I am a big advocate for doing everything retoucher needs to do with a few tools as possible. Masking is one of this things that can be perfectly done on Photoshop. There is a range of tools and ways to approach masking from very basic raw selections to precisely calculated and adjusted masks. So you don’t need anything else except Photoshop for the masking in vast majority of cases.
Unfortunately, Topaz Remask masking technology is very good, super precise and easier to use with complex selections than Photoshop. It’s hard to resist not to use this software.
Remask is great for several cases:
- Masking simple hard edges
- Masking hair/fur against complex background
- Masking translucent objects
Retouching: Alexey Adamitsky | Photography: Tim Tadder
Despite it’s benefits as masking software compared to Photoshop it has a number of shortcomings and today I want to talk about them in hope that Topaz Labs will make an effort to address these issues.
While the masking technology is amazing there are a number of problems that makes me slow down so much that it makes no sense to use Remask sometimes.
I’ve been going back and forth with Remask and I want it to be great so I can enjoy masking process with it to the fullest since I like the technology part so much.
I’ll write my ideas about where Remask is lacking in user experience.
#1 Reassigning Hotkeys
Remask is lacking full support for assigning hotkeys for all actions and options. It’s the big one for me and this is why it goes first.
I imagine everyone who heavily relies on shortcuts experience this in their work. When you add new tool to your arsenal you customize it for yourself. It helps you to get maximum speed with the tool and you assign keys in a logical way for you and not what developer thought would be logical or good for workflow. Unfortunately developers rarely hit the mark with the way they assign hotkeys.
I like how developer structured it. It Makes sense.
- Q : Keep Brush
- W : Cut Brush
- E : Compute Brush
The we have Color Brushes for further refinement. It also makes sense. Keyboard keys are just a row below.
- A : Foreground Brush
- S : Background Brush
And the Dual Color which is just another another row below on the keyboard. Just under Color Range brushes.
- Z : Dual Color Brush
It makes sense to put this brush on Z, but I would prefer it on D. It’ll take some time to adjust this new position, but it’s easier to access with the finger.
Now we’re getting into trouble. Because if we need to use Fills you’ll be constantly looking for the right key and often pressing the wrong keys. It’s too far away. They shortcuts for Fills are:
- R : Fill to Keep
- T : Fill to Cut
- Y : Fill to Compute
Essentially fills are alternative to brushes here. It would make way more sense to pair brush shortcut keys with modifying key like SHIFT. Your finger most likely is alway there so we get:
- Shift + Q : Fill to Keep
- Shift + W : Fill to Cut
- Shift + E : Fill to Compute
Makes more sense, doesn’t it?
The rest for tools is ok.
SPACE for quick panning. Ctrl + – and Ctrl + + for zooming in/zooming out. M for marque tool for rare cases when you need it.
Brackets [/] for changing brush size. I would also add Ctrl + [/] for slower brush size change and Shift + [/] for faster brush size change.
Shortcuts are an individual thing. Altought I believe my settings would make more sense everyone is different. That’s why we need an option to re-assign shortcuts for our personal workflow.
Topaz Remask was pretty stable for me. Still it needs this feature badly. I had a few occasions when I worked on very precise masking for a while in Topaz and then it crashed. There is no doubt you would agree it’s very unpleasant experience to lose your work no matter how much time you spent on it. Now I just save my masks in Topaz as often as I can. I don’t want to loose my work again, but it’s unnecessary thing to keep in mind when a computer can easily take care of it.
First of all you need an option in the setting to make it possible to auto save current mask every X minutes. Leave it to user to decide how often or make a few options like every 5/10/15/30 minutes.
#3 Saving and names
It’s a continuation to #2, but it deserves its separate thread.
Make naming smart. Instead of Untitled file name use name of the file or layer in Photoshop plus timestamp. You can make it highly customizable with a tags like system. Every time I need to think of original name or remember the name of the file I’m working on I’m wasting the time and getting out of the flow.
It could be as simple as <file_name>-<layer_name>-<time_stamp> and you get a beautiful name like IMG08432-Hair-Mask-10-40.tiff. Much better, much easier to understand.
Make Remask remember last save location. I would like to keep my trimap masks in the same folder as my working file in most cases. At the very least make it possible to set in setting the default location for trimap files.
#4 Panning canvas over the edge
It’s not very comfortable to work near the edge of an image. It’s a small annoyance, but still. I would love an option to make it possible to pan the image further from the edge of canvas like in Photoshop so I can really see where the image ends and be very precise with painting selections for the mask.
#5 Rotating canvas
I understand this one is tricky and probably hard to implement, but I’d love to see rotating canvas like in photoshop. It makes working with a stylus so much easier and faster. You can rotate the canvas and adjust the angle on the fly so it’s very easy to make precise brush strokes with your hand. I can’t live without this option in Photoshop. I’m very used to it and every time I’m in Remask I go for my trusty R shortcut to rotate the canvas. Every time disappointed there are no such feature in Remask.
This is pretty much it. My 5 suggestion for Topaz team to make Remask great to use.
If you have any suggestions of your own leave them in the comments below.