Magazine Article


Vertus Fluid Mask 2.0
For Deep Etching Thatís Fast, Effective, Easy to Learn

Matt Hoyle

Matt Hoyle

Matt Hoyle

Matt Hoyle

Matt Hoyle

I just added Fluid Mask to my digital toolbox and Iím already starting to see its benefits.

I shoot commercial portraiture for a varied clientele, including editorial and advertising clients like Rolling Stone, New York, FHM, Esquire, Saatchi & Saatchi, FCB, and Publicis.

The portrait work I do sometimes requires me to shoot my subject and the backdrop separately. This might be because the client is after a very specific backdrop that cannot physically be brought to the models at the time of the shoot, or because the personality canít be moved from his or her location.

I recently had to photograph a soccer player (right) and place him onto a gray background with a slight vignette behind him. The gray needed to be created in post-production with a set PMS.

To do this, we shot against a white backdrop. The model was blonde, so his hair was going to be a problem for deep etching. I decided to try Fluid Mask. It pretty much found all the edges, so I just had to select around the hair to get a cleaner finish. In a few minutes, I had a perfectly cut-out image, with individual blonde hairs, ready to drop into my gray backdrop.

When I first looked into Fluid Mask, I expected it to be like every other masking program: complicated and not really that effective at masking the fine detail. But I was wrong. It only took me about 20 minutes to learn the basics. Then I was ready to start masking. Thatís the real joy of the program. It actually does what is says it will. Finally, something thatís simple to use and effective at masking.

Iím a 100 percent digital photographer, which means not only is all my camera gear digital, but I also use Photoshop to help give my images their distinct look. I spend quite a bit of time in post-production and, until now, I would have had to farm out the deep etching before I could work on the ďgradingĒ of the image. With Fluid Mask I can cut my subjects out with confidence in a very short time. Instead of wasting hours trying to mechanically cut an image out of the backdrop, I get the job done quickly and have more time to finesse the image.

Iíd recommend Fluid Mask to any photographer who has to regularly deep etch or cut their images out of the background. The more you use it, the more time youíll save. Cutting out an image is no longer a tedious chore or a specialty that you need to outsource.

Having said all that, there are no miracle programs. You have to have a good understanding of selections, as well as a quality image to work with. Lighting is another key factor. Knowing youíre going to have to deep etch something, it makes sense to keep the lights high enough to separate the details, but low enough not to bleed them into the wall. It makes deep etching the images so much easier.

The great thing about Fluid Mask is thatís intuitive enough and simple enough that most photographers will find it a valuable addition to their workflow almost immediately.

For more on Fluid Mask, visit