“The Official Masking Tutorial Work-In-Progress”

Damien here!

All right, apparently we still haven't gathered all the relevant information into one blog post. So I'll give you, right here, a comprehensive list of the abilities and faults concerning Masking. Mostly, it will be a reiteration of everything I've said on the subject in other posts and comments.

SECTION 1 (6-15-09)

First off, the basic function of masking is to place one item (the Mask Item) inside a second item (the Boundary Item.) You do this by

  • FIRST: make sure you have the Mask Item selected.
  • SECOND: click the Masking button to the right of the window.
  • THIRD: click the Boundary Item.

You can only mask one Mask Item within one Boundary Item. You can use this to create unusual patterns on bodies or objects, show a partial item (like an insignia) "curving" around another item, or create entirely different items by masking them inside a shape placed behind the rest of the figure (like making sleeves from pants.) The Mask Item remains a separate layer from the Boundary Item and can be placed in any layer order. The Mask Item can also be moved around inside the Boundary Item after masking to allow more accurate placement using either the mouse or the transform arrows.

One recurring problem people seem to have is masking multiple Mask Items to a single Boundary Item. This can't be done with the program. However, since the Mask Items are separate layers, the solution is to use several Boundary Items underneath each other and leave the Mask Items up front. When I do this, I like to leave the "background" Boundary Items a few pixels aside from the front one, with the line colors altered to keep track of which layer is which (like bright red, neon green, super-blue, etc.) After I mask the items, or just before I finish the project, I can move them all back behind the front Boundary Item and make the 1st, 2nd and line colors white to blend in with the white background, or turn them transparent if needed to hide them.

If you intend to do a lot of masking, my advice is to finish the basic design first. When you start masking, you'll have a good idea of how many of each Mask Item you'll need before you begin masking. Once you load all your multiple Mask Items onto the screen the items won't unmask, unlike trying to load and mask them one at a time. You can also leave your Mask Items unmasked and in the back layers until you're ready for them, but (except with very small Mask Items) this may block or disfigure a large part of the screen.

Another recurring "flaw" is masking to hands. Unfortunately, this may be there to stay for now, because the hands were designed to reverse-mask. Reverse-masking is using the Masking button to place items or weapons "clutched" inside a fist by removing the section of the item over top of the hand. It has proven difficult to make the program recognize the difference between a pattern masking over the hand and an item reverse-masking inside it.

I think that covers the basics of everything I've said so far. If anyone has another question, or if you just want to point out how blind I am for missing some tidbit, comment below and I'll add it to this post as an edit.

There will be a single post that covers everything you need to know about Masking if I go insane trying to complete it.

Thank you for your time, and be sure to comment on my mistakes and ommissions!

8 Responses to “The Official Masking Tutorial Work-In-Progress”

  1. Matt says:

    I only just got the hang of this a few weeks ago, so thanks Damion this will probley help a lot of people.

  2. Whit says:

    Okay, I’ll try my figure with multiple masks. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to create my full set of five for this series.

  3. Hey Whit, do like I do. Make yourself a free webpage and just display them all there. At least that way they have a real home, instead of just floating separately on the HM page. And if you think it’s too hard, remember that Jeff had to teach me the basic HTML codes to post stuff on here. I SUCK at anything code-related…

  4. captperv says:

    i just figured out how to mask last night.(after reading the instructions in detail i had no problem) its really great ! but there are some things that it doesn’t do so well on. i realize is for guns and such. but i try to put character on the back of bear (bear Calvary) and a grappling scene between 2 charaters and it was pretty tricky. also there need to be an “undo” button

  5. Me, Myself & I says:

    @captperv (4)

    Actually an undo button is a really good idea. I’ve certainly wanted one on occasion a few times. I really don’t know if its feasible using flash or if it is how hard it would be. It would be a nice feature though.

  6. Simon says:

    I would kill for an undo button sometimes!

  7. Erin says:

    One problem I have with masking items is it doesn’t allow me to use multiple items from the same list if one is masked. Like Background. I masked the Union Jack background to the vest my character was wearing, but when I tried to give him something to stand on, it just undid the masking. And, yes, I clicked “multiple”. Is there some way to work around this? And if not, why?

  8. Dionne Jinn says:

    Any chance to have a reverse-masking function to be used at will?