If you are someone who spends quite a good amount of time editing your photos, you know how important the masking technique is. If you’re not sure, think of masking as a way of selecting a certain area within your image for the purpose of making specific local adjustments. Once you’re done with the selection process, you can either make the changes to your selection or invert it so that your adjustments exclude your selection.
Adobe Photoshop has quite an array of masking tools available in its arsenal. And you can get your job done with those options. But, in order to achieve perfect masking, you really need to spend quite a lot of time with those tools. The software doesn’t really assist you much in the process.
If you’re really tired of spending hours to get your mask right, Topaz Labs  has a solution for you. Topaz Mask AI promises to help you create tricky masks in record time using an intuitive machine learning technology and trimap technique. Using this software, it is just a matter of outlining your subject. The software does the rest and gives you a head start in perfecting the mask.
And don’t worry if you are dependent on Photoshop to edit your photos. Topaz Mask AI integrates seamlessly with Photoshop . While you’re working in Photoshop, you can easily open the image in Topaz Mask AI through the Filter menu, and once you’re done with the mask in Mask AI, you can again have it open and ready in Photoshop. This way you don’t have to jump between applications manually. The apps play very well together to make your work so much easier.
Topaz Mask AI overview
Topaz Mask AI uses the concept of trimap for masking. You can tell what regions you want to keep by painting it green. To indicate what you want to cut out, fill it with red. And outline the edges of your subject with blue. In my experience, you’d really want to be careful when using the blue brush. The better you outline the edges, the higher the chances of getting a better selection around your subject.
I was really impressed when I tried the masking technique in an image where the subject had some fuzzy hair. Quite surprisingly, the software was able to create a mask through individual strands of hair. If I’d tried to do it manually in Photoshop, it would’ve been a really painstaking task for sure.
If you want to make your workflow even quicker and skip the manual process, you can try your hands with an auto mode that auto-detects the subject. To challenge this feature, I tried masking the sparrow out of the following image. I made sure that the background and the foreground was a bit busy in order to push the software to its limits.
As you can notice, the result is not perfect. The tail of the sparrow has been left out, and the branch where the bird was perched is still intact. However, considering the complicated nature of the image, this is indeed a great job. With most of the job already done by the software’s artificial intelligence, I just needed to fine-tune the settings and build on this to get the desired result.
And if you are a landscape photographer, Topaz Mask AI has one more feature that you will love. Using the auto-detect sky feature, you can easily get the software to either get rid of the sky or even have it replaced. I used a very simple image to try out this feature and yet the outcome left me surprised – not in a good way though.
Mask AI did an excellent job of getting rid of the sky thanks to the solid edge contrast between the sand dunes and the sky. But I didn’t understand why the feature confused a portion of the sandy surface for the sky. Correcting it was not a big deal anyway. I just instructed Mask AI to keep the sandy patch by painting green over it, and the output came out all right.
Final verdict on Topaz Mask AI
What Topaz Mask AI is aiming to do is definitely not an easy task. Depending on what kind of image you’re working with, masking can turn out to be an incredibly difficult task. This is the core reason why even Mask AI was not being able to deliver 100% in auto mode. However, what it does it gives you a jump start by doing most of the heavy lifting for you.
With complex images, you will be left with some fine-tuning to do. You can either use the built-in edge refinement settings that Mask AI provides or use different blending modes in Photoshop to get rid of the stray areas in Photoshop.
If you find yourself spending a big chunk of your time with masks I highly recommend that you try out Topaz Mask AI. It will improve your efficiency and will be totally worth the investment. If you rarely need to work with masks, the investment will not be worth it. In any case, you can download a fully functional 30-day trial of the software at Topaz Labs website or purchase it for US$ 99.99.
New Zealand travel photographer based in London, UK. He was taking photos from a very young age in the backcountry of New Zealand before moving abroad. Since doing so he has taken workshops and tried to help get as many people into this art as possible. Featured in NZ Herald, Stuff.co.nz and many photography publications it’s safe to say he loves his photography!