Know a District picture
October 7, 2014 9:01 PM   Subscribe

At the opening of the "Colbert Report" Know a District segments, he uses a a silhouette type of profile of the Congressperson about to be introduced. The person is blanked (blacked out) but the background is still featured. The background is usually of that used for their official office photo. So. How does one create a picture like this?
posted by Heatwole to Technology (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's a quick mask in an image editing program.
posted by klangklangston at 9:10 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's pretty trivial to mask an image like this in Photoshop or comparable tools. If I were looking to do it quick and dirty, I'd probably use either the polygonal lasso tool (which lets you create an arbitrarily-shaped selection by clicking a series of points) or the magic lasso tool (similar, but tries to follow high-contrast edges in between clicks). Then I'd create a new layer and fill the selection with my color of choice.

You can do this a number of ways, though — create a solid fill and then a layer mask and paint over the person, or use bezier curves to create a shape.

If you're looking to do it for free/cheap, has similar but simplified versions of a lot of the tools I just described.
posted by Alterscape at 9:12 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, at its most basic it's a thing over another thing. Any program that can open an image and then change colors of a specific area can do it. If you want to do it, there may be better or worse ways. Why do you ask? (This one was quick enough to answer that you deserve a freebie.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:54 PM on October 7, 2014

~380,000 results for creating a silhouette in photoshop.

Historically, the traditional silhouette on a white background was very popular in America in the first half of the 19th Century, so up until about 1850 or so. They were made either with paper cutouts or filling in a drawn outline with black paint. It was a typical school art activity in elementary school in the 1990s (when I was in gradeschool) to have kids sit still and have their profiles' shadows projected onto a piece of paper that someone else would trace the outline of, and then filled-in silhouettes would be made from these. It's a classic, nostalgically "Americana" motif, and very clever of the Report design team to reference.

If you wanted to make this with physical media instead of digitally, there are lots of ways to go. You could paint directly over a printed out photo. Or you could cut the profile out of one and use it as a template to cut out a black paper shape and layer that on top of an untouched photo. Or you could carefully cut out the profile and layer that on top of a large piece of black paper so it shows through where you've cut.

Digitally, once you've made your mask of the silhouette, you can use it to select just the profile and remove the background cleanly. Then you can drop in any background you like! Congressperson at the beach? Congressperson on Mars!
posted by Mizu at 2:39 AM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Heatwole: How does one create a picture like this?
In addition to all the ideas above, in grade school we did it with blunt-ended scissors and construction paper.

But black magic marker will work as well.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:09 AM on October 8, 2014

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