How to Create Mattes in Photoshop


Adobe Photoshop is a versatile graphics creation software program designed to do everything from enhance photographs to create complex visual effects. One technique used in creating a visual effect is to matte, or remove, one region of an image and replace it with another. The challenge is how to precisely outline the portion of the image you want to remove for the matte. Photoshop contains tools specific for matte creation.

Things You'll Need

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Open Photoshop. Choose the image your want to matte and open the image by selecting “File” and “Open” from the menu.

  • Create a background layer by clicking “Select” then “All” from the menu. Click “Layer” then “New” then “Layer via cut” to place the image into a foreground layer over a background that will be used for the matte.

  • Zoom into the portion of the image you want to outline to create the matte region. Use the Zoom tool by pressing “Z” on your keyboard. Place the magnifying glass over the region you want centered in the window and use your mouse to click until the desired magnification is achieved. Zooming into the area you want to be outlined will afford greater precision when tracing your matte object

  • Select the appropriate Lasso tool. Photoshop includes three different Lasso tools used to outline the matte by dragging your mouse around the perimeter of the object. You must complete the outline by returning to the point where you began, creating a closed loop. The Lasso tool you use depends on the content of the image. The default tool allows you to do a free-hand outline. Following the exact contours of your object can be challenging using this tool. If your object is angular, the Polygonal Lasso tool is an effective choice because it creates straight lines between mouse clicks. Creating an outline with the Polygonal Lasso tool consists of creating a series of short or long lines to form the matte. If your object contrasts highly from the background, the Magnetic Lasso tool can assist in finding the object border for you by appearing to “adhere” to the object border as you drag your mouse. Choose your specific Lasso tool by clicking on the small triangle in the lower right corner of the tool icon in the tool window.

  • Outline the object with your mouse. When you have completed the outline by returning to your beginning point, a small circle appears in the Lasso cursor. A final click of the mouse will finalize the outline.

  • Select “Layer” then “Layer Mask” then “Reveal Selection” to reveal the background layer as your matte. If you want to create a matte from the outlined object instead of the background, select “Hide Selection” from the Layer Mask sub-menu. Repeat these steps as needed to matte as many objects as you wish.

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  • Photo Credit Ciaran Griffin/Lifesize/Getty Images
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