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Vertus Fluid Mask

Masking plugin for Adobe Photoshop By Dave Nagel
Summary: Vertus Fluid Mask is a plugin for Adobe Photoshop that facilitates the masking process. It offers a number of innovative tools for getting complex masking jobs done quickly and with a high degree of precision. This is, simply, the most impressive image masking software I've used.
Publisher: Vertus (
Platform: Mac OS X (Windows version coming soon)
Price: $249
Users: Graphic design professionals
Recommendation: Strong Buy

Vertus Fluid Mask is a relatively recent addition to the plethora of masking tools on the market. But since I began using it last month, I haven't used any other masking software. What this Adobe Photoshop plugin can do for extracting an image in just a few clicks is nothing short of incredible, but it also has the depth to handle the most complex masking situations.

By way of an introductory look at this software, what I want to do is to give you a sampling of the very first thing I tried with Fluid Mask. In the movie below, you'll see an image that's 1,729 x 1,192 pixels. I've done nothing to this image in preparation, and I haven't altered any of Fluid Mask's default settings to accomplish this trick. I've simply selected Fluid Mask's "Delete Local" tool, then drawn a circle around the flower that I want to extract. The second tool I use is the "Keep Local" tool, which I use to define (very roughly) the interior of my object. Then I just smear around the Keep Local brush, and output my mask. Here's how it goes.

Yep, that's pretty swank. But it's only the beginning of what this incredible tool can do.

Fluid Mask operates as a plugin within Adobe Photoshop and is called up via the Filter menu. When you access the filter, you enter the Fluid Mask workspace, complete with its own toolset and palettes for making adjustments to the tools and to the image itself.

You've already seen two of Fluid Mask's tools in action: The Delete local and Keep Local brushes. These are used essentially to define colors that you want to keep or delete. When you use these tools to define colors, all contiguous areas that contain those colors are masked off.

For more complex masking situations, where it would be true torture if you had to go in and select every individual section of the mask manually, there are two similar tools: Keep Global and Delete Global. These work in much the same way as the Keep Local and Delete Local tools, but they're designed to mask off non-contiguous regions of an image that share similar attributes.

Below, for example, you see my base image, which is composed of several branches and leaves, plus a background of sky.

In several areas, the sky comes close to matching the colors of the leaves, where the leaves are reflecting light. Nevertheless, I'm able to create a mask using the Keep Global and Delete Global tools by roughly drawing on samples of colors that I want to keep and delete.

Then I extract the image, and here's the result (shown over a red background).

And here's a closeup of a section of the masked image. Not perfect, but not too bad either for just a few swipes of the Keep and Delete brushes.

And here's the image composited over a new background, showing how the masked image blends with a new image.

Although the Keep/Delete Local and Keep/Delete Global tools can, as we've seen, be used to generate your final mask output. But often these function merely as starter tools. They'll get you close to where you want to be on your final mask, and then you use the clean-up/finishing tools to get you the rest of the way there.

The first of these are the Keep Exact and Delete Exact tools. These work just like paint brushes, allowing you to specify exact sections of an image to keep or delete. For example, if your Delete Local brush spills over into a portion of the image you didn't want to mask off, you can bring back that particular section just by painting on the portion you want to keep.

There's also a Smooth tool, which smoothes the edges of a mask to eliminate little pixels that might be causing jaggies on the edges. And there's a Clean tool, which fills in pixels that might be floating around as orphans within a mask. And there's a Force Edge tool, which is used to define the boundary between the foreground and background that might not be detectable via any of the general masking tools. This is useful in situations where the foreground's color is exactly the same as the background, and there would be no way for an automated tool to detect an edge.

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