As you may have heard, It’s Mastering Masks Month here at Topaz. Our goal is to help you learn more about the uses and benefits of integrating masks into your workflow, and to help you maximize your productivity with Topaz ReMask. Despite the challenges faced with most masks, having the right tools and a little masking education can help you easily tackle even the most difficult images.

Masks: The What and Why?
Now, part of being able to master the masking process is understanding masks and what they are used for. The easiest way to describe a mask (also referred to as cutouts / extractions) is that it’s essentially the isolation of an element (or area around an element) that you would like to enhance or protect.

Like many popular (and often very necessary) post processing techniques, masks can be challenging. Even with the various tools available today, the process can still be tedious and definitely requires patience. Like many others, you may have found your initial masking attempt difficult and frustrating. So why do it? (so why bother?) Well, when it comes to post processing, masks can actually be quite a powerful tool – giving you flexibility in your creative and corrective enhancements.

Masks allow you to:

  • Replace unwanted backgrounds
  • Make selective adjustments (color, levels, detail, sharpness, adding blur…etc.)
  • Create collages and compositions (photo merging)
  • Design multi-layer graphics and layouts

A great mask will help you do these things easier and faster. So now that you have a little background, let’s explore the masking process and how ReMask can help.

Masking with Topaz ReMask
The problem with the masking process and the various masking tools that exist, is that they are hard to learn, heard to use and don’t always produce the results you need. Topaz ReMask, on the other hand, is designed to make masking easy. Even complex images like hair, veils and trees are simplified and more efficient with ReMask.

How does it work?
One important thing to understand about Topaz ReMask is the purpose and importance of the user-created tri-map. The tri-map is important because essentially it a blueprint that ReMask mask will follow when creating your mask.

The purpose of the tri-map is to sample the colors in your image. This means that wherever you paint green, Topaz ReMask will look at that section and determine that those colors are meant to be kept. Wherever you paint red, ReMask looks at it and determines that those colors are meant to be removed. Wherever you paint blue, will be computed. When computing, ReMask will take the samples gathered in the green and and areas to figure out what the blue areas should be.

Once the tri-map has been created, clicking the Compute button in ReMask will analyze and process that tri-map to create the actual mask.

Now, just like any other method, it is highly likely that the generated mask is not perfect at first. That’s why ReMask includes the Magic brush and the refining toolset, which make it easy to refine the generated mask.

Magic Brush
The Magic brush tool is integrated into your regular brush tools. Check the box next to Magic Brush text to enable it. Once the Magic Brush is activated you can use it to clean up your mask. The Magic Brush tool is pretty intuitive so just a click or a small stroke will actually clean up similar problem areas that are in close proximity to where you click. You will want to repeat this process as necessary throughout your image until you are satisfied with the results.

  • When you have a Red brush selected you can click in areas of your image that has leftover color or detail that you want to remove.
  • When the green brush is selected, you can click in areas of your image that have been removed or are semi-transparent in order to bring back in that color/detail.
  • If you select the blue brush and brush over an area it will clean it up for you.

Refining Toolset
The refining toolset allows you to make adjustments to your mask and to your foreground. Your settings here will differ from image to image.

When using the Mask Hardness and Mask Strength sliders it is best to be viewing your image in the Mask preview. Also, most of the time a low to mid value works best for these sliders.

  • Mask Hardness
    Determines how hard your mask is applied to subject edges in your image. The higher the parameter the harder your edges will be. The lower the parameter, the softer (more feathered) your edges will be.
  • Mask Strength
    Determines the brightness of the mask. Increasing this parameter will give you more detail by making the weaker mask details stronger.
  • Recovery (Foreground Color)
    Revives the color of your foreground – in weaker / more transparent areas. Typically you will find that setting this slider to a high value or at max will produce the best results.
    • Desaturation (Foreground Color)
      Desaturates the edges of your mask (in weaker / more transparent areas) to help with color contamination and blending.

    Other Brushes…which to use and when?

    • Single Color Selection Brushes
      These brushes allow you to brush out the foreground or background area in your image, based on the color selected and the setting of the Color Range slider. Focus in on an area and use this brush to select a specific color within that are to clean up.
    • Color Range
      The Color Range slider allows you to determine the spectrum of shades affected within the image based on the main color selection.
    • Dual Color Selection Brushes (for transparency)
      This brush allows you to define two colors (keep and remove) to target at once. The Dual Color brush is key for images where transparency is a factor because it will allow users to select a foreground color, such as the white of a wedding veil, and a background color to be removed from behind the veil.

      (The gray & white checkerboard in the background represents transparency – as seen in Photoshop)

      This brush can save time, because it allows you to remove unwanted colors and revive desired colors at once. Selecting this brush will automatically activate the color selector so that can select your colors. The Green (keep) color selector comes up first, just click on a color within the image that you want to keep, then it will switch to the red (remove) color selector, just click on a color within your image that you want to remove. After both color selections are made the tool will automatically change to a brush. Set your brush size and then brush over any area of your image that contains the colors you selected.

    See the step-by-step veil masking tutorial here.

    More tutorials available on the ReMask tutorials page.

    Sign up for Free masking webinars.

    Up Next: ReMask Workflow tips explored. So stay tuned! If you found this post helpful or if there is something that you want me to elaborate more on something then just let me know by dropping me a line below.

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