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Quick Mask
Based on the book "Photoshop. Classroom in a Book".




Objectives: Students learn to use channels and Quick mask for selections.
Essential questions:
1. What is channel?
2. What is Quick Mask and how it works?
3. How do you save and edit selections?

Masks let you isolate and protect parts of an image while making a selection.

Temporary masks are called Quick Masks

Permanent masks are called Alpha Channels and are stored in Channels palette.

Download image 1

1.Editing a selection

Open the downloaded file in PhotoShop.

Start with selecting the bird. Use Magic Wand Tool (tolerance 12).

Click anywhere in white area of the bird. You see that not all bird got selected. That's fine.

We'll add to selection by using a quick mask.

Click on the Quick Mask button in the Tool Box.

Red overlay - is masked area. It protects the area outside the selection.

To edit the masked area you can use eraser or brush tools.



Erase all the areas that you want to add to your bird selection.




Channels palette does not store images (like Layers palette), but it stores information. The first four channels are color information.

If you click on Red channel -the image will appear black-and-white. But don't worry. You did not change the image. What you see is the amount of red color in the picture.

Click on Green channel - you'll see the amount of Green color, Blue channel - Blue color.

See the different color channels? They all look different because the amount of each color varies.

Click on RGB channel - it will display all three channels - the full color image.


Any selection can be saved in Channels palette as an alpha channel.

Before you have saved the selection - it appears as Quick Mask channel.


Click on Quick Mask channel.

You can edit the mask again if you see any black or gray spots within the bird.

When done - click on RGB channel.


When done editing- click on the Quick Mask Mode button in the tool box to return to the Standard view.

The bird is selected.


2.Saving a selection

To save your selection go:

Select > Save Selection

Name the selection ("bird")

Click OK

See a new channel appeared in the palette.

Make sure the RGB channel is selected to view the image in full color.


Make sure you are in the Standard Mode (not QuickMask mode in your Tool box)

Deselect the bird (Command/Ctrl D).

3.Loading a selection

Place the bird selection back onto the image:

Select > Load selection
Choose "bird"


Drag the bird channel into the selection button at the bottom of the Channels panel.

4.Inversing a selection

Now we want to select just the background to edit it.

To invert the selection and select the background:

Select > Inverse

You can see the selection line is now on the perimeter of the image.


You are going to adjust the tonal balance of the background.

Image > Adjustments > Levels

Increase the contrast of the photograph - make the lightest pixels white, and darkest - black (right now the lightest pixels are light grey, and the darkest are dark grey, as you see from the image on the left).

You are going to define the lightest and the darkest pixels as white and black.

To do so:

Drag the left (black) slider to the start of the graph.

Drag the right (white) slider to the end of the graph.

Compare the two images below to see before and after contrast:



6. Refining a selection (weeds selection)

Open the weeds image

Use Lasso Tool to select the weeds at the lower half of the image.


Go to:

Select > Refine Edge

Adjust the settings to soften the edges of the selection and to minimize the appearance of the background

  Move it onto the bird file.

Free Transform (Command/Ctrl T) to resize and move the weeds as shown,

Use Background Eraser Tool to remove the leftover background in the weeds layer.

7. Refining a selection (foxtail selection)

Open the foxtail image


Select the top part of the foxtail with a Rectangular Marquee Tool.

Use Move Tool to drag the selection onto the bird file.

Use Background Eraser Tool to remove the background around the foxtail.

To better see the results - hide the other two layers in the Layers Panel.

If your background looks like a checkerboard - here are the steps to remove it:

Edit > Preferences > Transparency & Gamut...
Grid Size: None

Photoshop > Preferences > Transparency & Gamut...
Grid Size: None


After removing the background - make other layers visible again.


8. Final touches


Merge all layers into one:

Click on the drop-down menu in the top right corner of the Layers palette.

Choose Flatten Image.


We are going to apply a filter now to the background:

1. Load the bird channel as a selection

2. Select > Inverse



Open Filter Gallery:

Filter > Filter Gallery

Choose : Colored Pencils
(you can play with filter settings in the right pane)

Click OK


Go directly to:

Edit > Fade

Minimize the effect of the filter by changing filter's transparency.



To create a fading effect at the bottom of the image - we are going to use an alpha channel with a gradient for a smooth transition.

Create a new channel.

Name it Gradient

Your image will look like the one on the right.


(Make sure the color swatches are set to Black and White)


Choose the Gradient Tool

In the Options Bar choose the color setting #1 (Foreground to Background) or # 3 (Black, White)


With the gradient tool:

Click and drag down as shown.

The dark part (top) will not be selected

The light part (bottom) will be selected

The grey part (middle) will create a fading effect.


Click on RGB channel to return to the full image view.

Load gradient channel as a selection

  You should see a rectangular selection at the bottom.
  Edit > Clear


Type your name and print it out!