When painting on a layer mask, if you use a dynamic brush created in the brush 
editor, you can set up in your preferences to allow  you to resize and change 
the brush hardness "on the fly" while you are painting.  I have mine set up so 
that pressing shift while scrolling the mousewheel increases/decreases the 
brush size, and ctrl with mousewheel increases/decreases hardness.  This way 
you can paint hard edges on parts of the mask that need hard edges, and soft 
edges where you need those.  You can "render" against the intended background 
and see what it will look like as you go.

Further, for straight edges, it is a simple matter to use the shift key to let 
you draw nice straight lines when you are painting on the mask.

There is a tutorial on Gimptalk about doing renders with layer masks...tho some 
of the images got removed when GT shut down imageox, their image server.

--- On Tue, 5/24/11, peter kostov <g...@light-bg.com> wrote:

> From: peter kostov <g...@light-bg.com>
> Subject: Re: [Gimp-user] How to remove background of shadowed and/or 
> low-resolution and/or more complex images
> To: gimp-user@lists.XCF.Berkeley.EDU
> Date: Tuesday, May 24, 2011, 4:23 PM
> On 05/24/2011 11:06 PM, Stefan Maerz
> wrote:
> >
> >> So, my question is how could I achieve the desired
> result for this and
> >> such images?
> >> How would do you work out similar or even more
> advanced cases?
> >>
> >
> > Hi Sophoklis,
> >
> > There are a few good methods to use.
> >
> > For cutting out a logo, sometimes using
> Colors>Color to Alpha with the
> > background color selected does the job well.
> >
> > For this I would recommend using the Eraser tool, and
> tracing the
> > outline of the server. Square objects are pretty
> simple to do - use the
> > shift button to drag your Eraser tool from point A to
> point B.
> >
> > -Stefan Maerz
> Another option is painting on a layer mask - it is like the
> eraser tool, 
> but much more convenient to rework and correct. But it is
> almost 
> impossible to achieve crisp edges this way. For hard and
> crisp edges it 
> may be better to use the pen tool and trace the contour of
> the object 
> with it creating a path, that you can edit and later turn
> into selection.
> Have in mind that "color to alpha" removes the selected
> color from the 
> whole image (except if you already have a selection).
> Greetings,
> Peter
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