Features

Masking Wraps

Using the Mask tool in FlexiSign Pro is useful during both the proofing and output processes of setting up wraps.

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We use both FlexiSign Pro and Photoshop when designing our vehicle wraps. If a design has a lot of text or vector artwork I try to do all the setup in FlexiSign Pro. Vector-based wraps give you crisp, clean lines at any size and also export and RIP faster than raster-based artwork.

You can also import raster artwork into FlexiSign Pro and use it in conjunction with vector art. The Mask tool in FlexiSign Pro is particularly useful during both the proofing and output processes of setting up wraps. Any masked objects can always be un-masked too, which reveals all the original artwork and objects.

Proofing
Here I’ll take you step-by-step through a fairly common partial wrap setup using the Mask tool. This “trick” shows you how we do it from start to finish on most wrap designs so we’ve become fairly quick at the setup. While there may be a lot of steps, it does go quick the more times you do it.

In this example I’m using FlexiSign Pro. You have the option of creating different “Workspace” views in Flexi. We come from a CasMATE then Inspire background so we’ve chosen the “Inspire Workspace.” Tool placement, and sometimes naming, may vary, depending on the workspace you use.

The Mask tool is found under Effects on the workspace we use. It’s found under different drop-down menus on other workspaces.

We take straight-on photos of the vehicle that we’re wrapping. On our camera the photos are about 28 MB, which is much bigger than what we need for our proofing process. We take the photos into Photoshop and straighten them out using the Ruler and Rotate tools. If the photo is dark or needs some other editing to create a better image for the proofing process I do that at this time, too. If there is an excessive amount of background around the vehicle we also crop the photo down to get rid of the excess. Once that’s finished we scale the photo down to around a 2 MB file (see Figure 1). The vector artwork can be any size and still print clean and any raster artwork you use can be imported at a higher resolution. The size of the photo of the vehicle doesn’t need to be large since it is not actually part of the final artwork.

FIGURE 1

After taking straight-on photos of the vehicle that we’re wrapping we first straighten and then re-size the photo. 

Switching over to FlexiSign Pro we then import the straightened and cropped photos. Now we want to properly scale the photos so that as we’re proofing the wrap we’re working on at actual size.

When we take photos of the vehicle we also take really good measurements. Using the measurements as a reference we draw a box on a clearly defined object on the photo. We then go to Edit > Transform. There are two options here. If you want to scale everything in the opened window then change the size of the box you drew to the size it needs to be in actual size. You’ll see a percentage come up. This is the overall percent you would need to adjust the photo to be actual size. Click Apply Scale to All if you want to change everything (see Figure 2).

FIGURE 2

Draw a box on a clearly defined object within the photo. If you want to scale everything in the opened window then change the size of the box you just drew.

If you just want the percentage so you can scale one image, then note the percentage on the Transform tool. Click off that tool. Now click on the photo you want to scale and go back to the Transform tool and enter the percent you need to achieve actual size.

Now the photo is scaled and you’re ready to start setting up the masked areas. The first thing I do is to draw Quick Boxes in the areas that we are not wrapping (see Figure 3)

FIGURE 3


To set up the masked areas, draw Quick Boxes in the areas that we are not wrapping and then define those boxes.

Once we’ve designated the areas not covered we better define those boxes to improve the presentation. This is usually just some quick rounded areas or moved points so that the non-wrapped areas are clearly defined. You’ll need to convert any boxes or circles to outlines so that you can move points.

Once all the non-wrapped areas are defined with a bunch of boxes and other objects we have to group them all together (see Figure 4). We click on all the pieces that will create the mask and then go to Arrange > Group or CTRL + G (Command + G on a Mac).

FIGURE 4

After the non-wrapped areas are defined, group them all together.

Next we click off the grouped boxes and click on the photo. Copy the photo to the clipboard (CTRL + C) then click on the grouped boxes while holding the shift key. You should have the photo and the grouped boxes selected.

Then go to Effects > Mask. Just the boxed areas will show up as the masked-off areas (see Figure 5). We then paste the photo back in (CTRL + V) and send it to the back. Arrange > Order > To Back.

FIGURE 5

Once masked, only the boxed areas will show up as the masked-off areas.

The first photo shows the masked areas highlighted. The second photo shows the areas that would be wrapped (they look cut out of the truck) and then with the original photo pasted back in. This creates a top masked layer and a background layer of the original photo (see Figure 6). Essentially we do all the designing between these two layers.

FIGURE 6

The first photo shows the masked areas highlighted. The second photo shows the areas that would be wrapped.

Vector objects, text, imported raster art and blocks of color can all be added in between the top masked layer and the bottom photo. This gives you the flexibility to make quick changes and to move the artwork around any obstacles (see Figure 7).

FIGURE 7

With areas masked, you can now make quick changes and move the artwork around any obstacles.

It also makes it easy to proof the vehicle wrap with the customer as well. They will see the artwork on the photo of their vehicle that not only looks professional, but makes it easier for the customer to visualize the final wrap.

Masking An Object
The masking tool is also very convenient to use in other ways. Sometimes we’ll have a raster photo that we’ll need to contour cut to shape. Creating an outline of that shape in Photoshop we import both the image and the bitmap outline into FlexiSign Pro.

The first step is to import the outline and vectorize it. Choose Image > Vectorize > Enhance Curves. This scaled vector outline of the object is then positioned over the raster image. Clicking both the raster image and the photo we go to Effects > Mask.

Now just the image-with no background or white box around it-can be used in the artwork (see Figure 8). Upon approval of the artwork, this masked image can then be exported as an .eps file to be used as a print file.

FIGURE 8


If a raster image needs to be contour cut to shape for your design, create the contour outline of the image in Photoshop, import both the raster image and the bitmap outline into Flexi, vectorize the outline, position it over the image and mask.

The vector outline that you used to mask the image could also be used to create contour cuts. You would either paste another copy of the outline or unmask the masked photo to get another copy of the outline. You can leave the image masked, so you don’t waste ink by printing areas you don’t need, or you can unmask it. Either way click on the outline and go to Effects > Contour Cut to create your cut lines (see Figure 9). I always send the contour cut to the back (Arrange > Order > To Back) so that the cut lines are not visible on the print.

FIGURE 9

Use Countour Cut to created your cut lines.

Seamless Setup
If we’re designing a wrap in FlexiSign Pro and we want to use the natural bodylines of the vehicle to create our panels (to avoid seams), we’ll use the Mask tool to manually create the print panels (see Figure 10). It’s easier to create the panels in Flexi than in the RIP software.

FIGURE 10

You can use Flexi’s Mask tool to manually create the print panels.

 

We use the rulers to define the areas on the vehicle that have a natural break. Because you’ll be overlapping the artwork from one panel to another you have to copy and paste the artwork multiple times.

The rulers will help determine the areas to overlap because you’ll have to remove any of the photos of the vehicle, leaving just the artwork behind. The artwork should extend beyond the vehicle giving you some overlap.

Group the artwork for one side and copy it to the clipboard. Draw boxes around each area that you want to have a panel, complete with overlap from one panel to the next. Click on the first box and then the photo and go to Effects > Mask. This will leave you with the first panel. Move that panel up out of the way.

Paste back in the artwork again and move on. Draw another box around what will become the second panel making sure you overlap onto the first panel. Continue pasting and masking until you’ve defined all of the panels.

Each panel or grouping of panels can then be exported as an .eps file. These masked panels can be pulled right into your RIP software and sent to print.

This photo shows all of the masked pieces that we used to do a full seamless wrap on a Dodge pickup. If you look at the pieces you can see it’s cropped to the fender, cab, extended cab area and bed. The hood, tailgate and long strips used for wrapping onto the roof are all masked separately. The logos and text were printed and contour cut separately as well.

* From the 2015 issue of WRAPS magazine.

Charity Jackson

Charity Jackson is owner of Visual Horizons Custom signs, a full-service commercial sign company based in Modesto, Calif.  She has been in business since 1995 and specializes in vehicle wraps, design and project management and workflow. You can visit her website at www.vhsigns.com.

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