Masking in Fireworks

Introduction to Masks

Masks are one of the most useful tools in Fireworks. They make it easy to cut out or hide away parts of your work, without having to destroy the original image. This saves you on those Undo commands and means that it's easier to tweak at a later date, when your boss inevitably asks for an alteration...

This tutorial is a beginners introduction to the use of Masks in Macromedia Fireworks MX (and later). It assumes no prior knowledge of Masks (though maybe a little familiarity with Fireworks) and take you through from first principles.

Throughout this tutorial we'll be using the photo of the Meerkat to demonstrate a few of the ways you can use Masking techniques:

I've included him here un-altered, so that you can follow along with the examples more easily.

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What a Mask Does

Let's start with the basics. A mask is a technological way of doing what designers have done for years, hide parts of an image by putting something in front of it. Where pre-digital designers might have cut a hole in a piece of card and put it in front of a photo, we use a virtual piece of card that we can change at will. It's a much more flexible way of doing things and doesn't involve precise cuts with sharp craft knives!

Here's an example of a mask, using the Meerkat image, doing something very simple: highlighting his head with a star and hiding the rest of the image.

the first half of the screenshot shows the image before we apply the mask, a white star covers our furry friend. When we apply the star as a mask, the star acts as a window through which our pixels can be seen.

Matt Machell

Matt MachellA man of many talents, Matt has been a web designer, technical editor, and jewellery picker. He is currently on contract for the Birmingham City University, producing pages for research centres.

He has tech-edited a dozen books on web design and development for glasshaus, Apress and Sitepoint.

He likes music with loud guitars and games with obscure rules.

His website can be found at:

He lives in Birmingham with his girlfriend, Frances, and a horde of spider plants.

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