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When a cutout is not as easy as it looks…. patches to the rescue!!

Here’s an image that’s a good example of the flexibility that the patches tool can offer. Patches allows you to blend a large variety of edges with different characteristics independently of each other, to create a successful cut out. The forced edge tool also plays a role. Although this is sometimes seen as a tool of last resort, it allows you the flexibility to decide for yourself where the cutout should start and finish. This ability to create and define an edge can be an enormous advantage, when there’s no discernible edge to find.


At first glance this image looks like an easy task, shot in the studio against a plain white background. But zooming in closer you can see that the lighting used to create the high key effect has produced some quite different edges to consider, from the dark shadow area around the feet and jeans, to the soft edges generated by the rim and fill light along the tops of her shoulders and torso, and of course there’s also her hair to consider. No problem for Fluid Mask!   (click the image to see a larger version –  please note this image is © shutterstock )

Here’s my Color Workspace, and here’s what I did:



First off, edge width threshold at 6 pixels, number of edges at 50% and blend width set to to thin does the job for all of the image except where I’ve applied patches (around her head for the hair and along her shoulders and torso). I’ve added a forced edge with a few clicks along the top of her laptop and where she’s in contact with the floor, as I don’t want that shadow retained in my cutout.

I’ve used the blend brush on her hair and around the shirt, and then applied patches to shoulders and torso and set the blend ratio (controlled by the feather/smart slider in the edge blending pane) over towards feather, (at ratios of 4:1 for left shoulder, 3:1 for right shoulder and left torso and at 2:1 for right torso). It was really just a matter of drawing in the patch and then playing with the slider and previewing what looks best. I then applied another patch over the head and neck and again, after trying a few different ratios and previewing my results, using the preview cut-out tool, I set the feather / smart ratio at 1:1 which gave the best rendering.


And here’s the finished cutout below. I’ve placed her against a red background so you can best see the edges (click for high res’). An image which whilst looking to be a simple masking task, actually has a few complications and tricky edges, handled by with Fluid Mask 3 with the use of patches.

You can learn more about patches, getting edge blending right and the forced edge tool from our techniques tutorials.

Work smarter not harder with Fluid Mask.

Posted on: February 4, 2014 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Edge Blending, Fluid Mask, How to...

If all you want for Christmas is a perfect mask, fast.. here’s how:

Here’s a quick Christmas themed example utilising the patch tool & the color workspace. These are workaday elements of Fluid Mask that help you achieve fast, accurate masking. If you’re not yet familiar with them, it’s recommended that you view our online tutorials that cover these functions first.  Work smarter not harder with Fluid Mask.

Happy Holidays from all at Vertus!


Patch applied using the (polygon) patch tool

Patch applied using the (polygon) patch tool

First, I isolated the area to be masked using the patch tool to take advantage of the advanced blending options this offers. I’ve used the polygon option here, clicking for anchor points as I go, but you could also use the patch brush. However it’s applied, make sure your patch stays reasonably close to the area to be masked, to ensure there’s not too much bleed into the background area to be deleted.

The color workspace, with 'keep' areas selected

The color workspace, with ‘keep’ areas selected

Using the colour workspace, in this instance as a 2D colour map, I then selected the areas within the patch to keep. The colour map allows you to select areas by clicking and dragging a marquee over the area of interest or by sampling a color directly from the image (more about that below). The selection is highlighted yellow in the 2D colour map and also within the image. I then assigned the selection as a keep mask by clicking the green keep mask bucket icon to the left of the workspace. Having made my initial keep selection, I was able to see the results by clicking preview in the patch properties:

'Preview' enabled within Patch Properties

‘Preview’ enabled within Patch Properties

An impressive first pass. To make sure I’ve included all the pine needles and snow, I went back to the colour workspace to apply a blend to my keep selection (see below). It can be easier to see what you are doing by clicking the green eye in the colour workspace, turning off visibility of the keep selection, leaving visible the remaining unassigned pixels in the color map.


The color map with the green keep selection turned off

Using the colour sampler, I took selections directly from within the image, selecting areas to keep by sampling the colours from the tree’s needles, snow and the bauble. These selections will appear yellow in the color workspace, it was easy to then expand the selections by selecting similar colours from within the workspace. It’s a great way to fine tune your keep/delete/blend selections, you select colors either directly from your image (using the Color Sampler) or in the color workspace display itself. In both cases, the selected colors are highlighted yellow in the image and the color map.


Keep mask with blend applied using the colour workspace. Notice there’s now no pixels showing in the workspace histogram, as both keep and blend selections are hidden.

As the whole of the keep area is fairly sharp, I’ve set the intelligent blending slider all the way over to ‘smart’ and set complex edge blending to ‘sharp’ for a perfect result:


With one click I then applied delete mask to the rest of the image (the red delete local brush) and hit create cutout. Job done. Work smarter not harder with Fluid Mask!


Posted on: December 16, 2013 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Fluid Mask, How to..., Trees & Lattices, Tutorial

Painting with Pixels…(the art of Fluid Mask)

“These images are not painted with paint….They are painted with pixels.”

Schrödingers Tree. Digital composite art created by Michael Flynn using Fluid Mask

Schrödingers Tree. Digital composite art created by Michael Flynn using Fluid Mask

Digital Artist Michael Flynn uses Fluid Mask to realise his artistic vision:

“Sometimes I see images or get ideas in my head, and not being much of a painter I wondered why not make these images out of existing photos. And so I do.” 

There’s some obvious Dali influences in this one, I’d be willing to bet the old grandmaster of surrealist art would be experimenting with digital art himself if he were around now..

All The Way Down © Michael Flynn

All The Way Down

“Some of the images you see here have samplings from as many as a hundred photos.”

That’s a lot of compositing! Good to know you’ve got Fluid Mask in your arsenal to minimise the time you need to spend masking.

Outside the Box

Outside the Box

You can see more of Michaels’ work at paintingwithpixels.com, where you can also purchase limited edition archival Giclée prints.  





Posted on: July 27, 2013 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Fluid Mask, Reviews

Hey Norton! Vertus software is virus & spyware free!!

We’ve recently had several customers contact us reporting that Norton Internet Security and other Symantec products are blocking or quarantining download or install of Vertus software, after the recent updates to all our products.

Firstly, we’d like to assure all customers that our products are 100% guaranteed free of viruses, spy and malware!

If you’re using Norton or any other Symantec products and are experiencing difficulties, we recommend simply disabling their software whilst downloading and installing Vertus products, or click here for instructions how to restore a file from quarantine.

We’re not the only independent specialist software vendor being affected by this issue, which has arisen since Symantec added another detection system to their products: “WS.Reputation.1.” As the name suggests, this system works based on reputation, or as they call it, the “wisdom of crowds”. Essentially, if enough of their user database has this software installed, then it’s reputation is deemed as ‘good’

Trouble is, in practice, if we release a new update, then nobody has that installed yet, so it can’t be given a good reputation, based on the ‘wisdom’ of the crowd. So Symantec’s anti-virus software blocks it, so nobody can install it, so the reputation stays low which means Symantec keep blocking it, so nobody can install it…

We’re working with Symantec to resolve this problem, and Vertus users can help the process by white flagging our software, releasing from Symantec/Norton quarantine will also help the process.

We thank you for your patience on behalf of Symantec!!



Focus On: Jim LaSala. How Fluid Mask helps him realize his vision

Jim was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and currently resides in Flemington, New Jersey. Inspired by photographers such as George Hurrell (the master of Hollywood glamour photography during the 30’s and 40’s) and Ansel Adams – “his ability to visualize how the final image will come alive, has certainly helped me in understanding how to take what he has done in the darkroom and apply it to my digital darkroom.” You can see this in Jim’s black&white work (below). As well as a Moab Master, Jim is a multi award winning fine art Photographer. His workflow setup sees him using Adobe Lightroom as a primary batch editing and file management tool and for basic correction…

“My next stop is Photoshop, where I spend the rest of my life (so addicting). It is here where I can take my fine art visions to a new level. There are some third party plugins that I have been using for quite sometime and have been an important part of my process.”

“I guess now I can talk about a subject that always comes up when I am doing programs and workshops. Extraction, masking, removing the background or whatever else you want to call it. I have tried them all. They all seem to have there good points and unfortunately they also fail in other areas. Photoshop’s extraction has come a long way and although they want to be able to be the best in everything, it falls short. OnOne’s Perfect Mask is another program that I just have a hard time mastering……(Fluid Mask) is my weapon of choice. I remember being blown away while watching a demonstration on how Fluid Mask was making extractions painless. My fine art photography may call for replacing a sky or photographing a model with a specific background in mind…This is why Fluid Mask has played such an important role in my imagery. It helps me to realize my vision. The power to handle transparent objects is just incredible. I wish I could tell you that all you have to do is push a button and poof it’s gone, but Fluid Mask is the closest thing to just that.”


“One of the questions I’m always asked is why I always use the plugin version and not the standalone application. Well, its very simple. By using the plugin I have the power of using my history brush to make my extractions as perfect as possible. Another thing to remember is after extracting  your image and you are looking to now use a second file (for ex: a new sky), make sure that you bring the sky into your extracted image. If you move your extracted image into the new sky, you lose the ability to use the history brush…… Lastly, have a plan in mind when extracting. Although I use a powerful tool like Fluid Mask, I’m still going to plan on making my life a little easier. I will be thinking about what the final image will look like. What type of background will I be using. It is then I can determine how to photograph my subject.”

As well as Still life and fine art images, Jim has been passionately involved in documenting the people and their lives in Haiti.


I first became involved with documenting Haiti by accident. I was asked to donate one of my pieces of artwork for a benefit. One Heart for Haiti became involved with helping build a school in a place called Grand Vincent. ….. Well, I found out that they were making a trip there in June of 2010 which was just a few months after the earthquake disaster. The rest is history. I am making my fifth trip there this March. The country and people of Haiti have touched my heart and have given me a whole new look on what hope, love and faith is all about. It has been a tough few years trying to keep the needs of the people of Haiti in the news. I continue to have hope that through my images I can help keep the story alive.”

“Let us not forget the unique profession that we are blessed to be part of. With just a click of a shutter we have the power to make a lifelong statement.”

Wise words indeed. Thanks to Jim for taking time out to talk to us, and sharing how Fluid Mask works for him. See more of Jim’s work at jimlasala.com,

We love to hear from Fluid Mask users and share their work and masking tips. Want to be ‘focused on’?? Drop us a line on focus@vertustech.com

All images © Jim LaSala

Posted on: March 17, 2013 Discussion: 2 Comments Posted in: Fluid Mask, Further Tips, How to..., Photoshop, Reviews, Testimonials

6 of the best (tips for getting the most out of Fluid Mask)

Here’s 6 of the best tips and reminders for getting the most out of Fluid Mask.

These are all in response to questions or feedback thrown up by the Fluid Mask User Questionnaire  – this is an ongoing survey; we’d love to hear your opinions to help us better tailor support and future product development to you, the user.

Responses so far has given us some useful suggestions for future features to be considered, but we’ve also had some requests for features that already exist, or for workflow features that by employing good practice with shortcuts and hotkeys, it’s already possible to achieve.

So without further ado, here are your questions answered.

1. Customising Colors – Did you know you can fully customise the colours for all your masks – keep, delete and blend as well as all other display colors used within the workspace? Bring up your Workspace Settings by going to the Menu Bar -> Fluid Mask 3 -> Preferences…, then click on the Colors tab. Click each individual Color to set to your personal preference………..      2. Saving Settings – Still within your Workspace Settings, a reminder that under the ‘General’ tab, you can choose for Fluid Mask to restore your last used setting for edge finding, blending and workspace resolution, rather than reverting to the default settings. Whilst the defaults are a good place to start when working on a new image, if you’ll be working over multiple sessions on a series of similar images, it would make sense to switch to ‘Restore from Last Session’, rather than ‘Use Defaults’………        3. Shortcuts & Hot Keys – One of the quickest ways to speed up your workflow (in any application, not just Fluid Mask), is to learn the keyboard shortcuts. Hover over any tool in the toolbar to see the shortcut displayed. You’ll quickly pick these up and pretty soon switching between tools using shortcuts becomes a natural part of your workflow – there’s a real efficiency return for working this way……   4. Other useful shortcuts in FluidMask – Switching to any tool (using the key command shortcut of course!) that functions only within the Workspace (which is all of them except the hand(H) and zoom(Z) tools), will take you straight back to your Workspace, but also useful to remember that the number 1 , 2 and 3 keys switch you between Source, Workspace and Cut-out respectively. Our recent update now means that ‘show object edges’ stays in it’s user defined state when switching between tabs, rather than defaulting to ‘on’. If you do want to turn it on or off, then again, learn and use the shortcut:  Fn+F2…….       5. Auto-fill feature – For your first pass, decide which is easier, masking out your background or filling in your keep selection, then use the Auto-Fill with keep/delete function to quickly complete the selection process…Remember the shortcut keys! :  ‘⌘/Shift  K’ = Auto-Fill with keep….. ‘⌘/Shift D’ = Auto-Fill with delete…..    6. Working with the 2D Color Map – Here’s a request we had , that was echoed by several users –    “Can you allow me to cut across the color pallet colors…I can choose vertical parts of the color histogram…but what about letting me paint on the pallet and not just take big vertical bars of color..” You can do this already! Bring up the Color Workspace (shortcut = ‘S’). Selected by default is the ‘show histogram mode’. Bottom left of the color workspace panel is a mini histogram that is the button to select this. Next to this is the ‘show 2d color map’ button-click between the two to switch modes. As well as fulfilling the request above, the 2d color map allows for much finer control selecting colors, either by sampling from the actual image using the pipette, or by selecting from within the color map. As is standard across many applications, you can add / subtract to your selection, in either histogram or color map mode, by holding down the shift / alt key while making a selection.
Of course sometimes when you’re working on an image with less subtle graduation of color, the broader control offered by the histogram is preferable. You can also further control the sensitivity of both the histogram display and 2d color map by using the resolution slider within the color workspace panel.

We hope these insights will help you get the maximum return from Fluid Mask. As well as the Tips (⌘ T) box to learn as you go, view our online tutorials for more detailed instruction and advice on achieving results fast using Fluid Mask 3.

Happy Masking from all at Vertus!

Posted on: February 22, 2013 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Fluid Mask, Further Tips, How to...

Fluid Mask 3 Update Released

A free update is available for all Fluid Mask users, version 3.2.5. You can download this here.

This version fixes a CS6 compatibility issue that prevented 64bit PC users from installing Fluid Mask as a Photoshop CS6 plug-in, and automates the process for all users, and ensures Windows8 compatibility.

Show Object Edges. After feedback from our Fluid Mask User Questionnaire, ‘show object edges’ now remains in its user defined state when switching between source/workspace/cutout, rather than defaulting to ‘on’. You can manually switch on or off by ticking or unticking the box, or use the shortcut, Function Key F2. Please note upon initial launch, you may find this box unticked, so you need to turn it on to see your object edges (with current Edge Finding settings). The User Questionnaire is ongoing, and we welcome any feedback from our customers to better understand your needs for future product development.

Aspects of our licencing structure are also updated. Please note that upon the initial install, some customers may need to contact support@vertustech.com for a one time licence reset, or follow the automated update instructions provided by Nalpeiron, our licensing provider. If your computer is not connected to the internet, you will also need to follow the instructions for manual license activation. Go to ‘Help’ -> ‘License..’ -> ‘Advanced Options’ in the Fluid Mask toolbar, click the ‘Manual License Activation’ tab and follow the instructions there.

Should you experience any problems please contact our support department.

A Very Happy Holidays from all at Vertus HQ!!

Fluid Mask on Flickr

Here’s a quick look at some of the creations people have been making with Fluid Mask 3. Recently we trawled through Flickr to find that these images were all made in part with the help of Fluid Mask 3. A number of the images we found were produced by those experimenting with the Fluid Mask Trial and keen to show off the results. We think that’s a great testament to the ease of use and versatility of Fluid Mask 3, but more importantly we love seeing the amazing work people have been creating.

Here are five we thought were pretty great and worth bringing to your attention, but there are many more on Flickr for you to find yourself.

This is a subtle but fun image, as the balloon rises out of the frame bringing it and it’s spectators to life. A simple enough concept, but achieved beautifully.

This one I love, as it looks like a real-life scene from a Hayao Miyazaki movie. The HDR effect is exceptional, and the lines in the sky mirror the length of the dirt pathway and it’s tire tracks, giving the image real depth.

‘Steel Vertorama’ by Marty.FM


Both of these next two images are by the same artist, of which we are a fan. I like the first for it’s imaginative collaboration of images to compose a very surreal subway scene in striking detail.

‘Ny subway 1 am friday’ by ed7929

Hot Rods have always been cool and this second image from ed7929 seems to prove it. The vibrant colors are electrifying against a sky-scape and stylized stretch of Tarmac that help give a classic style and a little sense of awe.

‘HotRoded HDR’ by ed7929

Below, szeke’s image of Vienna is regal, utilizing Fluid Mask to join two differrent exposures, plus some additional treatments as he goes on to discuss on Flickr. Clearly a gifted photographer, and his first attempt in Fluid Mask 3, we hope Szeke find many more uses for it in his work.

‘Hofburg, Vienna’ by szeke

In all of these, the eye catching imagery is a result of some great photography work to start with, but also the additional effects, like the HDR treatment, produced through Photoshop and in some cases some additional plug-ins. Meanwhile, Fluid Mask 3 goes unnoticed if not for the admission of the artists themselves, which is exactly as it should be – a great mask maintains the illusion no matter how contradictory or unlikely the composition might seem.

We continue to enjoy the images shared on Flickr. So, if you’d like to share any of you own images created with Fluid Mask, we suggest you post to Flickr and tag your creations with Fluid Mask to share with us all.

If you haven’t used Fluid Mask, please do, a trial version can be downloaded on our website.

Vertus HQ

Posted on: June 4, 2010 Discussion: 1 Comment Posted in: Fluid Mask, Reviews, Testimonials

Fluid Mask and a Humming Bird

Here’s a photo of a humming bird taking nectar from a flower. Nice and sharp with a long lens ensuring a shallow depth of field and a high shutter speed to freeze the wings. The masking task is made easier by the contrasting colours in the foreground and colour blending in the background. As you can see this was shot outdoors on a bright sunny day, which means that some light reflections and colouring may make it tricky to cut the flower and bird from their background. By increasing the amount of edges and reducing the edge width in Fluid Mask, this problem is easily resolved.


The next image (below) shows how the photograph should look once the background is masked out. The background colour was created using the swatch in Fluid Mask. The use of colour here prevents any visual confustion regarding the reflections, which creep on to the subject matter.


If you can achieve these great results, just think what else you can do when you start incorporating more interesting backgrounds and creating complicated cut outs!

Posted on: March 22, 2010 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Edge Blending, Fluid Mask

Latest release Fluid Mask 3.0.6 for Win and Mac available

We have made the following fixes available on Fluid Mask 3.0.6

Mac OS:

* MacOS Leopard

Mac version now uses Leopard installation technology. Since Mac OS Leopard was released we identified some incompatibility issues which have been fixed in Fluid Mask 3.0.6.

* “Repeated” prompt for registration cured

Some users reported that they repeatedly had to activate Fluid Mask 3 again with their serial key on the same machine as before. A change in our licensing will cure this problem – users who experienced this please download the update from the usual location or use the “Check for updates” option under “Help” in Fluid Mask 3.


* We added a few other minor tweaks to the way the full version of Fluid Mask 3 is installed on Windows Vista. Users who had trouble when installing as admin, but used Fluid Mask 3 without admin rights should definitely download the update.

All platforms:

* New trial period

Some users of the trial version didn’t get the chance to test Fluid Mask 3 before their trial was expired. Fluid Mask 3.0.6 will now provide a fresh trial period of 14 days

* Change of serial key format

The format of our serial keys has changed – the ‘#’ sign is no longer used at the end of the key, and we’ve added a new prefix at the beginning of the key. Please note that existing registered customers do not need to worry about this change unless instructed by our support team.

* Can save tiff as .tiff as well as .tif

The stand-alone version of Fluid Mask 3 can now save .tiff as well as .tif files on both Mac and Win now.

* Minor tweaks

Textual changes in error reports and manual registration requests for more efficient support

Fixed causes for crashes that were reported


Important Update Installation Instruction:

1. Do _not_ uninstall your current version of Fluid Mask 3. The update will replace your current version automatically.

2. Go to the Fluid Mask download page (look up your order confirmation e-mail – it’s the same link) and choose the Mac or Windows version of Fluid Mask 3.0.6 for download. If you can’t find the link please do contact our support team at support@vertustech.com

3. When the download is complete please do close all programs (especially Photoshop) before running the installation.

4. Double click the downloaded file to start the installation. Click “OK” in case see a warning message that “a version of Fluid Mask 3 is already installed”.

5. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation.

6. Done!


Posted on: December 11, 2007 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Announcements, Fluid Mask, Technical Issues & Troubleshooting


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