Join Ben Long for an in-depth discussion in this video Making better masks, part of From Screen to Paper: Improving Your Inkjet Printing Skills.
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- There've been a number of places in this course where I have talked about how you can get away with sloppy masking. How, with a soft edge brush or a gradient adjustment layer, you can really get away with murder and not have to worry too much about painting around fine details. When you're making a mask, to try to separate two different areas in an image. This is not one of those cases. I got this picture of this horse here, this horse mane. I want to go black and white. I'm throwing on a default black and white adjustment layer. There's nothing I can do in black and white toning in this image.
The horse is the same color as the background. There's really nothing to adjust. His mane is even kind of yellow. If I target yellows, anything and everything in the image is going to change. I got to do everything with levels adjustments. In black and white, you can see that I've actually got a nice range of tones. Let's update the Histogram. The problem is, well I think you probably already know what I'm going to say. Most of the image is pretty monotonous gray. The background is very different from the horse, and even on the horse itself there's not a lot of great variation.
The big thing that can set it apart would be the mane. I would like to brighten the mane up independently of the rest of the image. Overall, the image has just a dull gray haze to it. It's hard to figure out what's what in the Histogram. I expected this blob of data here is the mane. Which means, this blob of data is everything else. I don't know how much separation I can get between the horse and the background. I can darken the background for sure, which also going to require some more masking.
I don't know that I want to expand the contrast in the background. I don't know what I want to do on the horse. I want to start by brightening the mane. To do that, I'm going to need a pretty tricky mask. I'm going to go ahead and walk you through a tool here. Actually, let's do it the other way, I'm going to let you do the mane brightening. That one's going to be tough. I'm going to start on darkening the background. I'm going to make a levels adjustment later. I'm going to just dial in some darkening. I think I'm going to do that with the mid-point slider. I don't want to move the black point slider, because if I do, I will expand those areas that are already black.
I think they're possibly going to be a little bit of a distraction. i'm going to leave that there. That's the darkening that I want. I need to mask around all this hair. I'm going to use a couple of different tools here. I'm going to just take all of these layers off and work on my background layer. It doesn't matter where I build my mask. I'm using the quick select tool which is this thing here. It's a combination of a paint brush and a magic wand. I'm going to use it to do a rough selection of the mane and the ear. I'm choosing the mane and the ear, because, basically that's the horse.
That's the area that I'm concerned about. It's the area that has some tricky edge stuff to deal with. I'm just going to put that there. I don't need the whole horse. I'm just going to build a mask that's going to come in here, because with this mask, I'm going to paint darkness into my levels adjustment layer that I just made. I'm sorry. I just got distracted because I lost track of my mouse. There it is, okay. I got this selection here. I'm going to go to Select, Refine Edge. Right away, it gives me a preview of what my selection looks like.
It's pretty ratty. This is going to make for a very rough transition. If I use Edge Detection here, I can clean all of that up. I turn on Smart Radius and dial in a radius of about one pixel. I always use a very small radius here. Then, I'm going to take this brush tool and come over here, I'm going to make it a little bit bigger, which I can do with left bracket and right bracket. Just like I can with any brush tool in Photoshop. I'm going to just paint along the edge of the horse here. What I'm doing is I'm telling Photoshop yeah, go back and think about this area again.
I'm kibitzing. I'm letting it know that this is actually the edge in the image. You may not be seeing any great change here, but when I let go of the mouse button, it recalculates, aah haa! Now, I'm getting a edge that looks like a hairy horse mane. That's exactly what I wanted. I'm going to come down here and get this bit. I skipped to the ear, because I want to go to a smaller brush for the ear. There might be some more strands of hair out here. Yeah, there are. I'm going to go to a smaller brush, and just go into some of these areas and see if I can pick out a little bit more.
Now with this smaller brush, I'm going to do the ear. I went to a smaller brush, because the brush size tells Photoshop how big of an area to analyze. I know there's not much fringey, hairy stuff coming off the ear. I don't want it analyzing anymore than it needs to. It might pick up a blade of grass or something and confuse that as hair. That would mess up my mask. I'm changing my brush size depending on how fluffy the particular surface that I'm working with is, or rather the particular edge that I'm working with is.
I think that I may have gotten a little aggressive with my masking, or my initial selection in here. I'm going to take some of that out. Okay, that's looking pretty good. I'll ask it to reconsider. The right thing is, I can still, even though, I'm doing this refine bit here, it's okay if it's a little bit sloppy. I'm just painting in darkness, and if that ends up being a little non-uniform that's okay. I hit okay. I end up with this. I'm going to save this selection by going to the Channels pallet, and clicking this button down here that says save selection as a channel.
Here's the selection that I made. There were some other channels in there from when I was filling with this image earlier. Don't worry about those. Now, what I'm going to do is delete that levels adjustment layer we made earlier. That was just for the sake of example to show you what I was aiming for. What I need to do now is inverse this selection. Right now the mane is selected, and I want the background selected, because it's the background that I want to darken. I'm going to go to Select, and say Inverse. Now with this selection selected, actually, I need to do something else first.
I need to refine my selection further, not using Refine Edge. You can see now that this bit is selected which is great, unfortunately, this bit is selected also, which I don't want. I'm going to take the marquee tool, and I'm going to hold down the option key, so that that minus sign appears there. That's going to let me just remove that bit from the selection. I'm holding down option and just going through and taking all that bit out. Now, I've got only this bit selected with a nice edge around it. Now, I'm going to make a new levels adjustment layer, and when I do, it comes in with the mask that I made all ready in place.
Now, I can just do my darkening, and the background is getting darker. Look at this beautiful mask along here. I can actually see fringy horse hair going in there. That's how I use Refine Edge to mask around something complicated. Once you got that bit done, you're going to need to do the exact same technique to get this bit darker, probably going to want to dial in the same amount of darkness. I don't know. Then, you got something even more complicated. You need to go in and select these bits, because I think it would be nice to experiment with darkening the horse a little bit.
We're ultimately heading for a black and white image. This is what we got here before, after. This is already making a lot of pop. The manes really leaping out. If we had a little more contrast between the horse mane and the horse body, that might look nice too. Give this technique a try. You're going to be working with several different masks, and several different adjustment layers as you build up to a final image.
This course, from photographer and educator Ben Long, is designed to help you improve your printing "eye." Ben walks you through a variety of black-and-white and color images, explaining what he likes about them, and sharing insights on how to get the best print from it. Then it's your turn: using Ben's advice and Photoshop, you get to correct the images and print them on your own ink-jet printer. Then tune back in for Ben's solution to each challenge. This is a guided master class in the art of ink-jet printing.
- Making basic adjustments to images
- Practicing printing "by the numbers"
- Managing the black, white, and gray in an image
- Creating a vignette
- Addressing tone in color images
- Using exposure layers to correct highlights and shadows
- Making better masks
- Improving on a boring image