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Masking Tutorial Using PS CS3

Please click on any image to enlarge it so you can see what is going on. This is important.

Then hover over the image (you will see a PLUS sign) and click for an even larger view.

Solution #1

Here is a very basic masking method.

Let's first start with a basic understanding of simple masking. Any area that has been selected by almost any method can be turned into a Quick Mask In PS CS3.

I am using a pretty average photograph for this illustration. Here is our beginning with nothing done except a quick raw conversion to tiff. Let's start with a very primitive Quick Mask.

In order for you to see more clearly what is going on I am going to make a base layer of white with the lady as a top layer. Now, using the selection tool, simply select the black areas. Now a mask is designed to protect an area so I will need to INVERT to select the lady. Select - Inverse. Now apply Quick Mask. At the very bottom of Layers pallet is a small gray square with a white circle in it. It says Add Layer Mask. Click on this for an instant Quick Mask.

As you can see, this does a great job with the hard lines of her arms and nightgown, and a lousy job with her hair. Hmmm. Great tool for masking a sky, but not so good for hair!


Now there some very exotic ways of masking in PS CS3 but these might take hours to explain in person.

However, here is Russel Brown's great how-to video.


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Solution #2

As most of us are pretty pressed for time - and especially professional photographers, it often pays to use a PS plug-in. After looking carefully at many masking packages, I decided on Fluid Mask 3 by Vertus. This is the software that this tutorial will focus on.

Let's start with some basic principals:

1- Whenever possible shoot against a white or black background. I have found that I have a little better luck with hair that contrasts with the background. In experimenting I was very surprised how well this software also works with blond hair against a white background. I was really surprised. Sometimes a PALE blue sky works well. Or even clouds.

2- Fine hair works better when it is in focus and clearly defined. Again, this is not totally necessary.

The sample lessons by Fluid Mask 3 really make this software look deceptively easy to use - and it is on simple subjects. When I followed the directions I always got less than perfect results. To follow this tutorial, download the free trial version and see if it works for you. Why spend money if you can't get it to work properly?

Again, let's keep it simple! Click on each image to enlarge - and then enlarge again to see where my cursor is.


Now, isn't this terrible? OK, this time let's select the Delete area first - followed by the Blend Extract brush. Then select, in the pull-down menu, Auto Fill with keep.

Ah better! But look at the smudges!


So, now take the eraser tool and erase where the smudges and artifacts are. Do a small section at a time. Now select the Blend Extract brush and fill in the total area you just erased. To save time, select the Camera tool and use it to draw a small rectangle. Ah, better! Now click on the Create Cut out. This is the small picture of two men - use the man on the right side. If you continue on the other areas you will end up with a perfect cut-out. Now apply and save. The masked image is now in Photoshop. Save-as and name it. Because the mask is there permanently I suggest a different save-as name. The beauty of this is that this file can now be brought up months from now. To use it, simply drag and drop onto any photograph of your choice - or even a black fill layer.

Here is the finished product. The first two are layered onto a bottom black fill layer so you can see the detail better. be sure to click on the images to enlarge them.


As there are many, many ways to use this software, I have just scratched the surface with this simple tutorial. Of course any suggestions will always be warmly accepted. The separating of twigs and branches is also pretty easy. It was used on the last image. Leaves, also done in the last image, are a different lesson.