is discarded when you exit the selection). 


Was that quick and easy? Probably not, but with time and practice it gets significantly easier, so don’t give up. Accurate selections are extremely important as you begin to combine multiple images or need to make specialized image adjustments such as color correction. 

 
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