SmartMask Updated for Creating Masks in Adobe Photoshop

Making selections is such an integral part of using Photoshop that countless tutorials have been created, both in print and online, leading readers through step by step procedures for tricky situations such as creating selections for hair or foliage. There are even firms to which you can outsource your selection/masking needs. But for many the solution is to turn to one of several commercial plugins that can dramatically speed the process, such as Topaz Labs' ReMask or Vertus' Fluid Mask.

AKVIS SmartMask, now in its ninth iteration, is another such product and provides a hands-on way to begin the selection process: in Auto mode users employ a blue pencil to draw inside the area that needs to be selected and a red pencil to define the areas that should be cut out. A Quick Selection tool makes it possible to select mask regions with just a few clicks, with a Manual mode providing Magic brush and Background Eraser tools for refining selections. A Refine Edges feature is said to allow users to quickly adjust the edges of selections and cutout objects.

New in version 9 is a Chroma Key feature that lets users remove a monochrome background and works in Uniform, Non-Uniform and Gradient modes. Also new is a Custom Background mode that allows users to place a background image behind the cut-out object, a feature that should have been added a long time ago. AKVIS claims the Refine Edge mode has been enhanced and now preserves more fine details. The Quick Selection tool has been given a boost and is said to make selections more precise. Finally, four Eraser tool modes for removing specific line types are now available: all lines, only red lines, only green lines, only blue lines.

SmartMask 9 is available for purchase on the AKVIS site in configurations ranging from $69 to $120, for both Mac and Windows plugin and standalone versions. A trial is also available for download.