Advanced Masking and Compositing

I.     Course Prefix/Number: ART 257

       Course Name: Advanced Masking and Compositing

       Credits: 3 (0 lecture; 6 lab)

II.    Prerequisite

ART 216 or consent of instructor

III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course presents techniques used in creating complex selections and masks with Adobe Photoshop to produce creative composite images – from realistic to abstract. Techniques include the creation, manipulation and output of images via inkjet printer to a variety of art papers using photographs, other original art and found objects that will be scanned into the computer. Topics include the aesthetics of image manipulation, both in the context of the student’s development of style and from an historical perspective, and the legal, moral and social issues of commercial and fine arts applications of photographic electronic imaging.

IV.   Learning Objectives

  1. Demonstrate mastery of multiple approaches to creating effective Photoshop selections.
  2. Apply advanced masking techniques to produce creative composite images.
  3. Integrate these techniques in order to solve the graphic problems that occur when creating complex composite images.
  4. Continue to integrate the principles of aesthetics into each student’s evolving style.
  5. Produce quality inkjet prints and present finished work in a professional manner.
  6. Comply with the moral, legal and social implications of photographic electronic imaging.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

  1. Preliminaries
    1. Logging into the Oakton network
    2. Tour of the Photoshop interface
    3. Navigating Windows to locate, open and save files
    4. Photoshop preferences
    5. Basic color settings (to help your output to match your screen)
  2. Selections
    1. Defined
    2. Tools
    3. Combining tools
    4. Effective use of Quick Mask
  3. The Select Menu
    1. Effective use of Color Range – and the other tools and options that are based on the magic
    2. Wand
    3. Feather, Modify, Transform, Save and Load
    4. What is an alpha channel and what is it used for?
  4. The Pen Tool
    1. What types of selections is it best used for?
    2. Creating complex paths/selections and vector shapes
    3. Editing paths and combining paths and selections
    4. Clipping groups
  5. Mask Basics
    1. Alpha channels – in detail
    2. Alpha masks
    3. Vector masks
  6. Types of Layers – and using them effectively to create composites
    1. Type
    2. Shape
    3. Adjustment
    4. Effects
    5. Layer sets
    6. Layer comps
  7. Layer Masking
    1. Layer mask options and effective use in compositing
    2. Blending images
    3. Merging photographic exposures
    4. Luminance masking
    5. Glowing skin techniques
  8. Creating finely detailed selections
    1. Accentuating difference to aid in making a mask
    2. Using masks, blend modes and channels to create a mask
    3. The Extract filter
  9. More Advanced Selection Techniques
    1. Using Calculations
    2. Selecting glass and transparency
    3. Selecting moving objects and cloth
    4. Intro to blue screen and green screen techniques
  10. Photorealistic composites – more techniques
    1. Using photographic sources
    2. Creating from scratch in Photoshop
  11. Creative Abstract Compositing – more techniques
    1. Scanning techniques
    2. Effective composition…not compositing

VII.  Methods of Instruction

  1. Practical/Technical Demonstrations and Discussions
  2. Hands-on experimentation
  3. Group Critiques

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

  1. Participate in class activities
  2. Prepare required readings and practice the techniques
  3. Present printed projects and discuss others’ work in group critique sessions
  4. Midterm and final exams

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

  1. 12 (11 x 14”) museum-grade boards and 12 backs
  2. Epson premium glossy paper
  3. Flash drive and CD-R’s for file transport

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

The final grade: will be based on the following elements and their weights:

            Midterm exam         = 10%
            3 regular critiques   = 55%
            Final critique           = 20%
            Final exam              = 15%

Critiques offer the student the opportunity to show work in progress to the instructor and to the class and to obtain feedback on the work presented.

XI.   Other Course Information

In this section, instructors will specify their policies on attendance, assignments, and extra credit.

Please note:
Some of the activities, lectures and assignments in this class may include imagery that is controversial, uncomfortable, shocking, has nudity, and personally unpopular to one's beliefs. If a student objects to this practice, he/she is encouraged to discuss with the instructor early in the semester alternative ways of completing course requirements.

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.