Fluid Mask from Vertus is a Photoshop plug-in that promises to take the effort out of one of the most time-consuming aspects of design work: cutting out images. Separating images from backgrounds is usually something that you would probably want to avoid. It takes a lot of time and effort, and there are some images, such as trees, that you would not even attempt.
Vertus, however, promises to change all that, thanks to Fluid Mask. With a hefty price tag of £299 (just for the plug-in; it requires a full copy of Photoshop) it is aimed squarely at the professional user. It installs as a plug-in, so there is no need to switch between applications. Instead, you open the image in Photoshop as usual and then edit it using Fluid Works. Once you’ve finished, it saves the changes and then loads the edited image in Photoshop, ready for you to carry on.
It’s very straightforward to use, with a minimum of sliders and checkboxes. To help you on your way, there are some excellent tutorials available online for download. Vertus claims that the software works in a similar way to the eye and optic nerve to find the edges of shapes, and in practice it often did a good job with one click when images were on plain backgrounds. The quickest option is to use the brushes, which will try to match colours to create a mask. You have the option of either matching the colours just around the brush, or from the entire image. The latter option can be a bit quicker, but only works if the background is a distinct colour from the foreground. However, matching just around the brush works quickly, with masking happening with very little lag, making it easy to draw around objects smoothly. It is also very easy to check your progress in one area, as you can preview the cut-out without rendering the whole image. If you need more control than the brush alone can provide, you can use the ‘Region Editor’ tool. By drawing a marquee around an area, you are provided with a window displaying the colours in the selection. You can then select multiple colours to keep or to delete. Selected colours show up on the image in bright yellow, allowing you to make sure that you select only the areas you wish to delete.
While these tools make any cut-out a lot easier, one of the biggest benefits is that it allows you attempt cut-outs that previously would not have been considered. By combining different techniques it is possible to cut out hair or foliage, and even fur can be separated with a minimum of fuss in comparison to other methods. Once a cut-out has been made, Fluid Mask automatically anti-aliases the edge. This may not sound like much, but it is a nice touch that helps to speed things along.
While its price may seem prohibitive to home users, any professional will understand the advantages that this software offers. With it you can save time on ordinary jobs, and try extraordinary ones.