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AKVIS SmartMask 4: Photoshop Plug-in Review

AKVIS SmartMask 4 is an Adobe Photoshop compatible plug-in that provides efficient selection and masking tools. Use the tools on images to remove backgrounds as well as for selecting specific area of an image, both with soft and sharp edges.


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Introduction

AKVIS SmartMask 4 is an Adobe Photoshop compatible plug-in that provides efficient selection and masking tools. Use the tools on images to remove backgrounds as well as for selecting specific area of an image, both with soft and sharp edges. The plug-in helps you to select complex objects such as: fluff, hair, fur, tree branches, glass, or a transparent veil. It also removes unwanted color shades left on the cutout object by the environment.

SmartMask 4 is from AKVIS, a company based in Russia that specializes in graphic programs. Apart from SmartMask 4, AKVIS also creates other Photoshop compatible plug-ins like ArtWork, Refocus, Retoucher, Chameleon, MultiBrush, Sketch, Enhancer, Decorator 3, Coloriage, MakeUp, etc.

You can download a free 10 day trial version of SmartMask 4 from the AKVIS site.

My contact at AKVIS for this review was Kat Kharina, thank you Kat.

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How To Use

Follow these steps to use AKVIS SmartMask 4:

  1. Open the image you want to use inside Adobe Photoshop or a similar program. Make sure the image has distinct, yet challenging areas that you want to mask. Also the image needs to be on an unlocked layer in Photoshop -- you can quickly unlock the layer by double-clicking it in the Layers palette, and clicking OK in the subsequent dialog box.

  2. Choose the Filter | AKVIS | SmartMask, as shown in Figure 1.

    AKVIS SmartMask plug-in within the Filter menu
    Figure 1: AKVIS SmartMask plug-in within the Filter menu

  3. This opens the image within the AKVIS SmartMask 4 interface, as you can see in Figure 2.

    AKVIS SmartMask 4 interface
    Figure 2: AKVIS SmartMask 4 interface

  4. AKVIS SmartMask works with two modes: Auto and Manual -- Auto is the default option but you can turn on the Manual mode by clicking the Manual button, highlighted in red within Figure 2, above. First let us explore the Auto option that magically creates masks that appear wow -- Figure 3 below shows how we scribbled with blue lines to retain content and with red lines to remove.

    Scribble lines to indicate how you want to mask
    Figure 3: Scribble lines to indicate how you want to mask
  5. Thereafter, clicking the Run button, highlighted in red within Figure 4, below does the masking for you -- almost magically!

    Post masking magic
    Figure 4: Post masking magic

  6. Now let us explore the Manual option. Clicking the Manual button (highlighted in red in Figure 2) changes the interface options, as shown in Figure 5 (compare with Figure 2).

    AKVIS SmartMask 4 interface with Manual button selected Figure 5: AKVIS SmartMask 4 interface with Manual button selected

  7. Click the Magic Brush tool (keyboard shortcut W), highlighted in red within Figure 5, above. Now click the Drop Color Picker (keyboard shortcut D), highlighted in blue within Figure 5, above.

  8. Now when you hover over the actual image preview area, the cursor will change to a color wheel, as shown in Figure 6, below.

    Color wheel cursor
    Figure 6: Color wheel cursor

  9. Click on any area of the image to sample a color you want to remove. You can click and select 5 colors to remove from the image. The colors you select will show up in the Drop Colors palette, as shown in Figure 7, below.

    Drop Colors palette
    Figure 7: Drop Colors palette

  10. Click on the Drop Color Picker again to change the cursor to the Magic Brush -- now paint with this Magic Brush to remove the 5 colors you chose from the image (see Figure 8, below).

    Selected colors being removed
    Figure 8: Selected colors being removed

  11. Similarly you can select 5 more colors and continue cleaning the background to mask out the objects you want. We ended up with the image that you can see in Figure 9, below.

    Image with SmartMask applied
    Figure 9: Image with SmartMask applied

    Once you’re happy with the preview, apply the result to the image by pressing the Apply button (shown below) to return to the image editor.

     Apply Button

Here are some Before and After samples created using SmartMask -- note that backgrounds have been changed:

Before   After

Before   After

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Specifications

Photoshop Versions: Photoshop 6 and higher
Platforms: Windows, Mac
Site: AKVIS
Price: USD $90 and above
Trial Version: Available for 10 days

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