Monday, August 01, 2011

Mask vs Alpha (how to make a cutout image)

Strelka the Golden

This is a cutout of my dog Strelka. Cutouts like this can be used as logos, topic markers in brochures or websites, as elements of larger designs (an ad for a dog kennels, a vet practice or a pet food supplier) or as a stand-alone illustration on a page where text flows around an irregular shape/image.

I made it using Mask with Shape option (under Format menu).

Masked image showing editing points
Take the photo and drop into a Pages document, Mask with Shape. Use any shape, rectangle for example. Cover the element of the photo you want to cut out with the mask (the dog).

Then make mask editable and Smoothen Path (also under Format).

Then add editing points – press Option key and move cursor to the contour line of the mask. When instead of the white hand a small pen with a plus sign appears – click.

Add as many editing points as needed and move them as close to the object as reasonably possible to make a cutout.  Read more about this technique in this article: DSK: How to Make a Closely Cropped Cutout.

Now if this sounds like a fiddly business try Alpha tool to remove background to achieve a similar effect. It will work, however, only if the background is of consistent colour that is different from the colour of the object, a black dog sitting on a white sheet for example. Please see an example of how Alpha tool can be used to remove background and achieve a striking design effect in this earlier article: How to Remove Background.

Background partially removed with Alpha
I tried to remove the background around my dog, but was left with too many light-grey stones that have a shade similar in colour to Strelka's coat. There are simply too many bits to rub out, and when you do try to rub them out Alpha also tears out bits of the dog's coat. In the end I gave up and used the 'mask with shape' method.

See what suits you better.

Click on images to see small details.


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Photos by ©A.Anichkin

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