Thursday, 19 June 2008

Tutorial: Grid Masking

Grid Masking

Written by Verlee

Soulstice - Mixed Illusions A reader showed me this image with the question if I knew how to create this masking grid effect on the photo of this album. My first reaction was “Oh Soulstice Mixed Illusions I totally love this album” :) This grid masking seems like an interesting technique to take a closer look at. I’m sure there are many ways to excecute this technique and you could do this both in Illustrator or Photoshop…

Here is my final version of today's tutorial. In my version of this technique I decided to use both Illustrator and Photoshop to my benefit and create the mask in Illustrator and then apply it on the photo(s) in Photoshop.

Why use both applications?

Simply because I like to create the grid in an easy and fast way. This is far easier to do in Illustrator. For the photo(s) I need to apply filters and effects, so for this I'm using Photoshop.

Create the grid mask

Step 1: Create a rectangle

Grid masking - Create a rectangle

Select the Rectangle Tool from the Toolbox and click once on the canvas. Enter the values you want to use as a grid pattern. I've used a width of 60 px and a height of 40 px. Click OK. The rectangle can have a black fill, any color is OK. Just make sure the rectangle's stroke option is set to none.

Step 2: Add Round Corners Effect

Grid masking - Add Round Corners Effect

With the rectangle still selected go to Effects > Stylize > Round Corners.... I've entered a value of 7 px for the corner radius. Click OK. You see this effect in the Appearance palette. The cool thing about this approach is that you can change this radius at any time if you think it is too round or too sharp.

Step 3: Add a double Transform Effect

With the rectangle still selected go to the Effects menu again and choose Distort & Transform > Transform.... Check the Preview option to see what you are doing and enter 10 for copies. Under the Move option enter 62 px next to Horizontal to move the item 62 px horizontally, leaving a 2 px gap in between each rectangle. You should see a horizontal line of 10 evenly spaced rectangles. You might need to tab to another field to actually see the result. Click OK.

Grid masking - Add a double Transform Effect

Go to the Effects menu again and choose again for Distort & Transform > Transform.... There will be warning message telling you that this will apply another instance of the effect. That is what we want, so you can click Apply New Effect. Check the Preview option again so you see the result and enter 18 for copies. This value depends of course how big you want your grid, so use any value that fits your needs. Under the Move option enter -42 px next to Vertical to move the item 42 px vertically downwards, leaving a 2 px gap in between each rectangle. You should see the line of 10 evenly spaced rectangles repeated 18 times vertically towards the bottom. Again, you might need to tab to another field to actually see the result. Click OK again.

Step 5: Release effects

Remember this is 1 rectangle with 3 effects attached to it. So, in case you're not happy with the spacing or it's rounded corners you can modify this at all times with one click on the effect in the Appearance palette, change values and click OK. That easy ;) Select your rectangle and go to Object > Expand Appearance. All effects are now released and all duplicated rectangles are turned into editable paths including the original one.

Step 6: Paste grid as a Shape Layer in Photoshop

With all rectangles selected, hit command/control + c. Go to Photoshop and open the photo you want to work with. Make sure the photo is on a separate layer. Hit command/control + v to paste the grid. Select Shape Layer in the paste options and click OK.

Step 7: Subtract Shape Layer

Instead of command/control + clicking the shape layer icon (to select the layer mask via the walking ants) and then select the layer of the photo and hitting the Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette to add this selection as a mask on the photo, I decided to keep things a bit more flexible. Flexible like this: if for example I have to scale my grid I still can. I want to keep my grid vector based as a Shape Layer. I want to add this grid masking effect as a separate Shape Layer instead of an actual mask on the photo. Now my rectangles have the fill, so I need to reverse the fill of the Shape Layer. To do this I have to select the Shape Layer's path using the Selection Tool or black arrow (you can also hit the A key to select this tool). When the path is fully selected go to the Toolbar at the top of the page and select the Subtract from shape area option. The fill should now be reversed. Give it a white fill by double clicking the layer thumbnail. Now you can use this layer as a masking effect

Final result with layers shown

Grid masking -

As final result I duplicated the grid layer, set the option to Add to shape area to reverse the fill and deleted all rectangles except 2. I gave them a color that suits my photo and gave the layer a transparency of 40%. I repeated this step a couple of times. I also used 2 different photos. My main photo has 2 Smart Filters applied but only on a selected part (bottom right). The other photo on top with the grass and water is masked so it appears on top of the other one in only 3 rows of the grid. Here I also applied a Color Balance Adjustment Layer to make the grass greener to achieve a high color contrast effect.

I added a white rectangle box on top of 2 rows to add my text on. The word 'color' was typed at first (see hidden top layer) and then I copied the layer of the photo on top of my layout. I command/control + clicked the type layer in the Layers palette to create a selecting of the text and then I clicked the layer of the photo and the Mask icon at the bottom of the palette to add this selection as a mask.

While I was experimenting I noticed that the outcome depends a lot on the photo you choose. At first I was working with the photo of the water and the grass. It is a photo of a beautiful lanscape but didn't seem suitable for this masking technique. So carefully chose your picture. If you feel the end result is not what you hoped for, than it could be the problem or the way you finish things off with the transparent rectangles. Make sure you don't overdo this. As always don't stop experimenting and try out new things. Hope you enjoyed this one ;)


shehna said...

Nice Tutorial!
Thanks for sharing

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