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Aptly Named: Snap for Photoshop

Selecting objects with Digital Film Tools Snap plug-in is quick and easy, as long as the image is contrasty enough By Charlie White

Snap plug-in for Photoshop by Digital Film Tools reviewWhen working in Adobe Photoshop, a large percentage of the effort is spent on creating selections. If there were a way to automate the selection of objects, it would make Photoshop chores go a whole lot quicker and easier. Snap ($50) is a plug-in for Mac or PC by Digital Film Tools that promises to simplify this selection process when creating graphics with Adobe Photoshop. We loaded a few graphics into Photoshop to see just how well this interactive image cutout tool can fulfill that promise.

To test the accuracy and effectiveness of this software, first I got a picture that had a fairly easy graphic to cut out, a picture of mostly-black fireplace with a mostly-white background.

After you've installed Snap into your plug-ins directory in Photoshop, when you want to use it, it's a simple matter of clicking on the Select menu and then clicking on Digital Film Tools, and then selecting Snap.

The user interface for Snap opens, and the first thing the software asks you to do is to select the foreground. You draw a lines on the object that you would like to cut out using the left mouse button. Those lines are green by default, but you can change the color of the lines if you wish.

The next step is to draw lines on the background using the right mouse, and these lines are red by default. As soon as you draw the first background line, Snap has chosen a selection for you.

There’s a slider that lets you choose between accuracy and speed, and I found the software to do its calculations rather quickly – just  few seconds were all that were needed on graphics, about 1200 pixels wide, that I’m usually using for my web development work. On a reasonably fast machine, you can slide the accuracy control all the way over to the most accurate setting, and still not have to wait for much rendering.  

Wouldn’t it be just as easy to use the tools already in Photoshop? For comparison, I used Photoshop’s magic wand selection tool and selected the white background. After a few tweaks of its tolerance setting, it was able to select the background. However, when I wanted to select the inside of the fireplace, including its silver frame and the flames inside, that was not as easy, and took some effort.

Next, I decided to try the same task using Snap. After quickly marking the fireplace as the foreground, and then right-click-dragging to mark the background with red markings, there was suddenly a perfect selection of the fireplace. I could only conclude that when working with high-contrast objects, Snap is, indeed, a snap to use.

But what if I challenge this Photoshop plug-in with a graphic that was not quite so obvious, one where the selection area was not in such stark contrast with its background?

Here's where Snap had a bit of trouble, but let's be realistic: this is not a miracle worker, it's a Photoshop plug-in. However, using the left and right mouse buttons, as I roughly drew over the shape of the faucet in the graphic above, Snap worked along with me, and started to understand what I was selecting as the foreground and background.

Snap will help you out even more, too, because if its selection process isn’t perfect, you’re able to refine its selection using simple tools. The software creates clipping paths around the objects, and although those paths don’t have Bezier curve handles, the program does conveniently create control points that are placed right where you’ll need them.

I missed using the normal keyboard shortcuts for Photoshop when working within this plug-in. For example, if you want to undo an action by hitting Control-Z, it doesn’t function within Snap’s interface. However, you’re still able to undo anything within the interface by clicking Undo with your mouse. On the other hand, I did like the way you can use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out of the image, and then wherever you’re cursor is in the picture is the area where into which it zooms. Nice.

Once you’re done with your selection process within Snap, you click the Done button and then you’re back into Photoshop, complete with your selection intact. There is one slight inconvenience, though: if you want to go back and further tweak your selection in Snap, you’ll have to start the selection process all over again—it doesn’t save your work within the plug-in itself or transfer the selection you already have on the image itself back into Snap.

Overall, if you have a fairly high-contrast image, Snap will save you plenty of time and effort over using the conventional magic wand tool within Photoshop. However, if you have an image where the edges are not of high contrast, Snap is not going to be able to work miracles. But it does offer easy-to-use selection tools, and it’s probably worth your $50 if you’re one who needs to do a lot of selections day after day. Recommended. Eight out of 10 stars.

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Related Keywords:Adobe Photoshop, selections, automate, selection of objects, quicker, Snap, Digital Film Tools, interactive image cutout tool, plug-in, plugin

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