Exposure X7, just launched, has a new Selection tool that can follow the outlines of complex objects with little effort. It sounds familiar, but Exposure X7’s approach is powerful, controllable and has real hidden depths.
You use an adjustable polygon tool to roughly outline the object you want to separate, then use further refinements and adjustments to make the selection as accurate as possible.
There are three things in particular that make this new tool interesting. The first is that you only have to create rough outlines – Exposure X7 will then use its own intelligent algorithms to fill the mask and trace the object’s outline. The second is that there are ‘Marker’ tools for further refining areas which should be included in the mask and those which should be excluded, and these are just part of a whole series of refinements you can apply. The third interesting thing is that this masking tool is non-destructive – it’s saved with the image but you can come back at any time to modify it.
Here’s an annotated screenshot which shows the key controls and explains what they are used for. The new Selection tool has a lot of hidden depths which are not obvious straight away.
Exposure X7’s new Selection tool explained
(1) To access Exposure X’s masking tools you click this ‘brush’ icon. The masking tools show up underneath.
(2) The new Selection tool joins the Brush and Gradient tools already in Exposure X. Click on it to show the new Selection tools below.
(3) There are five buttons: two polygons tools to include or exclude the area inside the polygon, an include or exclude marker and freehand edge tool for when it’s quicker than trying to create a polygon.
(4) You can use this menu to find and select the polygon masks and markers you’ve created.
(5) You can set the Base Width for the whole selection polygon with the slider above, or select individual polygon points to change the width of specific segments.
(6) You do have some control over edge blending. The Expand slider makes the whole polygon bigger or smaller, while the Matting slider apparently pushes the mask edge out towards the edges the selection to reduce or eliminate fine lines around shapes. I had some but limited success with this.
(7) There are Color Constraints I haven’t tried yet for controlling the tones and colors affected by the mask.
(8) Not sure what the Suppress Noise slider does, but the Feathering slider can help blend in masks where the object outline is quite soft.
(9) Show Mask is useful while you’re creating and editing the selection and refining its edges.
(10) For this image layer I’ve applied a mask to the sky to change its colors and tones. Just below, you might be able to see a small ‘include’ marker.
(11) I created a Selection on the base layer to select the aircraft to make it brighter and with a warmer tone.
(12) Then I copied the mask and applied it to a new layer where I inverted it so that the sky was masked and I could apply a darker tone, a white balance shift and some noise reduction.
How well does the Exposure X7 Selection tool work?
This tool reminds me of the old extract/cutout tools, where you drew and outline around your subject and clicked on the areas outside the outline to exclude them from the mask, and the areas inside the outline to include them. The outline itself acts as a kind of ‘transitional’ zone where the software tries to figure out where the object’s edges are.
The difference with Exposure X7 is that this outline is an editable polygon that stays editable, and with further refinements with mask controls and Markers.
I mostly got very good results, though it can take a good deal of fine tuning with the controls to get a perfect (or even good) result with tricky objects. The key thing is not to get greedy with your adjustments – the more you shift your masked areas’ tones and colors away from unmasked regions, the more you exaggerate any edge effects.
This degree of selection and masking control is exceptional in a non-destructive editing tool, where they are often somewhat primitive. However, I still found myself wishing I was in Photoshop, where I could take my mask refinements to the next level.
Still, hats off to Exposure Software. This is a pretty exceptional level of selection and mask control for a non-destructive photo editor.
- Exposure X6 review
- More Exposure X articles
- Download the 30-day Exposure X trial
- Exposure Software website
Exposure X7: $129
Exposure X7 bundle: includes Blow Up 3 and Snap Art 4: $149
Exposure X7 is also available as a full 30-day trial