OnOne Software doesn’t just provide one plug-in in Perfect Photo Suite, but several. Perfect Mask is the main tool for this tutorial, but the Perfect Effects plug-in finishes it off beautifully!

I’ve got two confessions to make. One is that I wasn’t a huge fan of Perfect Photo Suite initially because I found it quite clunky and confusing. I’m changing my mind. There are still things I find awkward, but I’m starting to think it really is worth the effort, because this suite of plug-ins is really rather impressive.

My other confession is that this is a super-long walkthrough because I kept seeing more things I could do with the image. But you don’t have to follow it through to the end. If you just want to find out about layers, masks and cutouts, you can stop at step 6 – the remaining steps look at Perfect Effect filters and general editing tools. You might want to stick it out, though, because I think the result is worth it.

OnOne Perfect Mask

My starting shot is this rather dull-looking shot of a Hawker Hurricane I took at an air show a couple of years back. The lens I was using wasn’t the best in the world (I’m not mentioning any names) and the sky was a dull grey.

But it’s the idea candidate for a cutout, and I always have a stock of dramatic ‘sky’ shots I can use for situations such as these.

If you do ever see a good sky while you’re out walking, get a selection of shots at different focal lengths and angles. If you can, shoot RAW, because this will enable you to change the white balance later to match different subjects, and it will also give the same sky a very different look from one shot to the next. (You can make these adjustments with JPEGs, but the quality can suffer because they don’t have the extended colour data of RAW files.)

01 Open your images as layers

OnOne Perfect Mask

Perfect Photo Suite can be used as a standalone program or a plug-in. I’ve used it here as a plug-in from within Aperture. I simply selected both shots (the aircraft and the sky) and right-clicked to choose Perfect Photo Suite from the plug-in menu.

Perfect Photo Suite will open in the Layers panel, and display the two images as layers in the panel on the right. My ‘sky’ image is on top, and you can see it’s a lot smaller. That’s because I shot it years ago on a lower-resolution camera than the one I used for the Hurricane.

You’ll often get this kind of mis-match in layer sizes, and the solution is to click the Transform tool at the top of the tools panel on the left – this displays grab handles on the corners of the layer, and you can shift-drag these to enlarge the layer without changing its proportions.

02 Moving layers

OnOne Perfect Mask

The other thing is that I’ve currently got the wrong layer on top. I want the aircraft on top and the sky below, but this is easy to fix – I just switch to to the Layers panel and drag the thumbnail for the bottom layer up to the top of the stack.