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Masking and Region Selection in Synthetik Studio Artist

Part 1: Masking complex images interactively By Dave Nagel
Some people will look at the sample image on the right and say, "Neat. Elephants." Those of you reading this article are more likely to say, "I'm glad I'm not the one who has to mask that image!" And those of you writing this article are definitely saying, "Why am I writing another tutorial on masking when I hate masking more than any other job in graphic design?" Man, I'd hate to be that guy.

And yet I am that guy. And, yes, I've put myself in the position once more where I have to perform that most onerous of design chores--masking a difficult image. Why? Well, I wanted to start off a new series of tutorials on Synthetik Studio Artist, this time covering an oft-overlooked function of that program, masking and region selection. Studio Artist is known primarily for its painting and rotoscoping features. But it also offers some sophisticated tools that can help you mask not only complex images, but complex images that are further complicated with backgrounds that are barely differentiated from their foregrounds.

For this tutorial, we'll pretend that I'm an overworked, underappreciated graphic designer who, because the Fates love to mock him, has been given the task of turning an elephant pink for some dumb ad campaign for some dumb client or another. Hence the need to mask out the elephant in the foreground of the image.

If I were doing this in a program like Adobe Photoshop, I'd probably use the technique of creating a threshold of the image and working from there (as detailed in one of my previous tutorials, "When Compositing Gets Hairy"). Or maybe I'd use a plugin like Extensis Mask Pro to do the job. But for a task like this, Studio Artist can definitely come in handy.

Creating the mask
1. To begin, launch Studio Artist, and choose the image you need to mask as your source image. For the time being, leave your canvas white or black, whichever you prefer. This will help you see your mask better as it develops. (You can also toggle back and forth between your image and a white canvas without affecting your mask.)

2. In the menu in your tool palette, switch over to the Region Selection settings.

3. Switch the Source setting to "Source Image."

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