Using The GIMP Mask


From time to time I will be adding items to these pages giving details of how to achieve certain objectives, usually related to genealogy and the use of Legacy software, often in conjunction with other software.

I am not suggesting that the solutions offered are the only, or indeed the best, options to solving problems but simply that they are ways which I have found to work.

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  5. History of British Prime Ministers - Timeline
  6. British Civil Registration
  7. The Murder of Adam Mather
  8. Improve Photo Colour Balance
  9. Transparency with The Gimp
  10. Masking with The Gimp
  11. Web Safe Colours
  12. Create Legacy Web Pages - Part 1
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  22. Create Direct Line Ancestor Tree
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What is masking for? Well, basically, if it is wished to copy a section of, say, a photograph onto another it can be difficult to copy exactly the section required, and this is where masking can help by improving the accuracy of the selection.

Initial Photo

When taking this photograph I had not noticed the bird which is surrounded by the clutter of the boat (in the original it is much smaller). It is reasonably easy to move the bird and place it in a more suitable place on this photograph or another. For simplicity I have chosen some sky from another picture.

Initially it is necessary to select the outline of the bird, and I chose to do this using the Select by Path Tool. Because of the uneven outline of the bird I left a reasonable amount of space between the rough outline and the bird itself.

Mask Icon

After selecting by path, and then clicking the Mask Icon, the dotted square at the bottom-left of the screen, the section not selected will be covered by a transparent red layer, as shown below.

Masked Photo

As can be seen there is quite a large margin of sky around the bird. To remove this we need to use a paint brush and black paint to cover the blue (it will paint red!). It is often easier to enlarge the photo (View>Zoom) and the size of the brush can also be varied. When completed it will look something like this:

Masked Photo

Finally, we click the Mask Icon again and copy the selection, the bird, and use 'paste' to paste it onto your new background (or 'paste into' to centralise). Anchor using Layer>Anchor and make any adjusments necessary using, for example, smudge or blur etc.

Finished Photo


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The above information is given without warranty either expressed or implied

The content last updated 31 March 2010