• Price: £136 plus VAT; upgrade £68 plus VAT

  • Company: Extensis

  • Our Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

No-one enjoys having to mask images. It’s time-consuming, tricky, frustrating, and sometimes – after an hour of work – you find that it just doesn’t work. So anything that can help alleviate the tedium is welcome. Enter Extensis Mask Pro 3. This iteration has added a few new features over the previous version. The most useful of these is colour decontamination, which enhances the masking of fully or semi-transparent objects such as hair and glass. It removes the coloured halo that often appears around edges after masking. This was borne out in our test (right). The motion-blur on the bird’s wing was left, while the partial show-through of the blue sky was eliminated. Other additions include highlighters for defining ‘keep’ and ‘drop’ areas, eliminating the need to switch between colour sets; a Blur tool to soften a mask’s edges; a Chisel tool for chipping away pixels from a mask’s edge; a handy Tool Options palette, and Mac OS X support. A Windows version is due this summer. The Blur and Chisel tools are particularly useful. Cleaning up a mask can sometimes take as long as – or even longer than – creating the mask in the first place. Before these tools were used on the image to the right (with the red background added to show up the transparency), the edges of the bird’s wings were a jagged mess. But the Blur and Chisel tools cleaned things up nicely in only a few minutes. Masks can be created using keep-&-drop colour sets and the Magic Brush, which removes colours based on the tonal value and hues defined in the sets (the image above was treated in this way), or by defining keep-&-drop areas with the highlighters. Combinations of the two can also be used. For images with well-defined colour areas, the Magic Pen can be used. This snaps to the colour difference and creates a work path that can be manipulated in Photoshop, or used to define large areas of an image to be removed. The program also includes Mask Pro 3 Select and Mask Pro 3 Make Work Path – which are used in Photoshop, and do exactly what the say on the tin. If you work with complex images, Mask Pro 3 won’t let you down. It’s powerful, affordable, and easy to use.