AKVIS SmartMask 5
Can SmartMask’s slick selection tools make it an essential editing extra?
£71 (Home Deluxe)/£17 (plug-in upgrade)
Developer AKVIS, akvis.com OS OS X 10.6 or later Requires 64-bit processor With SmartMask’s powerful dedicated tools, you can make perfect selections and intricate masks without damaging your original image. SmartMask has two working modes, Auto and Manual. Auto mode lets you pick areas to keep or remove by marking them out with coloured brushes. This works best on images with strong contrast and clear backgrounds, but results in our tests weren’t always perfect. Fortunately, you can move across to the Manual mode and edit further.
Manual mode features two main tools: Quick Selection and Magic Brush. Quick selection works like a Magic Wand, allowing you to paint areas to select and then edit, while Magic Brush allows you to select up to ten colours via an eye dropper to keep or remove before painting them away on screen. This is a great way to cut around detailed areas such as hair or the spines of a lizard (as seen in our test image); both gave excellent results in our tests, picking up lots of detail. Both selections were also editable once selected, which helps fine-tune them, especially when used in conjunction with other tools.
SmartMask’s view modes are useful because you can see your image in split-screen as a ‘before and after’, with side-by-side or top-tobottom views. You can also view your selection with a transparent or coloured background (like Quick Mask) or in monochrome (like an Alpha channel). Although this allows a great amount of flexibility, SmartMask still lacks that extra oomph. You can’t edit your actual selection as you would with a Layer Mask in Photoshop, and you still need to export it to another image editor to do anything more creative with your final image. Alex Thomas
SmartMask’s versatile selection tools get great results, but this standalone app would work better as a plug-in.
Cut out images by selecting particular colours from the background and foreground.