PI5 Taking the Mystery Out of Masks

We all love what masks do to our images, creating lovely soft edges that fade into the background, or fancy cut out edges -- but figuring out exactly how they work, much less how to make your own, can be baffling. 

image with mask applied

If masks are a mystery to you, you're in good company. I struggled with them for a year before the mask lightbulb finally came on over my head. I think I was making it more complicated than it really is.

So listen up, Grasshopper. What it boils down to is that the black part of the mask is opaque and blocks out what's underneath, while the white part is transparent and lets what's underneath show through. The transparency of grays depends on how dark or light they are. That's it!

This tutorial shows how to make two kinds of masks, and includes a ZIP file with both masks plus four more really fancy ones. The first part creates a rectangular, raggedy edged mask, and the second part shows how to make a textured, round mask. For the first part of the tutorial, I've used this passion flower photo I took with my digital camera. You can use mine, or you can use a photo of your own. 

First we'll turn the photo into a painting with Creative Painting, then we'll make two photo edge masks using Paint tools. 

Open the image up in the work space. Choose Effect, Creative, Painting to open the Painting dialog box. Select Paint Template 30, and leave the default Pattern 24 selected. However, The default Fineness value is too high for an image this size. Edit the Fineness to 65, then click OK to apply.

edit Fineness value

Now the photo looks like a painting. This template is my favorite one because I love those little swirling things it adds to the image.

painting effect applied

Next we'll make a new image for the mask. Choose File, New and when the new box opens, select the "Active image" option. This will make a new image the same size as the passion flower image.

make a new image, same size

Right click in the mask image and choose All to select the entire image. Choose Selection, Expand/Shrink. When the dialog box opens, Shrink by 40 pixels, Shape=Box. 

Shrink selection by 30 pixels

Right click in the image and choose Invert. Select the Bucket fill tool. In the Attributes toolbar, click in the Color box and select black. Click in the selection to fill the "border" with solid black. Right click and select None to deselect the selection.

fill border with black

Select the Chalk Paint tool. In the Attributes toolbar select the Gritty Chalk preset from the dropdown list. The default for the preset is purple. Click in the Color box and select black. The preset will show "None," but don't worry, the Gritty Chalk preset is still there. Use the Chalk to carefully scrub along the inner black edge, where it meets the white part. You want this edge to be raggedy and uneven.

Chalk adds raggedy edge

In the Attributes toolbar, select the Splatter preset. The default color is purple. Click in the Color box and select black. Again, the preset will show "None," the Splatter preset is still in effect. Go along the raggedy edges you just made and add the splatters, little random dots. You may have to go around several times to get a nice, random distribution. When this mask is applied, the black dots will make a lacey pattern around the edges. 

When you're done, your mask should look something like this.

splatter mask

Select Format, Data Type, Grayscale. When the new Grayscale version of the mask opens, choose the selection tool. Right click and select All. Right click again and choose Convert to Object. Open the EasyPalette's My Library. Right click anywhere in the thumbnails for My Library and select "Store Image As Selection."

Store image as selection

Drag the mask object onto the EasyPalette. When the Add to EasyPalette dialog box opens, the Sample name should say Selection, and you should see a thumbnail of the splatter mask. If not, click Cancel, and go back to make sure you have selected "Store Image As Selection." 

Add to EasyPalette box

Give the mask a name, e.g., Splatter Mask, and save it to a Tab group in My Library. 

Give the mask a name

Click OK. You should see a thumbnail for the Splatter Mask in My Library.

thumbnail added for mask

Click the Options button in the Attributes toolbar. Make sure that Preserve Base Image and Move Selection Marquee are both selected.

Options in Attributes toolbar

Splatter Mask thumbnail onto the image. You'll see a selection area like this one, shown at half size.

drag selection from EasyPalette

In the Attributes toolbar, click the Crop button.

Voila! All the parts of the image which were covered by the black parts of the mask have disappeared, leaving a nice raggedy photo edge.

image with mask applied

If you want to share masks that you've made with others, it's easy to do so. Just save the completed Grayscale mask as a JPG. Alternatively, drag the Grayscale mask's thumbnail from My Library into an empty area in the work space. It will open in its own window, then save it as a JPG.

You can use others' masks, even if they didn't use PI to make their masks. Just open the Grayscale JPG mask image up in the work space. Click on the blue task bar for the photo to which you will apply the mask. Choose Edit, Mask Mode, or click on the blue mask icon in the task bar. Doing so covers the image with a transparent red mask. 

Copy the JPG mask image into the Clipboard, then paste it into the photo where it will sit there like any other object. Click on the Transform tool and resize the mask as needed. Then choose Edit, Mask Mode, or click on the blue mask icon again, to deselect the mask. You'll see a selection area on the image. With the Selection tool selected, click on the Crop button in the Attributes toolbar and you'll be left with the masked image. 

Now that you have the basic idea about making and using masks, let's make a round one. Open up an image in the work space. I'm using this photo I took at a family gathering last weekend.

To make a mask for the photo, choose File, New. When the new box opens, select the "Active image" option. This will make a new image the same size as the photo. Choose the Selection tool. In the Attributes toolbar, select Circle from the Shape dropdown list. Draw a large circle selection in the center of the image. Right click and Invert. Choose the Bucket fill tool. In the Attributes toolbar, click in the Color box and select black. Click in the selection to fill with black.

fill border of mask with black 

Choose the Selection tool again. Right click and Invert, so that the white circle is selected. Choose Selection, Border. When the Border dialog box opens, enter these values to make a softened border 25 pixels wide.

Border dialog box

Now you've added a softened border, shown below at half size, to the circular selection.

add a softened border

Next we'll fill this border with a texture. By softening the edges of the border, the texture we use to fill it will fade on the inner and outer edges of the border.

For best results, fill the border with a texture that has a lot of good, strong contrast. I'm using this one that I made myself. 

image for mask border

Copy it into the Clipboard and choose Edit, Fill. When the Fill box opens, click the Image tab and select to fill with "Clipboard," then click OK to fill it, as shown below.

circle swirl mask

Alternatively, don't copy the image for the border into the Clipboard, just select Edit, Fill. When the Fill box opens, click the image tab, select File, and browse to the folder that has the image you want to use for the fill. The PhotoImpact Material folder has some wonderful, high-contrast images that are ideal for this purpose. Check out Glassbump.jpg and others. Click OK to fill.

Right click and choose None to deactivate all selections. Choose Format, Data Type, Grayscale. As you did for the first mask, either save the Grayscale mask as a selection to My Library in the EasyPalette, or save it as a JPG. Use the mask by dragging from its thumbnail onto the image, or opening it as a JPG and applying it to an image. Here's the Circle Swirl Mask applied to my photo.

I expect to see a lot of mask trading out there now! Just remember to save your masks as Grayscale JPG's so that others can use them too.

Here's a ZIP file containing the JPG's for the two masks we made in this tutorial, plus 4 more fancy ones, shown below. Click on the mask thumbnails to see the mask applied to an image.

Celtic Edge Mask   Textured Heart Mask

Lacey Edge Mask   Hearts and Flower Edge Mask

Do not duplicate, translate, copy, archive, appropriate or redistribute this document.



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