Mask Pro 3

If you've ever tried to use Adobe Photoshop to select or mask a complex subject -- a person with frizzy hair, say, or a leafy plant -- you know that doing so can be very tricky. Mask Pro 3 is the latest upgrade to Extensis's excellent masking plug-in for Photoshop, and with a number of new selection tools and masking utilities, as well as OS X support, it is essential for the avid Photoshop user.

Mask Pro 3 works with Photoshop 6.0.1 or 7.0.1 and with Photoshop Elements 2.0. You get two plug-ins: one removes the background from your image after you create a mask, and the other makes a selection based on your mask. You can use Mask Pro to create a mask on any layer, adjustment layer, or channel.

Extensis has revamped Mask Pro's interface with a new Tool Options palette and a thorough set of options for viewing your mask while you create it. Unfortunately, the interface takes over the entire screen, completely obscuring Photoshop's interface. So if you want to cut a mask while keeping an eye on another document, you're out of luck.

In general, you create a mask in Mask Pro by defining colors to keep and colors to drop. New to version 3 are Keep and Drop Highlighters, which let you outline areas of color to define your mask. For many objects, this is much faster than clicking with the eyedropper tools. After selecting your colors, you can use Mask Pro's special brushes and pens to remove the background.

Mask Pro is now better at making your selection blend with its background. It preserves the transparency of a mask's edge pixels while eliminating specific colors, allowing for halo-free composites with backgrounds. This feature works much better than version 2's EdgeBlender filter.

Macworld's Buying Advice

Overall, the breadth of version 3's tools makes Mask Pro much more flexible than Photoshop's Extract feature and easier to use than Procreate's KnockOut 2 plug-in (mmmmh; March 2002). We recommend it to anyone who needs to make quick, accurate masks.

If you've ever tried to use Adobe Photoshop to select or mask a complex subject -- a person with frizzy hair, say, or a leafy plant -- you know that doing so can be very tricky. Mask Pro 3 is the latest upgrade to Extensis's excellent masking plug-in for Photoshop, and with a number of new selection tools and masking utilities, as well as OS X support, it is essential for the avid Photoshop user.

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