• Apr

    Photographers: Learn How to Mask Images Quickly with Corel PHOTO-PAINT


    At some point as a photographer, you’ll want to remove an image from a background and use it somewhere else. The process of doing this is known as “masking” and there are a variety of programs which allow you to do this. Over time I’ll be offering tutorials using several different programs, but for now, I’m going to make use of Corel PHOTO-PAINT (part of the Corel Graphics Suite). At the end of this tutorial is video, so you’ll be able to follow the steps of the process.

    To elaborate, masking is a term used to describe the process of defining areas of an image to protect so you can modify the other areas. Essentially, a mask is a like a stencil placed over an image. There are two aspects to a mask in PHOTO-PAINT, the protected area (which prevents paint and effects from being applied to underlying pixels) and the editable area, where paint and effects are applied to the underlying pixels.

    Before we get into how this works, there are some things you need to know, first.

    An Inexact Science

    One of the most important things to realize is that masking isn’t an exact science. 


    Sometimes you’ll get an image that’s relatively easy to mask, such as the one above, (the Magic Wand would work perfectly here) but more often than not you’ll encounter situations that require a combination of techniques to give you the result you’re after, unless you’re able to isolate your images on location or in the studio. 

    Save a Copy of the Original File

    Before beginning work on a masking project, make sure you save a copy of the original file. If anything goes wrong you still have a backup. In the actual document to be masked, make a copy of the background. Again, this preserves the original image and allows you to make additional copies of the background, if needed. 

    Use High-Contrast Objects (Layers)


    When masking images, add a high-contrast object (layer) beneath the one you’re working on (green is often a good color). It will help you define the edge and will show areas that have not been properly masked. This helps tremendously when masking complicated shapes such as hair. Once the mask is complete, you can delete or turn off the high-contrast object.

    This image shows an example of a green high contrast object (RGB 0, 255, 0) beneath the sculpture. You can see the edges of the sculpture, and also places where the masking has gone too far and has cut away portions of the object. In this case, changing the tolerance of the Magic Wand Mask Tool could solve the problem.

    Masking with the Magic Wand Mask Tool

    Using the Magic Wand is one of the simplest forms of masking. It works well with large patches of sky or backgrounds of a similar color. Below is the video tutorial I’d mentioned earlier, which shows you how to mask an object with Corel PHOTO-PAINT (part of the Corel Graphics Suite.

    © Nathan Segal

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