This is the 3rd and what should ( but won’t ) be the final Round of the Fluid Mask vs. Mask Pro vs. Primatte transparency extraction masking PhotoShop plugin review.
The photography, testing methods, results and opinions are entirely my own. Each plugin contains tweaking tools which were not employed in order to reduce the time and level of expertise needed to produce a test mask. Each plugin is offered in demo mode, and links are provided below so that you may download and perform your own comparison tests. Tutorials are available for each plugin and I advise that you watch at least one hair masking tutorial for each plugin for comparison purposes.
Fluid Mask won Round 1.
Fluid Mask also won Round 2 in which Primatte was a non-participant owing to the nature of the photograph.
Round 3 will again test the transparency masks created by all three plugins. The masks will then be set against a black background. Black, it is anticipated, will be very unforgiving relative to the visibility sensitivity of edge transition ( feathering ) blending residue.
In order to bring Primatte back into the game, we’ll return to the test photograph used in Round 1. (Primatte is designed to function with green or blue backgrounds.)
Here are the 3 test results:
There is obvious blending residue in all 3 test photographs. Close examination reveals that the Primatte test shows slightly more green noise in addition to the blending residue. Mask Pro shows a slghtly reduced brightness in the blending residual (this is good). The Fluid Mask example shows slightly more fine detail.
Clearly, you can produce a nearly equivalent mask with all 3 plugins.
In deciding which of the 3 products to purchase, I would eliminate Digital Anarchy’s Primatte from consideration as a result of its limited applicability and because both Fluid Mask and Mask Pro can handle green and blue backgrounds.
As for the differences between Fluid Mask and Mask Pro, I found that there is a greater learning curve with Mask Pro and slightly less sensitivity to fine detail. In addition, I much prefer Fluid Mask’s automatic image analyser to Mask Pro’s manual keep-drop selection system. In addition, Fluid Mask’s edge detection method is both simpler and seems to be more exact. And faster than Mask Pro’s. Watch the Mask Pro tutorial and you’ll observe that defining edges can be a bit tedious, especially compared to the Fluid Mask system of painting in blue to tell the program where to look for difficult edges.
With all 3 plugins, post production tweaking would be required in order to obtain better results than were produced by the mask alone.
Your choice for the new background will ultimately determine the quality of the final image. It will also determine how much post production tweaking in PhotoShop you will have to do in order to get your final image up to the 100% acceptable range.
Here is a “98% Final” of the image used in Round 2. I’ve left it at 98% finished because there is a bit of blending residue visible in the hair, mostly on the left side of the subject. (It is barely perciptible, but I aim for 0 tolerance ). This can easily be removed in PhotoShop either by cloning, erasing or burning. I use all 3 tools set to very low opacity, usually about 12. Maybe a little darkening of the subject, also.
The following image was produced with Vertus’ Fluid Mask plugin. The original is shown in Round 2.
Here are the links for each of the plugins:
For Vertus’ Fluid Mask: www.vertustech.com/fm_tutorials.htm
For onOne’s Mask Pro: www.ononesoftware.com/tutorials_mp.html
For Digital Anarchy’s Primatte: www.digitalanarchy.com/section/section_psd.html
Here is an additional portrait shot on the same ivory canvas background as the test photos used in Round 2 and for the John Creighton portrait above, and then transparency masked with the Fluid Mask plugin.
Bottom line: Vertus’ Fluid Mask wins Round 3.
In these 3 tests in which speed and ease of use were considered important factors, Fluid Mask proved easier to use, produced its masks faster ( averaging less than two minutes per mask ), did less damage to the image detail and generated finer detail in the hair. However, both Primatte and Mask Pro contain tools with which to tweak the mask. Of course, that means more time is required, and more experience with the plugins.
Look for Round 4 in which we’ll take the time to produce a quality mask and consider a reasonable degree of expertise as acceptable. ( My knowledge of the ideosyncracies of the plugins and prior experience with them is what I consider “reasonable” .)
email me: firstname.lastname@example.org