DIGITAL LADY SYD REVIEWS TOPAZ REMASK 5
Had not planned on writing on this topic this week, but since I own Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReMask, thought I would put it through its paces. Along the way, a couple other tips popped up! This image took me several hours to complete, but was worth it. The colors in these Scarlet Macaws are incredible and perfect for painting. I call this guy “King of the Alligator Farm” as he was so noticeable and seems to enjoy everybody checking him out.
Topaz recently updated their selection plug-in to ReMask 5 and the results are really great. Remember, if you own this plug-in, it is a free upgrade for you. The major improvement for me is the Background section as shown at end of blog. Otherwise I found the program to be just like Version 4 and it still works very well. (See my And the Best Complicated Selection Tool Is?) It took practically no time to separate this image with a distracting green colored background and place it on my Corel Painter texture. In fact, in most cases you do not have to fill in the areas. Check out this short basic tutorial for version 4, that works the same with version 5, on how to create a mask fast – ReMask 4 Masking Hair. After computing the mask, I usually adjust the Recovery slider (revives color of foreground in weaker transparent areas) and the Layer Mask strength (determines the brightness of the mask) to get better results in my masks. Check out the Manual for how all the slider work. Below is a screenshot of the ReMask 5 interface.
You need to go to Menu -> Preferences and check Enable Use-Layer-Mask to get a layer mask on image layer back in Photoshop. The final image used three different effects in Topaz Lens Effects: Fisheye to increase the head size a little (this work really good on bird images), Toy Camera Awesomeness I preset tweaking the sliders to get the rich color tones, and as a final step in this image using the Fog 1 preset which gives the final slightly faded feel around the bottom of the image to drive the eye upward. The basic workflow was the same one used in my How To Get a Painterly Effect for Wildlife and Birds blog. The biggest problem with this image was to get the focal point well defined on the face since the colors are so vivid and compete with the face.
ReMask 5 really selected the bird and feather edges very easily and without too much touch up in the resulting layer mask. I usually flip between the Mask view and the Keep View. The brushes in the plug-in are very sensitive so that you can really select the extra little spots needed just by tapping with the brushes – no real painting. To switch between the brushes use keyboard shortcuts “q” for to add back image, “w” to remove areas, and “e” to recompute the area. Zoom in close and tap away with the different brushes. Pretty easy. This is the basic trick to getting a really clean mask.
This Cattle Egret took lots of steps so I will not go over all of them. Just wanted to emphasize that the same Topaz ReMask 5 was used to select him. In this bird’s case, it took a little more clean up in Photoshop to get it exactly the way I liked it. The Oil Paint Filter in CS6 was applied to just the bird quickly, then I hand painted more on the bird. The Fog Filter in Topaz Lens Effects was used on the left side of the image to soften the body effect. Below is how the Cut View of the mask appeared for cattle egret image. One of my Corel Painter textures was added to the image a couple times for the final result.
Two things have been improved: Topaz has included a new Background icon at bottom of column where you can open any image to add into the shot as a background, and it is now a stand-alone program that interfaces smoothly with Lightroom. The best use for the Background section would probably be for adding a new sky in a landscape (see below) or as a background to a portrait. Have Background choices of Transparency (the default setting), Solid Color or Image where you can select an image or texture from your computer. Click the orange icon and you get options to Move, Scale (keeps aspect ratio so you cannot stretch the texture) or Rotate the background. Press the yellow icon to swap out the chosen background image. There are several basic sliders to adjust the background to blend in with the masked area. Below is a screenshot of this section where I replaced a sunset type sky with some painted clouds. The down side is that if you are using the plug-in within Photoshop, you will have to save the mask with the new background down in a JPEG, PNG or TIFF file format – it does not save as a layered PSD file. I found this very confusing as you have to reopen your image with the other formats in PS and mine all appeared to be flattened. For me it is easier to just create the mask in ReMask, then add the texture in Photoshop where there are more options for manipulating the blend between the two layers. Still it is a pretty handy thing to have for use with Lightroom. Here is the link on Flickr to the original image.
I still love Topaz ReMask and version 5 is even better. Definitely my “go-to” program for creating complicated selections. It is worth the time to figure out how quickly the selections can be made, even if just used as a starting point. You can always go back to the layer mask in Photoshop and tweak it some more. I usually have to. Have a good week!…..Digital Lady Syd