ara has just released Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 9, an all purpose photo
editing, graphic design tool that is perfect for new users and professional
designers alike. While XP&G9 lacks some of the high end tools and features of
Designer Pro, XPG9 is attractively priced and has most of the tools and features you will
ever need to create effective website graphics, illustrations, do photo edits, and more.
In this First Look, we’ll look at the new features including the incredible Photo Heal
Tool, the equally new and exciting Mask and Region Tools, plus other new features
and a few of the existing features that I feel are worth revisiting (there are so many
great features, I often rediscover them when I write a new review).
The Tool Bar has been reorganized
as you can see on the right. Those
of you familiar with Xara products
will notice a bunch of new tools in
the fly out menus, especially the
new Mask and Region Tools (the first
flyout), a few new additions to the
Photo Tool fly out (the X!), and a
great new tool in the Line Tools fly
out menu. We’ll start with a look at
the new Mask and Region Tools.
The New Mask and
Right below the Selector Tool (the arrow pointer) is the all new Mask and Region
Tools fly out menu. Creating a region or a mask lets you isolate an area of a photo or
vector object without effecting other areas in the photo or drawing. A region lets you
edit within the selection while a mask protects the contents of the selection. The photo
edits you make are non-destructive vector shapes, which means you can remove any
photo edits by selecting the edited area (hold down the Ctrl key and click) and pressing
Let’s look at the Mask and Region tools and see what they do.
1. Region Painter
2. Freehand Region
3. Rectangle Region
The region tools (1-3), allow you to edit within the regional area. The Region Painter
works with adjustable size brushes to paint on a region area. The Freehand Region
works in the same manner as the Freehand and Brush Tool and has the same
Smoothness slider settings. This is good for defining more precise areas. Not
surprisingly, the Rectangle Region creates rectangular editing areas. Examples of
regions and masks are shown on the right. You can edit within the regions using the
Photo Tool, Enhance functions, for example, you can brighten the colors in your region,
increase or decrease the saturation, edit the contrast, warm cool balance, etc.
4. The Mask Painter works two ways, if you select this tool, any active regions
become a mask. Or you can just paint the mask on directly. As with the Regional
Painter, the Mask Painter allows you to adjust the size of the masking brush from about
10 pixels to about 100 pixels. If you hold down the Shift key, the brush (all the mask
tools actually) becomes an eraser and subtracts areas from the mask.
5. Show/Hide Mask does exactly that.
6. Invert Simply reverses what is masked and what is protected.
7. Delete Mask or Region removes the mask or region.
While these tools are similar, the main difference is a Region is an area into which you
can apply enhancements, using the Photo Tool settings. A Mask is an area that is
protected from any edits made to the image for example color selection.
TIPS: If you hold down the Shift key, the operation switches to erase, so you can add
to or remove areas of the mask and regions as you draw. If you hold down the Alt key,
you can stretch the operation in a straight line like a rubber band. Release the Alt key
at the end of the straight line, then hold it down to start a new straight line. Hold down
the Alt key and you can use your scroll wheel on your mouse to increase or decrease
the size of the brush.
Various uses for Masks and Regions
A region applied
to a vector group
and edited with the
You can also use the Mask Painter Tool to designate parts of a photo to preserve
when you are using the Content Aware Tool (Photo Tool fly out). Content Aware
preserves part of a photo image while extending the areas around it as you can see in
the before and after images above.
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