Create a Simple Cutout Using an Alpha Channel — And a Cool Stacking Order trick

Simple Cutout using Alpha ChannelsI’ll be the first to admit that before I knew how to make a clipping path in Photoshop to cut out people or products from a photo, I would use the Polygonal Lasso tool in Photoshop, select what I didn’t want, and press the Backspace (Mac: Delete) Key. I would then bring a photo with a white background into Quark and in the Modify dialog box under Clipping Type, I would choose Non-white Areas. This worked out sometimes, as long as I didn’t have a color or another image in back of the photo that was clipped out. Whenever there was any color behind the image, I always saw a white halo around the image.

For those of you who still fear the pen tool, here is a quick way to get rid of that pesky white halo for images that already have white around them. (This tip works in all versions of QuarkXPress, but is much easier in QuarkXPress 7 due to a new feature that allows you to access Alpha Channel selections directly in the Measurements palette.)

Create the Alpha Channel in Photoshop

Open the image file in Photoshop. Use the Magic Wand to select the white around the image. With the Magic Wand, click on the white area, then hold Shift and continue to click till all the white area is selected.

Now if you were to press the Backspace or Delete key (Macintosh) all that would do is fill the white area with white again. The reason for this is because when you first open an image in Photoshop it automatically makes a background layer that will not allow you to delete to transparency. Double click the Background Layer in the Layers palette. When the New Layer dialog box appears, give it a name and click OK. Now press the Backspace or Delete key (Macintosh) and you will delete to transparency! The great news is that transparency is supported in QuarkXPress if you save this file in TIFF format or as a native Photoshop document (.psd). So right now you could just save it as a .psd and import it into Quark and you would have no white background to deal with. But we are going to clean it up a step further, and then save this as an Alpha Channel selection.

In order to see the white halo a bit clearer, I would recommend making a new Layer and filling it with black for the color. Choose Layer> New> Layer, to make a new Layer. Then Click OK. Next you will need to drop your current selection — don’t worry, it will be easy enough to get it back. Choose Select> Deselect. Then Choose Edit> Fill, Change “Use” to Black, and then Click OK. Now drag this Layer below your first layer. And also make sure you have the first layer selected before the next step.

You should see the white halo much more clearly now. To select the image you cut out, hold Control (Mac: Command) and click on the layer. Your selection will reappear. Now to get rid of that white you will first choose Select> Inverse. Then Choose Select> Modify> Expand and start with 1 pixel. Then Click OK. Then click the Backspace or Delete key (Macintosh) to get rid of the white. This may take some tinkering, depending on the resolution of the photo. You may have to continue expanding and deleting to completely get rid of the white.

Now we can save the Alpha Channel selection. Choose Select> Inverse to select the cut out image again. Then choose Select> Save Selection, give it a name, and Click OK. Really, that is just how simple it is. After you make a selection with any of Photoshop’s selection tools, you can save a selection into the Channels palette. You can now access these selections in Quark 7.

You can throw away the black fill layer if you’d like, but it isn’t entirely necessary, because of the selection you made and saved.

Import It Into QuarkXPress

In QuarkXPress 7, you can simply select the new alpha channel from the Alpha Channels popup menu in the Measurements Palette.

In QuarkXPress 6 and earlier, choose Item> Clipping, for the Type choose Alpha Channel, then for the Alpha, choose the name of the selection you just saved. Then Click OK. You did it! You got rid of the white halo effect!

A Cool Stacking Order Trick
I get “oohs” and “aah’s” every time I show this next little stunt, even though it is quite logical once you think about it. The trick is to make an image appear like part of it is behind an object while the other part is in front of it. In the example I’m showing, I want the snowboarder’s arm to appear behind the text while his head appears above it. Almost giving the effect that the snowboarder in hanging on the text.

First I put in the type, then I imported the snowboarder, I then copied the snowboarder. Next I selected the type and brought it to the front. Item> Bring to Front. Then I pasted the snowboarder exactly over himself. Edit> Paste in Place. I then moved the left middle anchor point of the picture box so that you can’t see the arm of the image on top. It’s a great way to give a 3D feel to a 2D layout!

Technical Consultant, Instructor Aquent Graphics Institute

Rob has nearly 12 years of print production experience on top of his formal education in the graphic arts. He worked in production and later as Systems Administrator for Media News, publisher of multiple weekly newspapers in suburban Boston, prior to becoming a consultant and instructor for Aquent Graphics Institute.

Rob’s expertise lies in editorial workflow systems, he is an expert in News Edit Pro, K4, and Woodwing. He teaches both QuarkXPress and InDesign and and has a full understanding of Quark Copy Desk and InCopy. Rob has the ability to observe a production workflow and make suggestions on how to enable people to work more efficiently. Either with a database solution, or something much simpler. He also teaches Illustrator, Photoshop, and Acrobat.

Rob has used QuarkXPress for more than 12 years now and has been teaching both QuarkXPress and InDesign for nearly 3 years. Rob travels around the country seeing real production problems every day. He has the unique perspective of someone who knows what both QuarkXPress and InDesign are capable of, and how they measure up against each other in the different fields they are used in. He has coordinated countless upgrades and conversions between the programs and enjoys meeting new people and examining the different ways people accomplish the same task, and the many different ways people use page layout programs. His real world experience with everything from building templates, font management, and color correction, make him a valuable asset during transitions and upgrades.

On his own, Rob is still a freelance designer, and loves page layout. His favorite interests include his two daughters,, and anything related to Star Wars.