After reading some reviews about the latest Topaz release, the ReMask plug-in, i thought it was just another ‘similar’ plugin for making extractions. Because i was very happy with the quality of the Topaz Detail plug-in, i wanted to give it a try.
One of the reasons i was a bit sceptic on this release, was because of my bad experiences with the ‘extraction’ tool in photoshop. The poor results and complaints from users were probably the main reason for Adobe to place the extract tool only on the ‘goodies’ CD, so you have to install it separatly… And yes, there are many good other extraction plug-ins available on the market, so why give this another try?
So, after installing the Remask plug-in, i confronted it with this very hard to extract image:
The image has a lot of similar colors on the fore- and background: brown, gray… and a lot of midtones. So, this is a real challange for masking! I know that people are always looking for the ‘magic bullet’, or the one and only plug-in available that does everything in just one step. If you believe the commercials, yes, this kind of software exists… If you have some experience, no, this doesn’t exist, believe it or not. Ok, maybe i’m too pessimistic… Extracting images with one-coloured backgrounds, images with high contrasts… they are pretty easy to extract or mask. Most software out there have good results. But, with images as above, you really have to play around with masks and blendings if you want a realistic mask at 100 % view.
So, the thing about the Topaz Remask plug-in that i really like, is that it creates a mask. So, you can use this mask for further blending the image! Cool.
I compared the result of the Topaz plug-in with the out of date Extract tool, and, yes, there is a big difference! I placed the extracted image on a black background, and zoomed in on 100 %. Here are some screenshots:
Original, crops 100 %
Extract tool, 100 %
As you can see, the Extract tool has a pretty good result on parts of the image that are ‘easy to mask’, but as expected, once the image has ‘difficult’ parts (fur, blurred parts…), the extract tool fails. It shows hard edges, bad transitions. So, nothing new for me. And, you have no layer mask at all!
Next, i tested the Topaz Remask plug-in.
Topaz Remask plug-in, crops 100 %:
I must admit i was surprised. The results a good, pretty good. I’m satisfied. I’m aware that this kind of image has to unleash the beast inside the extraction software. It’s also fast, but that’s not so important for me, the result matters. The mask is ready for you in the channel pallette:
Isn’t that great? So, now, it’s up to you to fine-tune your mask. Yes, masking is hard work! So, using the Topaz Remask plug-in not only speeds up your workflow, it delivers good quality masks for further fine-tuning your image.
Here are some crops of the Topaz mask. The plug-in gives you the possibility to refine your mask.
Topaz Remask plug-in at 300 %, no refinement
My opinion: the result isn’t better. I’m convinced that refining you image can help, as long as the content of the image is ‘pretty good to mask’. Once you’re dealing with fur and blurred parts, you have to refine it yourself…
For my next test, i used a very easy image to mask: a giraffe against a blue sky. For this extraction, i used the ‘Color Range’, one of my favorite tools in photoshop.
Color Range, crop 100%:
As you can see, the color range is very good for images like this, it is very powerful, soft transitions and very fast. Making this kind of mask can be done in about 20 seconds. And with the ‘Refine Edges’ command, you’re a big stap further for making professional masks.
What about the Topaz Remask plug-in? Well, here it is:
Topaz Remask, 100 % crop:
Hmm, not much different. The Topaz plug-in is pretty similar, you really have to look very good to see some differences. Some transitions are less soft than the color range, but it looks pretty natural, allthough i would keep on fine-tuning this masks… The Remask plug-in isn’t ‘ for this kind of images’ clearly better than the refine edges. In fact, it takes a more time to create. But, i have to say, the Topaz plug-in does a pretty good job. But, for images as below, the Color Range is a pain in the back, and therefore the Topaz plug-in comes in very handy:
Topaz 100 % crop, no refinement:
I know, still some hard transitions, even after the refinement:
Based on my first impression i’m satisfied. The plug-in does what i expect: it makes a good mask, easy to use, a very steep learning curve. No manual needed, once you read the basic instructions you’r on your way. The mask has now and then some hard transitions on some parts of the image with fur, but that’s normal, fur and blurred parts have always to be refined…
If time is money and you’r looking for a good masking software, than this plug is your thing. Using the Topaz mask without further refining is sufficient for most images. But, if you’r after professional high-end masks, than the Topaz mask has to be refined. So, using the Topaz plug-in for starting to make a basic mask is a very good workflow. I would suggest downloading the evaluation software and give it a try.
For a introductory price you can buy it for $29.99 (expire October 31, 2009), that’s really a bargain. The retail price for $69.99 is pretty high, but it’s a nice piece of software. I advice you to buy a Topaz bundle, they deliver high qualilty enhancement software, but maybe that’s something you already knew… 😉