REVIEW: Vertus Fluid Mask 3 and Imagenomic’s Noiseware, Portraiture and RealGrain

Vertus and Imagenomic paired up last month to deliver four of its popular Photoshop plug-ins to the public at a reduced price:

According to the August press release, all four are available as a set for $383.16 (regularly $478.95) or you can buy Fluid Mask 3 and one of the Imagenomic plug-ins for $247.16 (Noiseware), $327.16 (Portraiture) or $271.16 (RealGrain). I am not a user of plug-ins—I don’t know why, I guess I’ve just been able to get my work done without them—but I wanted to report on the quality of these four plug-ins so I got my hands on them for some testing.

Fluid Mask 3: Superior to Extract?

Out of the four plug-ins, Fluid Mask 3 is the one that basically duplicates a feature already found in Photoshop: the Extract filter. The Extract filter has a reputation for being very difficult to achieve good results with it, but masking detailed subjects is a hard task and it’s not really the filter’s fault. There are some things about it that could be improved but, if you take your time and use it carefully, you can achieve good results with it every time. I use Extract regularly for my high-end layout work.

I find Fluid Mask to be just as good as Extract—it’s just different. For those who aren’t familiar with Extract, here’s how it basically works:

  1. Define the subject’s edges
  2. Define the subject area
  3. Extract and refine

Fluid Mask does things differently right away: once you open an image, the plug-in analyzes and segments the image into regions. From there you:

  1. Define the subject area
  2. Define the background area
  3. Preview and refine

Fluid Mask does have a Blend Brush that defines edges like the Extract filter’s Highlighter tool, but depending on the image it may not be necessary thanks to Fluid Mask’s use of regions. I was able to get good results quickly, which I can never do with Extract since I have to define the edges. Fluid Mask basically does this for me. Fluid Mask is also very good at extracting small, well-defined items like leaves or a person’s hair. It has a harder time with soft edges such as out-of-focus photo elements or hair that fades in with the background, but no more so than Extract.

Fluid Mask

Fluid Mask can achieve good extractions with a minimum of fuss. Click the image for a larger view.

Fluid Mask is highly versatile and provides several tools—there are six brushes alone for creating “keep” masks or “delete” masks. The learning curve can be steep but it’s not too complicated. If you don’t use Extract at all or only rarely, you could get by without Fluid Mask. If you are a professional extraction specialist or have a client who wants images cut out all the time (such as ad designers for car dealers) then Fluid Mask is certainly worth looking at and will probably help streamline your workflow.

Rating: 9/10

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