Potsdam, Castle Sanssouci, digital imaging using SF Maskerade


SF Maskerade

Filter for creating masks for professional digital imaging

Masks allow many corrections, improvements and creative effects that are hard to reach (or not at all) any other way. SF Maskerade make it easy to create the most frequently used masks. Via a range of sliders you can control the masked areas and transition to unmasked areas very precisely.

All SF Maskerade filters support the creation of luminance, hue and saturation masks. Additionally, with the commercial version of the filter you can create edge masks, invert or blur masks and transform masks into layer transparencies. For transformation of existing transparency into a gray tone mask please use the filter SF TransluSense.

SF Maskerade is at present available in two versions:

SF Maskerade LE:: The freeware version creates luminance, hue and saturation masks for RGB images with 8 bits per color channel, but has fewer options and a simpler user interface than the standard version.

SF Maskerade 3.5: In addition the commercial version supports images in 16 bit color depth per channel and allows creating edge masks and contrast masks. The masks can be blurred and, in addition to gray scale output, transformed into the transparency channel of the image. The comfortable user interface is scalable, provides a 200% preview and practical functionality for navigation, scrolling and zooming, ten temporarily available variants and much more (please see here for details).

The download zip file includes two separate filters: a "normally" and a "scripting" version. You can install the version you wish or both. The license is valid for both. The scripting version is for use in a photoshop action or as a smart filter, the paramaters are saved in the action or in the smart object itself. But this version has some restrictions, e.g. the combination is not available (because of restrictions of the photoshop scripting interface).

Therefore an automatic version of the filter, which stores the parameters in a separate file, is also available (look here for details). This "auto" version works in the background without restrictions regarding variants and combinations, but cannot used as smart filter. Please download this version separatly.

SF Maskerade

SF Maskerade with selected yellow-red until cyan colors

Features and operating instructions

The following explanations refer only to the filter-specific characteristics of SF Maskerade. The general functions of the SimpelFilter filters you find here.

Choosing mask type

In the combobox Mask you will find the five possible mask types Lightness, Color,Saturation and (not in the LE version) Edge and Contrast. The contents of the second combobox and the measuring units of the controls below change according to the chosen mask type.

Choosing channel or color, respectively

The second combobox serves for choosing a color channel or a specific color, default is All. According to the mask type you have the following alternatives:

Mask Lightness:

All - The composite of the R-G-B channels.

Luminance - The weighted lightness of the RGB colors. This accords very well to our natural perception of lightness.

Red , Green or Blue - The red, green or blue channel of the RGB image

With the range controls you lay down exactly the range of the lightness or of the tonal values. The range reaches from 0 to 255.

Mask Color:

All - All colors. Please use the two range controls for restriction to a specific range of hues. The range can reach from 0° to 360° (color angle).

Red , Green or Blue, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow - The respective color areas. Now you can only adjust the color within the chosen range. The possible range corresponds to a color angle of 120°.

Gray tones - Only black, white and nearly colorless gray tones are considered. Please use the range controls for adjusting the bounds of the lightness (range 0...255).

SF Maskerade LE

SF Maskerade with selection of less saturated colors

Mask Saturation:

All - The saturation of all colors. Please use the two range controls for restricting to a specific saturation range. The range reaches from 0% to 100% saturation.

Red , Green or Blue, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow - Only the saturation of the respective color is considered. The saturation range of this color you can choose with the two range controls. The range reaches from 0% to 100% saturation.

Mask Edge:

All - The edge mask is based on the highest contrast in one of the three R-G-B channels.

Luminance - The mask is based on the contrast of the luminance grayscale image of the original RGB image.

Red , Green or Blue - The mask is based on the red, green and blue channel of the image respectively.

With the range controls you can set the bounds of the contrast precisely. The maximum range reaches from 0 to 255.

Mask Contrast:

The contrast mask is based (like the edge mask) on the contrast between neighbor pixels, but now - depending on the chosen Radius - more and far away pixels are taked into account in the calculation of contrast. The maximum Radius is 63 pixel.

The channel settings are the same as in the edge mask.

SF Maskerade 3

"Contrast" intensifies smallest differences in contrast - here restrict to the green channel

Choose the covered/uncovered regions of the mask

With the two controls above and below the color gradient you can choose the lower and upper thresholds of the mask. By default pixels with values between the threshold values will become white, other values will become gray or black in according to their distance from the thresholds and the chosen tolerance values. With 0% tolerance you will get a pure black-and-white mask with strong separation at the threshold values.

The current values of the controls are shown during alteration. In the Standard version the threshold values and the values where the full masking effect (100% black) begins, are represented as numbers to the right of the controls.

If you choose the mask Color / All it is possible to drag the range controls above one another. This produces an inversion of the mask and allows the selection of colors from both ends of the range, for example red and magenta, together.

The color gradient field visualizes with its color and brightness which ranges of the mask will become bright or white and which values will become dark or black. The threshold values are marked by thin vertical lines. If you click with left mouse button in the color gradient and drag, you can move both controls in the same sense (the mouse pointer changes into a double arrow).

In the Standard version you can choose the masking range easily with right mouse clicks into the preview window. A pure right mouse click adjusts the upper and lower thresholds to the value of the clicked pixel. If you now press the SHIFT key while clicking on further pixels you can enlarge or reduce the range.

SF Maskerade

The color gradient with the four threshold values marked. The small point in the middle of the green gradient shows the color of the pixel below the mouse pointer.

Choose Tolerance

With the two Tolerance controls (there is only one common tolerance control in the LE version) you can adjust the measure of abruptness of the transition between the full white and full black areas of the mask. The Tolerance sliders are coupled by default. You can turn on or off this behavior by clicking the =-button between the sliders.


With the Blur control (not available in the LE version) you apply a Gaussian blur to the finished mask. The radius range is between 0.1 and 100 pixels. As a rule, luminance masks need a stronger, saturation and edge masks a weaker blurring.


Inverts the mask completely. Bright areas become dark and vice versa.

Without B/W

The color selection normally covers very bright and very dark colors too - colors that we recognize not as colors but as white or black. With this option enabled you exclude black, white and gray pixels within a certain tolerance range from the selection. This option is especially useful if you create a saturation mask with saturation types HSL or HSB (this does not work in the LE version).

Without B/W is applied after a possible invert operation and therefore enlarges the opaque (black) areas of the mask in every case.

Auto Contrast

Increases the contrast of the mask up to the optimum. This is recommended for saturation masks and blurred edge masks because they are often very dark.

Mask to Transparency

This option (only available in the Standard version) writes the finished mask into the transparency channel of the layer, instead of producing a grayscale mask. This works only if the filter is applied to a layer with transparency channel (not to a background layer). Otherwise this option is not available.

Saturation type

(Filter preference in the options window, not in the LE version)

The saturation type determines which color model is used for the calculation of saturation when you create a saturation mask. By default the Photoshop type is chosen, because this type matches our color sense quite well. This type is the only one in the LE version.

In the Standard version you can choose four other types:

LCH - The saturation is based on the Lab color model. The colors are weighted differently and the full (100%) saturation is not reached in most cases. Therefore a mask created with this model has to be increased in brightness in most cases (Auto Contrast).

HSL - The saturation is based on the HSL color model. Very bright and very dark colors are highly saturated here, which does not accord with our color perception.

HSB - The saturation is based on the HSB color model. For bright colors the saturation is closer to our perception than the HSL saturation, but for dark colors they are equally bad.

YUV - The saturation is based on the YUV color model, favors pure colors but all in all is very unpronounced, much like LCH saturation.

If you choose HSL or HSB saturation for the creation of saturation or color masks please choose in addition the option Without B/W.

Display of original value and mask opacity

The two display fields next to the lower right corner of the preview window (not in the LE-Version) are a kind of before-after display. The upper field shows the original value, i.e. the value that is taken for creating the mask. Depending on the selected mask this can be the tonal value (in a channel, as an average value or as luminance) or the color/hue angel or the edge contrast. The lower field shows the resulting mask opacity, i.e. the measure of blackness of the mask, in percent. Displayed are the the values of the pixel below the mouse pointer. If a measuring point is set, outside the preview (or if the CONTROL key is held) the values of the measuring point are shown.

Combining masks

A mouse click in the combining check box switches the mode on and off. In the neighbouring combobox you have to choose the combining mode:

Cumulative: Every blue marked variant will be applied to the result of the previous (blue marked) variant.

In the following modes the variants are applied separatly to the source image. The results are combined afterwards. In contrast to the Cumulative mode the variants are marked with red colors.

Minimum: The minimum (darkest) value of all combined variants.

Maximum: The maximum (lightest) value of all combined variants.

Average: The average of the computed mask values of the combined variants.

Mix: The single mask values are mixed together. The result is similiar to the previous mode.

Neg. Mix: The mix of the inverted variants..

Multiply: The (normalized) mask values are multiplied. The results are dark like the results of the Minimum mode.

Neg. Multiply: The inverted mask values are multiplied.


SF Maskerade 3.5

SF Maskerade auto

Without license the filter works as try-out-version. The try-out version has all the functionality of the licensed version, except that the filter applies watermarks to the image. In addition the maximum size of the filter dialog box is limited.

Please order the license key here.

SF Maskerade LE

Plugin for Photoshop and compatible programs (Windows only), version 1.0 from 12 dec 2006.

SF Maskerade LE is Freeware and can be copied and distributed freely as long as no charges are being taken.

Related Documents

The Tutorial page shows hints and ten examples for the usage of the filter SF Maskerade.

The User interface page shows global functions and key shortcuts of the filters.

The Automation page shows how to use the filters in Photoshop actions and scripts.


(Full version)

16 bit color depth
The filter works with RGB images of 8 and 16 bit color depth per channel. Internally the filter always uses 16 bit color depth. This results in high-quality masks even with 8-bit-images.
Five mask types
You can create brightness masks (also called luminance masks), color masks (also called hue masks), saturation masks, edge masks and contrast masks.
Choosing channel or color range
For each mask type you can choose the channel or the color range for which the mask is created. For color/hue masks you can choose, in addition to the primary colors, Gray tones of any lightness you like.
Easy range selection
The selection of boundaries (thresholds) between masked and unmasked areas is done by two sliders. Alternatively you can click with the right mouse button into the preview image. Additionally, you can choose the tolerance. A small grayscale bar or color gradient visualizes the extent of the masking in each area.
Inverting or blurring the mask
With these options you can do these image processing steps right from within the filter, instead of having them to apply as a later step.
Masking colorless pixels
Black, white and gray areas which are normally covered by color/hue or saturation selection, can be masked with the slider Without B/W.
Transform mask into transparency
Normally you will get the filter result as a gray tone image. If you choose this option the mask is transformed into layer transparency. The original colors are preserved, but the masked areas become transparent.
Combine masks
You can combine up to ten Variants easily into a single mask. Beginning with version 3.2 you have the choice between seven blend modes and a "cumulative" mode.
Last Settings
The last applied settings are stored automatically and reloaded after restart. So you can work with up to ten favorite settings without manual reloading. Further you can store so many settings as you will in setting files.
Split Preview
Dividing the Preview window into two parts allows a Before/After comparison.
Choose Language
A mouse click changes the language between German and English.
Apply the filter automatically
You can use a special auto version of SF Maskerade from inside scripts and actions and therefore perform filters automatically on several images or whole folders. The settings are carried out conveniently in the Standard version of the filter.
New Features since SF Maskerade 3.3
Description Line: This option allows short descriptions to every variant. After OK the descriptions are stored with the settings.
Faster: The previews of all variants are stored in the background. Changing between variants is very fast now.
Features not included in the Freeware version:
Edge masks
Adjusting upper and lower contrast threshold separately
Transforming mask into layer transparency
Display of original pixel values and mask opacity side by side
Alternative saturation types
Loadable/savable settings
Changeable window size
Comfortable navigation functions in the preview
Support of 16 bit images

System requirements


The filter works only for Windows and is suitable for RGB images in 8 or 16 bit color depth (per channel). You can also work on grayscale images if you convert them into an RGB color space.

Normally, the filter transforms the selected layer to a grayscale image. Duplicate the original layer beforehand if you want to keep it. Depending on your image processing program, the finished grayscale image can be transformed into a layer mask or into an alpha channel.

You can download a Photoshop action that creates the layer mask automatically per right-click on the following link:

SimpelFilter PS-Action


Clicking the options button opens a window with pre-settings and a short help. Here you can select the language (German and English) and decide the saturation type.