After being impressed with Photoframe 3.1 from OnOne software, I'm keen to take a look at another offering. This is designed to make masking images easier for merging onto another image.
It should be a necessary requirement these days that any software program is easy to install and Mask Pro is no different.
After inserting the CD, I was asked if I wanted to register and launch the read me file. I registered online which is a simple affair and got started. Launching the program will pop up a basic step by step tutorial and this backed up by several more in depth tutorials on the OnOne website as well as separate mini tutorials on the hints window in the program.
If you already have Photoshop open when you install Mask Pro, you must close it down first and reopen for the plug in to show up in your filters.
I had already prepared the shots I want to blend. The shot of the model has curly hair to test the Masking ability of the program.
When first trying to export the image to Mask Pro, the background image must be converted to a layer or a duplicate made and this can be done by simply right clicking the layer in the Layers Pallet and choosing duplicate.
When the application launches, Photoshop will disappear and the image will be left with the Mask Pro windows. As a default, you will have the Tools box, Keep and Drop boxes, a Tool options box and a tips and shortcuts for if this is your first time using it.
The tools are relatively simple to understand. The main tools used in everyday masking will be the Pipette dropper icons, which are for selecting which colours you'd like to either keep or drop and you have to use the Red or Green pipette dependant on their importance. These colours will appear in the Keep and Drop boxes and are used for when masking semi-transparent items such as hair or leaves.
The image I want to cut out. Solid edges and wispy hair should test the features available.
This is the background image that I'm going to paste my cut out image over.
The Magic pen tool is the icon shaped like a fountain pen nib and has stars around it. This works like a magnetic lasso in Photoshop and finds the edge of your subject, sticks to it and once the area has been masked, a Gavel will appear in the area to remove and this will remove the Drop colours from that area. The good thing about the Magic pen is that it can be released and returned to without automatically joining with itself and if you go over a place you want to keep, just retrace your steps and the line will backtrack.
The Magic Pen does seem to have problems with corners. When I used the program, it skipped corners, deciding that the defining edge of the image was more appealing.
The Magic Brush is used for deleting the area of the image you no longer require.
Interestingly, when the different tools are chosen, the Tool options box will change its parameters and the Magic Brush will have two sliders and a tick box for Colour decontamination.
The sliders have two markers on each and the top slider adjusts the hardness of the brush edge and the size of the brush.
The bottom sliders two markers adjust the Transition and Threshold. Transition decides how hard the change between colours will be, making the image blend more, the softer it is. Threshold is for adjusting how many of the colours are kept from the Drop box.
Finally, the tick box at the bottom is something that OnOne are very proud of. It's called Colour decontamination and as you erase over things like hair, it examines the area you are painting and removes any colour in the Drop box that may be reflected on the hair and replaces it with proper colour.
Loading the image in brings you to a separate workstation with tool boxes scattered around the page.
Zooming in to an area allows for steadier masking. The icons at the bottom of the page allow for previews.
I reviewed Vertus Fluid Mask in July last year and I found that with wispy hair it sometimes struggled to cope and added bits that it thought should be there and cut bits it thought shouldn't.
If you look closely on the tutorial of Mask Pro with the child blowing bubbles, the bubbles aren't correct and this is ignored. This simply adds to my thoughts that masking programs are still not perfect.
My problems with the hair were because I singled out the wrong colours to Keep and Drop, but a weird halo, like a tide mark around the hair, was present all over the image. Simple eraser work is necessary in this case.
To smooth my sharp masked edges, I've found that running the Smudge tool over the edges after Merging works nicely at smoothing them down. Sometimes hair looks a bit like a spider web and the smudge tool can fix this too.
Taking hours poring over the computer will, undoubtedly, produce sterling results just using Mask Pro. For the most of us, who just don't have the time, using a mixture of the two programs may work out better for you.
To ensure that the image blends completely, I would have to blur the image to create an optical illusion of sorts and I don't want to mess with it that much.
Once loaded into Photoshop, any areas you're dissatisfied with will enable you to make changes.
This detail shows a close up of the hair. A good job has been done, but I like to use the Smudge tool to blend it a little.
Mask Pro is a capable software program of delivering good results for what you wish to achieve. My only problem is that despite working on an image for ages, it still looks like one picture pasted over another and this is due to the different lighting conditions on the different days and locations that they have been taken.
Out of the masking programs we've reviewed here, I think this one is the most capable at masking effectively and efficiently. The capability of the Pippette tool to include or exclude colours is very useful and the Colour decontamination system is an excellent idea.
My final image. I changed the cast of the models image to a more ambient colour to blend with the outdoors background.
Works as a plug in
Loads of tutorials
Colour decontamination feature
Selective colours to exclude or include
Some features can't be used without a tutorial
Getting the wrong colours can mess up your mask
Still looks like two pictures copied over
OnOne Mask Pro 4.1 costs around £105 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.