In this tutorial we’re going to be working with the Cutout Lab. At some point when working with images you’ll realize that you want to isolate an image from the background. As a result, you’ll have to create what is called a mask and this allows you to use the object in a variety of compositions.
Fortunately, PHOTO-PAINT offers you a wide variety of tools that you can use, of which the Cutout Lab is one. We’re going to start cutting this image out from the background in a moment, but before we do, I want to draw your attention to the Objects docker on the right. You’ll notice the background image, there’s an Object that I’ve filled with green and a copy of the background that we’re going to use as our working Object, or layer, when we’re creating the mask.
The purpose of the green layer is for when we finish the masking process and we’ve exited the Cutout Lab. What I do at this point is I zoom into the image and look at the edges of the mask, which I check against this high contrast background, to make sure that there are no artifacts, or holes in the image. Once that’s done I’ve completed the masking process.
At this point I’ll turn the top background object (layer) on and make sure it’s activated. And now we’re ready to access the Cutout Lab. One last point, when cutting out an image, you can use a mouse, but it’s unwieldy and clumsy, a bit like painting with a baseball bat. I recommend that you use a drawing tablet instead. I use the Wacom 6×8 Intuos 3 tablet.
So let’s get into it. The first thing to do is to go to Image: Cutout Lab. In the Cutout Lab dialog we’re ready to start masking the image, but before we get into it, we need to zoom in more closely so we can see what we’re doing. I click on the Zoom icon and zoom into the Cactus.
The next thing to do is to make use of the highlight tool and using it to define an edge around the cactus. The default tip is a bit too small, so I’ll dial it up a bit, to 19. So now I highlight the edge, which lays some color over the cactus and the background. And this is needed in order to create a mask. When working around the spines, there’s are a bit unwieldy with a tool tip of this size, so I’ll dial down the size of the nib. If you mak a mistake in the the image, simply click on the Eraser tool and remove what you’ve done.
To work your way around the cactus, use the Pan tool or the scrolling bars, defining the edge. In some cases, you’ll find areas where the detail is critical. In that case, zoom in. Of course you’ll have to make the nib a bit smaller.
Once we’ve defined the edge of the mask, we’re ready to zoom out and apply the fill, in preparation for previewing. To do so, zoom out to see the entire image and click on the paint bucket. The fill color is blue, which is the default, but it could be any other color. Now, click on the center of the cactus to fill it.
Now we’re ready to create an image preview. At this point the background is set to None which will give us a checkboard pattern when I click on Preview. Now we want to zoom into the image and start cleaning up the edge. In some cases this checkerboard pattern might be a bit difficult to work with, so we can choose from one of several options: gray matte, black matte or white matte. In this case we’ll start off with grayscale matte and I’ll zoom into the image.
Now you can see what’s happening with the edge, which is some artifacting and raggedness of the edge. Parts of the mask appear to have holes in it, as well. We need to tidy this up by way of the touchup tools, which add detail or take it away. To begin, I’ll click on the Remove Detail tool, dial up the size, and start removing some of this artifacting. You’ll need to do this around the entire image. You can do some of this after the fact with the high contrast layer, but I try to do as much of it as possible here. In the event that parts of the mask look ragged on the inside, or incomplete, click on the Add Detail tool to fill in the gaps.
In some cases, the gray matte might not give us enough information as to what’s happening with the edge, so we can toggle to a different option, such as black matte. This allows us to see more of what’s happening with edge and also if there are any holes. This is what you need to do around the entire image.
Now that the cleaning up is complete, we’re ready to make a cutout, which you can then use with other compostions. To do so, you have three options: Cutout, Cutout and Original Image or Cutout as click mask. For our purposes, I’ll choose Cutout and original image, then click on OK. The end result is a new object at the top of the Objects docker, the cutout image and the original below it.
This is where my acid test comes into play. We turn off the object below the new cutout and now we see straight through to my green high contrast object. We can look at it in more detail and see if it needs further retouching. To do so, zoom in to the edge and see what’s happening. In this case the edge is still a bit ragged, which we can improve by using the eraser tool. And we slowly work our way around the image, erasing those bits as necessary.
Here, the edge is fairly sharp. If you want to soften it a bit, we would use feathering, but that’s the subject of another video.