Lars Jensen
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Lars Jensen reviewed on 22 Feb 2006
[Disclosure: I am a beta tester -- and a happily paying customer.]

Mask-R-Aid greatly eases the task of creating good-looking masks for images that are surrounded by whitespace. The masks can then be used (via copy/paste or saving to a file) in other applications that create icons or perform other graphic operations.

Its basic operation could scarcely be simpler: drag your image to the application icon or window, and typical icon sizes with masks are created automatically for you, using white as the transparency indicator color. The program isolates the silhouette of the input image and creates the mask from this, blending its edge using one of three different edge-handling techniques that you can set within the program. You also have the option to mask interior white pixels, or not.

The best refinements of 3.1 have to do with workflow: you can set preferences to bypass a scaling dialog, and you can see previews of all icon sizes, against two background images of your choice, simultaneously. This means that with one drag and drop operation, you can instantly see how your icon or image will look, and play with edge settings at your leisure.

Pros:
- Can generate a complete set of icons and masks with one drag & drop (once you've set preferences appropriately)
- Can create masks for images that aren't icons
- A thorough set of previews is available without user interaction

Cons:
- Only white is supported as a transparency indicator color
- Can't mask some interior areas and not others
- No feature to help you get rid of "fuzzy" off-white pixels or complicated backgrounds
- No drop-shadowing, halos, or other mask-intensive effects

Mask-R-Aid is a great example of a tool that addresses one task well. Its feature set is not super-deluxe (see the cons), and there are some minor UI deficiencies (lack of ellipses on some button titles, non-live sliders, etc.).

But for what it does attempt, it's a solid workhorse that has saved me countless hours of tedious pixel twiddling. The documentation is clear and complete.

If you've got an image with clean whitespace around it, and you want a nice crisp mask without becoming a Photoshop expert, you should try out this tool.
[Version 3.1]



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