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|Product:||Vertus Fluid Mask Version 3|
Vertus Fluid Mask Version 3 - Vertus release the third version of Fluid Mask, a fast way of masking your images for merging together. Matt Grayson takes some pictures to see if Fluid Mask 3 can keep them out of the Recycle bin.
All too often, it is easy to create a mask to copy an image over to paste two together and bits are missing or too much comes over and an hour of erasing is on the cards. Vertus have always contested that it is not necessary and with version 3, it's faster than ever.
Fluid mask is on its third instalment and the upgraded version is now faster at working, blends edges better and has a Save settings feature for if you want to mask multiple images in a studio shoot for instance.
If you have Photoshop, you can use Fluid Mask 3 as a plug in and version 3 is compatible with CS2 and CS3, but I decided to use it as a standalone program which is also possible. Loading the program is easy enough and once open, it is well laid out and easy to understand. Should you get confused by anything, the help screen on the website is very informative, easy to use and has tutorials for anything you may want to do.
First things first
If you are new to a program like this, there are three pages to the Image titled Source which is the original image, Workspace which is where you will work cutting the image out and Cut-out which will show the final image.
On the workspace to the left are several tools which are dedicated to helping you create your masterpiece. The top six are split into three different brushes of green and three red. The green brushes are called the Keep brushes which will retain any parts of the image covered with that brush and the red ones are the Delete brushes which don't really need explaining. The three types of brush are Exact, Local and Global. Exact will either Keep or Delete the precise pixels you click on whereas Local will Keep or Delete the masked area that has been clicked on and Global will scan the image for pixels of the same colour and Keep or Delete those. Other brushes in your arsenal are an Eraser, a Blend brush which is a great tool for working with hair or fur, Patch tool to create an area over a particular part of the image to work in and gives a preview of what the cut out will look like, Forced edge tool which can be used to change or add a mask line by clicking areas where you want the line to go and double clicking to finish, Colour sampler which is generally used with images that have lattice work like a fence for instance and you can choose the colours to be blocked out without having to Delete the space manually, Preview, Clean tool for filling in small holes in the masked image, Select tool which selects patches and lines drawn using the forced edge tool, Hand tool to pan around the image when zoomed in and Zoom. You can also change the background colour in case the colour of the subject is the same, perform the final Cut out, Change the Colour workspace or change the work window.
On the right are the Navigator which will show which portion of the image you are zoomed in on, for example. The Edge finding tool which allows you to adjust the value of what the mask finder will search for, an Edge blending tool for determining the size of the blend line between the Keep and Delete parts of the image and a tip box for help whilst you work which I think is a nice touch if this is your first time using the program.
Cropping the image
Loading the image into Fluid mask automatically enables the program to scan the image for potential masking areas so the image will look like a paint by numbers image already coloured in. First thing is to colour in the Delete areas as they are bigger and therefore easier to do. The brush defaults to a large size but this can be amended using the slider at the top of the screen and once that is done, the Keep areas can be filled in. If there are areas that are similar in contrast Fluid Mask can include them in the Keep area so a patch has to be created to cover those parts. Fine strands can be covered with the Blend brush which will highlight blue and clicking on the Preview will give an idea of how this will come out. The red area in Fluid Mask doesn't transfer and regardless of the colour the background is set to, it will be transparent when merging with another image. In the example below it only took five minutes to mark, patch and extract the horse.
Difficult images can have hair, thin strands or lattice work on fences. If you come across that sort of image and you want to merge two images together, Fluid Mask can help in that department by giving two tools to use called Colour workspace and blending. The blending tool scans over the part of the image you have covered and decides what part to keep and what to throw away by looking at the masked pixels that surround the area and making the calculation from there. The good thing is, you don't even have to be precise, so it's nothing like using the lasso in Photoshop to cut around an area.
An alternative tool to use in this scenario is the Colour workspace. This tool allows you to Delete areas by colour meaning you don't have to zoom into small difficult areas and start adding forced edge lines to mask off manually. The tool will give different options like arranging the colours by Hue, Lightness, Saturation, Red, Green or Blue. The paint tins to the left of the palette are the Add buttons to add Red for Delete, Green for Keep, Blue for Blend and Grey to remove any masking from the selected colours. The charts in the bottom corner are how you can view the colours either as a histogram or a 2D chart and the palette defaults to histogram. The eyes will hide certain masking areas depending on the colour you click on. The grey eye will hide any unmasked colours.
By singling out the particular colours, this ensures that the part of the image you want will stay unmasked. Clicking on the 2D display will allow masking individual colours. I had to use the forced edge as the gate I used was rusty and blended in with its surroundings, making masking difficult with the colour workspace. The colour workspace would also start to mask off the gate or foreground due to similar colours in the grass and hedge so it could only be used for non duplicated colours. To ensure as much of items like thin railings or hair strands are captured as possible, the blending edges can be set to thin.
My total time for opening, masking the image, and pasting into a background ready for manipulation was 10min. This time included some forced edge masking which can be time consuming. The only real time spent where you are waiting around is for the program to collate the masking info which still takes less than a minute in most cases.
Vertus fluid mask 3 Verdict
I downloaded the program and installed it in a few minutes and was masking in no time at all. The fact that the program does it for you is great. I found it easy to use and very intelligent and on the occasions that I did run into trouble the online help is more than adequate laying out tutorials and troubleshooting in easy steps so duplication of the tutorials are easy to do. My only gripe is that the tutorial for hair and lattice work shows very easy images where the Keep and Delete parts are very different in colour and contrast and it doesn't provide for a difficult image such as the one above. I had to do a lot of photoshop work to hide the masking that went wrong like the tuft of horse fur at the bottom of the mane came out badly, so I cut it all out and the gate faded out to white despite setting the blend edge to thin and widening the area to mask off. The parts that did work properly, worked well and still saved bags of time compared to traditional masking.
Fluid mask is perfect for users who like to manipulate images heavily and want to ease the amount of time it takes to do so. I would recommend it to those users. It's quick to use and can give effective results.
Easy to navigate.
Fast moving program.
Makes light work of tough jobs.
Blending not brilliantly effective.
Colour workstation only works on images with block colours.
EASE OF USE
Verus fluid mask 3 costs £159 and is available from Vertustech website.