Join Ian Robinson for an in-depth discussion in this video Refining masks with Refine Masks, part of After Effects Guru: Working with Photoshop Files.
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The Refine Mask tool is an excellent tool to use if you like to get your selections created into masks as quickly as possible. I actually like to work this way because a lot of times when you're working with selections. If you accidentally go too far with a selection, you have to create a number of undos or go into history or different things like that. Whereas if you use a mask, you can immediately apply your selection to your image. And then, immediately start painting on that selection. To determine exactly what parts of the image will be revealed or hidden with your different selections.
So the nice thing about Refine Mask is it gives you the same flexibility you had with the Refine Edge command. Just utilizing it within your mask. So you can actually bounce back and forth between different tools to actually isolate your image within your masks. So if we look at our composite, you can see I have two layers in my Layers panel. We have our llama layer and the wonderfully cheesy desert background with the sunburst. So, what I want to do is paint out my llama. And we'll create the selection really quickly.
In your Tool panel, make sure you have the Quick Selection tool selected. And then, I'll just make sure it's set in its original new selection mode. And the size of your brush. Just use your bracket tools to choose something to your own personal taste. I'm going to choose 80 for my size. And I'll go ahead and just click and drag up here. And the key to this is to be fast. Now notice I went so quickly I got several parts of the image that I don't want. That's fine, if you do that, go ahead and hold down Option and draw from the outside and paint in.
To actually remove some parts of your selection. Once we do that, I'll come back into the ear area here, just grab a smaller brush to paint that out. We'll get the other parts of his hair along the back of his neck. Okay. Perfect. Now once we have our selection, immediately go over to your Layers panel. Make sure you have the llama layer selected and then. Add the mask by clicking the Mask tool. Once we've done that, now we can see our composite. But as you can see, I don't have the really fine hairs up here.
So I need to be able to refine this mask. The nice thing about getting to the mask so quickly is the fact that I can just easily grab a Paintbrush tool. And start painting in parts of the image, if I wanted to. But let's work with Refine Mask. I'll click on my mask and then go up under Select > Refine Mask. We have our different view options. And this works slightly differently than Refine Edge. Because when we had Refine Edge we could actually see the entire part of the llama. Now, when we have Refine Mask, notice I'm missing the visual reference for the other parts that we've already cropped off with the mask.
So let me just show you something here, really quickly. If I cancel this, then I come over here and I hold down Shift and click on the mask, that'll turn off the mask. And, as long as that's selected, I can go up under Select > Refine Mask. But then, when I choose Refine Mask, it immediately applies the mask again in my different view modes. So disabling the mask to refine the mask doesn't really work. So I'll cancel that, and I'll just click back on my mask here to re-enable it. Let's go back up under our Selection > Refine Mask one more time.
And this time, instead of cycling between just v and k the overlay black and white section. What I'm probably going to do is cycle between r and k. So r reveals the original layer. Now you may not think that you can actually see what you're selecting when you're looking at the original layer. But let's go ahead and make sure we have our Refine Radius Tool selected here. In the Tool panel in the Refined Mask command window. And just make that edge a little larger.
And I'll just start painting. And notice as we paint along the edge I'm getting a very clearly defined edge with that green highlight. And that's letting me know wherever I'm actually creating an edge refinement. So I'll just go ahead and refine an edge. Pretty much all over. In this area here, I'll increase my brush and paint that out. Now to see what I've done all we have to do is press k. And now notice I've automatically got quite a good different selection back here.
I just have some soft puffs that happened in this general area, but I think this looks pretty dark good. If I actually switch back to Overlay, you can see okay there is a lot of transparency that's actually in here. So we could refine this a little more. I'm going to go ahead and increase the radius here of my brush and notice it's bringing some of the detail back. We can smooth the brush out. Which I don't want to do too much because if we do it too much, we lose the refinements of the hair. So we'll leave smooth set to 0.
Feather works in a similar fashion but rather than trying to smooth jagged edges out over the length of the selection. It just softens all of the selections. The contrast is interesting because it'll sharpen up the contrast in the transitional areas. I don't necessarily need to do that for any of these. What we really need to do is just erase some of the selection here along his nose and some of, along the back. So here, I'll zoom into at least 100%. And I'll click and hold and choose my Erase Refinements tool.
And I'll grab a much smaller brush. And I'll er, erase the refinements in this one area here to get parts of his nose back. Perfect. And we can do the same thing here. And now, if we want to add some of those hairs back in. Let's go back and grab a Refine Radius tool. And make sure we switch to Reveal Layer with r. And then, I'll just grab a smaller brush. Making sure we've clicked off of the menu. I can grab a smaller brush. And just paint up on the individual hairs that I'd like to bring back into the fold.
And you can be as precise or imprecise as you choose. I'm going to be rather precise, because I want to show you exactly what's possible for illustrative purposes. So, here, we'll go and switch back to Overlay. And that's, actually, looking pretty good. So if you like this we can go ahead and just click okay. And then, once it's actually applied, since it is already a mask, make sure you have the Mask tool selected. You can just grab your normal paint brush tools here. And I'll paint in this area off the end of his nose to kind of clean up these extra spots.
That were accidentally created when we were grabbing some of the hair back in along this specific area. We'll do the same thing here along the ear. Just press x to switch between your black and white colors. And that will allow you to paint back some of the opacity back into his ears. There we go. So, obviously, I could sit here and keep refining and refining and refining. But the big difference between using the Refine Edge command and using Refine Mask, has to do with your preview modes.
So, just to show you one more time, if I go up under my Selection> Refine Mask. Instead of just bouncing between my Overlay mode in Black and White. It's always a good idea to actually incorporate Reveal Layer. So you have a good reference for everything on your image before you ever applied the mask. That way you can really refine your mask.
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