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Selecting the silhouette

From: Digital Matte Painting Essentials 3: Tone

Video: Selecting the silhouette

The first thing you're going to want to do on this form part of the project is create a selection that clearly delineates the outside of your castle. We're going to use the Lasso tool to do this, so let's talk about the various kinds of Lasso tools available. Either choose the Lasso tool from the menu or press L to access it. The first choice is the regular Lasso tool, which is great for freehand selecting. The second choice is the Polygonal lasso tool.

Selecting the silhouette

The first thing you're going to want to do on this form part of the project is create a selection that clearly delineates the outside of your castle. We're going to use the Lasso tool to do this, so let's talk about the various kinds of Lasso tools available. Either choose the Lasso tool from the menu or press L to access it. The first choice is the regular Lasso tool, which is great for freehand selecting. The second choice is the Polygonal lasso tool.

You can cycle through the Lasso tools by pressing Shift+L. With this tool, each time you click, you get a straight line between the clicks. You end the selection by pressing the return key, or pressing on the first point. The third choice, which you can again access from the menu, or pressing Shift+L, is the Magnetic lasso tool. What the Magnetic lasso tool does, is create a selection based on areas of contrast.

One tricky aspect of the Magnetic Lasso tool is sometimes it can be hard to end a selection. And it's sort of like you have a sticky noodle attached to your cursor. If that happens you can click on your starting point if you can find it, or double-click or hit the Return key to end the selecting process. Let's get started making the selection of our castle. With the Magnetic lasso tool selected, you click then start dragging. You don't have to click constantly, you just have to hover your cursor above your drawing, and the magnetic lasso tool will look for errors of contrast When you specifically want a point like at the pointy top of one of these towers, go ahead and click and place one.

But otherwise you can just hover and let the Magnetic Lasso tool do the work for you. This tool won't give you an absolutely precise outline. For instance, these crenelations on the bridge, it's not going to pick up that fine detail. But it's great for doing a first pass on the silhouette. If you accidentally double click while using this tool it gives you the selection you created so far, but try and get the whole outline of the castle in one go.

This will give us a rough outline of the castle and we'll refine it in just a minute. As we get to the end, you're going to want to either click on the starting point, double-click, or hit return to close the selection. Now we need to add and subtract from the selection to refine it. Switch from the Magnetic lasso tool to the regular Lasso tool. I've covered some of these selection tools before but I want to go over them one by one. To add to a selection, press and hold the Shift key.

Notice how the Lasso tool gets a plus beside it. Now click and drag and you add to the existing selection. To subtract from a selection, hold down the Option or Alt key. Take note of the minus sign that appears next to the selection cursor. Then click and drag to subtract from your existing selection. You can also cut holes in your selection like this. The third selection tool is intersection. You access that by holding down the shift in option, or shift and alt keys Notice how an x appears next to the cursor.

Drag around the area you want to keep, excluding the area you want to eliminate. Only the selection within your new selection will remain active. Now you need to zoom in on your castle, and refine your selection using these tools. The Magnetic Lasso tool didn't do a very good job in these crenelations, so let's refine them first. These crenelations have straight edges and you might think the easiest way to select them would be using the Polygonal lasso tool. But let me show you a way to invoke that on the fly that's much more convenient.

Hold down the shift key to add to the selection then start to drag and click and hold the option or alt key also. Notice how the cursors turned into the Paligonal lasso tool symbol on the fly. I know this is a lot of keyboard shortcuts to throw at you so here's a chart of the most important selection keyboard shortcuts that you should memorize. As a mat artist you'll do a lot of hand selecting. And this set of keyboard shortcuts will just have to become second nature.

You might even want to print out that chart to use as a reference until your fingers have it down. That cleans up that set of crenelations. Now go through and make sure that the selection of the silhouette is accurate throughout the castle. You're going to be using this silhouette in the creation with some other masks, so it's important that it be accurate. If the selection of the silhouette is off, it will iterate through all of the other masks. Except to spend some time on this, and make sure that all of your crenelations are cleanly defined.

And all of your towers are accurate. A lot of times the Magnetic Lasso tool won't get these fine details, like these tower tops. So you need to double check them before you proceed. This is also an excellent time to practice your selection shops, with the various keyboard shortcuts. Then zoom out to check your work, and create a new layer.

Name is silhouette. Then choose a medium gray. Something around 150, 150, 150 in the RGB ratings. Go up to the top menu, choose Fill, and fill the selection with 100% of that medium gray. Change the opacity of the silhouette layer to 70% so you can see some of your line work. That completes finding the silhouette in the castle. In the next lesson we'll find and define the light side of this structure.

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Digital Matte Painting Essentials 3: Tone

19 video lessons · 2756 viewers

David Mattingly
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