Fluid Mask 3 Review

Among the most difficult tasks in Adobe Photoshop is separating complex objects from their backgrounds. It can be time-consuming and frustrating to isolate items such as hair, tree branches, or animal fur using Photoshop’s built-in selection and masking features. Fluid Mask 3.0.6, a Photoshop plug-in, can save you time and effort and help you produce natural-looking cut-outs.

Fluid Mask does an excellent job of isolating and cutting out objects that have high contrast or sharp edges from an image background. But the product really shines in difficult situations where foregrounds and backgrounds are similar, or where objects have soft, unfocused edges. Fluid Mask analyses an image and creates outlines at the edges of areas with distinct colour and texture, breaking the image into regions that you can choose to keep or delete. It also blends image edges to avoid artificial-looking, hard-edged cut-outs.

Fluid Mask 3 includes a number of enhancements over earlier versions. The interface now fills the screen and its tool palette, tool options bar, and panels will look familiar to Photoshop users. The new Colour Sampler tool, which selects colours directly from the image, is useful for building masks based on colour. The Patch features come in handy for identifying and blending difficult edges in localised problem areas. So, if you’re having trouble outlining an edge in a particular area, you can use the Patch features to analyse it separately, and to find and blend that portion of the edge.

A Tips window, integrated into the product’s Help files, offers contextual information on whatever feature you’re using at the moment. That’s a lot more helpful than opening a general menu and searching through an entire help index. The Fluid Mask manual, which is available both online and from the program’s interface, is a well-written learning and reference tool.

All that help will come in handy, because there is a steep learning curve for applying the product to complicated images. Fluid Mask offers good results, but it is not a one-button tool. Working out the best approach and feature set to use is important.

Professionals, as well as prosumers who familiarise themselves with the product’s features, will find that Fluid Mask can increase their production efficiency and the quality of their cut-outs.

Fluid Mask can be used as a standalone application, or installed as a plug-in to Photoshop CS2 or CS3; within Photoshop, the tool is launched from the Filters menu.

OUR VERDICT

Fluid Mask 3.0.2 is a very effective tool for separating objects from their backgrounds. It offers a variety of useful features for tackling almost any difficult image, from wispy hair to complex foliage. Online video tutorials and live training sessions help ease the learning curve.

A 14-day trial is available from the Vertus Tech website, at http://www.vertustech.com/fm_freetrial.htm.

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