Quick Mask Advantages

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The Quick Mask in Photoshop is a really great way to make a selection - for most people it may be the very best way to make a selection.

Rather than try to outline an object with a lasso tool, what you do is paint over the object with your Wacom Bamboo tablet, Wacom Intuos tablet or mouse (creating a Mask) and when you are done you have a very precise selection.

One advantage to making a mask is that you can sit back and admire your work which is not the case with the lasso selection tools.

If you sit back to admire what you have done with the lasso you end up with a weird selection and need to change the mode to "add to selection"  to complete your work.

You can also take advantage of the pressure sensitivity and precision of your Wacom Bamboo or Intuos tablet.  Set the brush to change size with pressure and when you come close to the edge of your selection you simply back of the pressure on the pen to get a smaller brush - this is dynamic size changes while you are working.

Another advantage is this - you can go in and out of the Quick Mask mode to refine your selection and that is really helpful especially if you have CS3, CS4 or CS5 with the Refine Edges capabilities.

The Advantages of Quick Mask Selections

  1. You can take your time with the selection - stop for a rest if you feel the need.

  2. If you are working on a complicated selection just save your work as a .psd file and when you open it again the mask will still be there - very useful.

  3. It's easy to stop working and zoom in or out to work the edges of the selection - or scroll around as much as you like.

  4. Work a part of the selection, leave Quick Mask and promote the resulting selection to a new layer.  Do it over and over so you have a bunch of layers making it easy to fix any problems rather than re-selecting the whole thing again.

  5. If you make a mistake just change the foreground/background colors to paint out the mistake.

  6. Pressure sensitivity set to Brush Size makes it very easy to get nice crisp edges when using a Wacom Bamboo or Wacom Intuos tablet - they also make it easy to get around difficult areas.

Step 1 - Enter Quick Mask Mode

quick mask selectorThis is done by clicking on the QM Icon at the bottom of your tool bar (it's the one outlined in red on the image).  

Now you are ready to make your selection mask  ... but before you do that double click on the QM icon to bring up the QM Options ...


If you double click on the quick mask icon you will bring up another dialogue that lets you decide the color of your mask, the opacity of the color and if the area you are painting is either Masked or Selected.

quick mask options

Masked Areas
- this means that you are painting out the areas that you do not want to keep.

Selected Areas - this means that you are painting the areas that you want to keep.

It seems reasonable to me to paint the areas you wish to keep but you do whatever way feels best to you.

When you have made your selection click OK.  Now you are ready to do some serious selecting.

Step 2 - Pen Pressure

If you are a mouse person you really don't need to go over this section - it might be a good idea, however, to visit either the Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch or the Wacom  Intuos4 page to find out all the reasons why you should add a Wacom tablet  to your digital imaging set-up!

quick mask brushesChanging size with pen pressure is really useful when you come to an edge - simple back off the pressure and you have a smaller brush making it really easy to get a nice crisp edge around your selection.

The Brush Palette is where you make this change and its accessed by selecting Windows > Brushes or pressing the F5 key.

Highlight the words "Shape Dynamics" and then drop down the Control Menu and select Pen Pressure.  If you look at the bottom of the palette you will see a sample brush stroke that changes size with pressure.

Now select a nice round brush and dial up the hardness to 100% (to keep the edges sharp).

Its that simple and now you can change the size of your brush with pen pressure!

Step 3 - Paint The Areas You Want To Select

Now you are in Quick Mask mode and have your brushes all set - there is only one small thing to do and thats to set black as your foreground color.

Press the D key to select the default colors (black and white) and if black is not the foregroundquick mask anna color press the X key.

Start painting over the area you are selecting with light pressure at the edges.  I find it easier to outline the area first and then fill in the rest.  When you are done you will have the area you are selecting filled in with the red mask.

In this example with Anna (the truly awesome Bull Terrier) you can see her head is filled in and the work has progressed to her back.  Notice how crisp the edges are around her ears and her face.

If you make a boo boo (everyone does, you know) and go across and area that should not be painted - don't panic. Change your default color to White by pressing the X key and paint out the offending area.

When you are finished ...

Step 4 - Back To Normal Mode

Press the Q key or select the little circle to the left of the QM selector to return to Edit in Standard Mode.

When you get there you will have the little marching ants around your selection.  Inspect it carefully to confirm that the selection is what you want.  To see your selection all by itself press Ctrl-J or Cmd-J to put the selection on a new layer and then turn off the background layer.

If you are satisfied then you are done and your work is finished (except the part about doing something with your wonderful selection).

If not then open your history palette and go back into the latest QM Mode and make any modifications you need to make.  You can flip in and out of QM as much as you need.

This really is a great selection tool and it works fabulously with a pen tablet.  Have fun selecting!


An Example

So there I was walking about downtown and noticed a crowd around the entrance to the mall so I wandered over to see what was going on.

There was this guy dressed up as Elvis all dressed in shiny silver - even his face and hair were silver!  He was standing on a lazy Susan kind of stand and Elvis songs were being blasted out of his boom box - there was box on the ground so people could throw in money.

He was quite good so rather than leave money I took pictures and now will immortalize him on the internet!

I wanted Elvis all alone on a different background so a precise selections was required - enter the Quick Mask.

quick mask elvis quick mask elvis1
Elvis as shot Elvis with the Quick Mask

These are the original shot and the image with the mask painted in.

quick mask elvis selected quick mask elvis selected
Elvis selected The final Elvis

Now this selected image can be moved onto a different background.  When you do that make sure that the new background is exactly the same size as the original selection.

On Page Links

Advantages of Quick Mask


Pen Pressure

Paint The Areas to be kept as a selection

Back to normal mode


An Example

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