Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images
Illustration by Don Barnett

Combining smoothing and sharpening


Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images

with Deke McClelland

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Video: Combining smoothing and sharpening

Alright kids, we are taking up where we left off in last exercise, so I am still at work inside the Unguarded moment.jpg file and all I have really done so far in a way of actual practical application of the tools is to go ahead and choose the Reduce Noise command under the Noise submenu, which is under the Filter menu, and I have brought up the Reduce Noise dialog box of course. Now I have gone ahead and reduced the Sharpen Details value to 0%, which is what I recommend you do for any and all images that you encounter. Because I prefer to apply my sharpening using Smart Sharpen or one of the other tools after I apply the Reduce Noise command because it gives me more control and I suggest you do the same, of course.
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  1. 50m 30s
    1. Why every image needs sharpening
      2m 37s
    2. Understanding the effects of sharpening
      5m 26s
    3. Understanding the mechanics of sharpening
      4m 19s
    4. Understanding sharpening and gradual transitions
      3m 21s
    5. Understanding sharpening and noise reduction
      4m 0s
    6. Understanding amount and radius
      7m 50s
    7. Measuring your screen resolution
      6m 19s
    8. Using reliable zoom ratios
      5m 30s
    9. Calculating the actual print size
      4m 55s
    10. Gauging the ideal sharpening settings
      6m 13s
  2. 59m 28s
    1. Everyone knows you sharpen last (and everyone is wrong)
      1m 7s
    2. Understanding the conventional sharpening workflow
      5m 3s
    3. Flattening and saving to TIFF
      6m 40s
    4. Downsampling (and why you shouldn't upsample)
      6m 8s
    5. Understanding last-step sharpening
      6m 43s
    6. Recognizing problems with the conventional workflow
      9m 38s
    7. Erasing sharpening with the history brush
      4m 30s
    8. Using alternative sharpening workflows
      2m 37s
    9. Sharpening a scanned photograph shot on film
      2m 45s
    10. Sharpening a digital photograph
      3m 6s
    11. Sharpening specific details
      3m 43s
    12. Finding broad workflow conclusions
      2m 48s
    13. Learning that technique trumps timing
      4m 40s
  3. 1h 30m
    1. Comparing and contrasting neighboring pixels
      1m 6s
    2. Using the Gaussian Blur filter
      4m 25s
    3. Using Gaussian luminance distribution
      7m 47s
    4. Using the Unsharp Mask filter
      4m 54s
    5. Understanding the history of Unsharp Mask
      3m 51s
    6. Building your own USM with Gaussian Blur
      7m 35s
    7. Using the Smart Sharpen filter
      7m 35s
    8. Compensating for camera shake
      8m 50s
    9. Building your own Smart Sharpen with Lens Blur
      6m 59s
    10. Using directional sharpening with Emboss
      9m 13s
    11. Using Smart Sharpen extras
      8m 56s
    12. Using Convolution Kernels for more accuracy
      7m 8s
    13. Using the High Pass filter
      7m 32s
    14. Using Luminance Sharpening
      5m 5s
  4. 2h 14m
    1. Smoothing filters, smart objects, and masks
      1m 24s
    2. Using the Median filter and Dust and Scratches
      7m 6s
    3. Using Smart Blur and Surface Blur
      6m 14s
    4. Using the Despeckle filter
      8m 18s
    5. Softening flesh tones selectively
      10m 16s
    6. Using the Reduce Noise filter
      7m 27s
    7. Combining smoothing and sharpening
      8m 23s
    8. Making an image into a smart object
      9m 23s
    9. Applying editable smart filters
      6m 10s
    10. Combining two smart filters
      8m 6s
    11. Assigning a filter mask
      5m 59s
    12. Nesting one smart object inside another
      10m 31s
    13. Employing a static High Pass layer
      9m 0s
    14. Matching static pixel-level edits
      4m 37s
    15. Avoiding clipping with luminance blending
      9m 7s
    16. Sharpening and smoothing
      6m 37s
    17. Making an edge mask
      8m 15s
    18. Making a non-edge mask
      7m 17s
  5. 1h 33m
    1. Sharpening with Adobe Camera Raw
      1m 28s
    2. Introducing Camera Raw (4.1 or later)
      8m 12s
    3. Understanding why to sharpen for source
      5m 14s
    4. Using Camera Raw’s sharpening control
      5m 51s
    5. Previewing limitations and tricks
      6m 45s
    6. Why downsampling doesn’t work
      3m 12s
    7. Reducing chromatic aberration
      7m 29s
    8. Using the Defringe option
      3m 31s
    9. Understanding high frequency, low radius
      5m 21s
    10. Raising the Detail value
      3m 6s
    11. Using on-the-fly edge masking
      5m 40s
    12. Sharpening a low-frequency portrait
      6m 35s
    13. Eliminating color noise
      4m 47s
    14. Reducing luminance noise
      4m 41s
    15. Correcting “false sharpening”
      7m 14s
    16. Reducing shadow noise
      5m 22s
    17. Approximating ACR sharpening in Photoshop
      8m 35s
  6. 59m 12s
    1. Gauging and exploiting luminance frequency
      1m 26s
    2. Using low-frequency source sharpening
      5m 53s
    3. Using High Pass for portraits
      4m 19s
    4. Actioning a low-frequency edge mask
      7m 42s
    5. Modifying the source sharpening
      5m 21s
    6. Using high-frequency source sharpening
      5m 26s
    7. Using Smart Sharpen for cityscapes
      3m 1s
    8. Actioning a high-frequency edge mask
      5m 5s
    9. Downplaying color artifacts and clipping
      4m 5s
    10. Sharpening a medium-frequency image
      5m 25s
    11. Sharpening a layered composition
      7m 17s
    12. Sharpening for multiple frequencies
      4m 12s
  7. 1h 8m
    1. Who needs dull when you have sharp?
    2. Focusing in on a person’s eyes
      4m 22s
    3. Blurring the area outside the eyes
      4m 22s
    4. Sharpening eyes and other details
      5m 38s
    5. Darkening the lashes and eyebrows
      7m 13s
    6. Sharpening dark-haired people
      5m 2s
    7. Edge mask and emphasize
      3m 38s
    8. Nesting a Smart Sharpen effect
      4m 48s
    9. Density mask sharpening
      5m 35s
    10. Adding depth of field
      4m 39s
    11. Sharpening a background
      4m 23s
    12. Masking background from foreground
      8m 51s
    13. Eliminating halos around a person
      5m 38s
    14. Deepening and warming a background
      3m 27s
  8. 1h 18m
    1. Reverting back to convention
      1m 36s
    2. Understanding the use-neutral composition
      4m 15s
    3. Restoring much-needed antialiasing
      4m 2s
    4. Reducing noise in a high-frequency image
      7m 24s
    5. Making a third-level smart object
      3m 55s
    6. Preparing an image for print
      5m 19s
    7. Using ideal settings for commercial reproduction
      5m 37s
    8. Calculating very large-format settings
      5m 11s
    9. Using ideal settings for inkjet output
      4m 26s
    10. Sharpening for commercial reproduction
      5m 44s
    11. Sharpening for inkjet output
      4m 57s
    12. Revealing high-frequency multipass sharpening
      5m 21s
    13. Using Gaussian Blur to sharpen hair
      5m 42s
    14. Flatten, Save As, Resample, and Sharpen
      5m 10s
    15. Revealing low-frequency multipass sharpening
      3m 31s
    16. Sharpening an image for web or screen
      6m 22s
  9. 1m 51s
    1. Goodbye
      1m 51s

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Watch the Online Video Course Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images
10h 33m Intermediate Feb 15, 2008

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Real focus happens inside the camera's lens element. The sharpening features in Photoshop CS3 exaggerate the contrast along edges in a photograph to transform a well-focused image into an outstanding image. In Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images, Deke McClelland teaches a host of sharpening and noise reduction techniques, including using filters such as Unsharp Mask, Smart Sharpen, High Pass, and Reduce Noise. The training teaches the essentials of sharpening, including what it does, why it's important, and how the filters function. Plus, the training covers Deke's recommended best practices, including the four distinct varieties of sharpening, which can be used independently or in combination with each other. Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images is about how to transform images from looking good to looking their absolute best. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Understanding the effects of sharpening
  • In-depth examinations of Unsharp Mask, Smart Sharpen, Emboss, and High Pass
  • Smoothing an image with the Surface Blur, Despeckle, and Reduce Noise features
  • Working with smart objects and smart filters
  • Creating edge masks and non-edge masks
  • Sharpening for digital-image capture using Camera Raw
  • Gauging and exploiting luminance frequency
  • Exploring creative applications of sharpening
  • Sharpening a multilayer composition
  • Sharpening eyes, hair, and out-of-focus backgrounds
  • Reducing noise in a high-frequency image
  • Determining ideal settings for commercial and inkjet output
  • Sharpening very large-format images
  • Sharpening an image for the web or screen output
Deke McClelland

Combining smoothing and sharpening

Alright kids, we are taking up where we left off in last exercise, so I am still at work inside the Unguarded moment.jpg file and all I have really done so far in a way of actual practical application of the tools is to go ahead and choose the Reduce Noise command under the Noise submenu, which is under the Filter menu, and I have brought up the Reduce Noise dialog box of course. Now I have gone ahead and reduced the Sharpen Details value to 0%, which is what I recommend you do for any and all images that you encounter. Because I prefer to apply my sharpening using Smart Sharpen or one of the other tools after I apply the Reduce Noise command because it gives me more control and I suggest you do the same, of course.

Now in this case, it's hard to see inside of the video and it's even subtle on screen but we have managed to get rid of the noise inside of the shadow detail and currently we are looking at the right side of this woman's neck, right above her collarbone. So right in this area would be her jugular presumably. Just to give you a sense of where we are geographically inside the image. Alright, so just in case you can see this, let's go and zoom in just little bit more, we are going to have less context but we will be able to see whats going on. If I click and drag this image, you can see the original noise.

If I release, you can see the noise dissipate. It's very subtle but given that we need to sharpen the image and we saw how bad it gets after we sharpen the image, we do need to first reduce the noise. Alright, so I am going to go ahead and take the Strength value down a little bit. What I typically do, by the way, is I go ahead and reduce Preserve Details down to 0% just while I am working, while I am trying to figure out what the best settings are. I take down the Reduce Color Noise value to 0% as well and then I fool around with the Strength value until I see that noise more or less go away inside of the image.

It's about at a Strength value of eight that I see this noise go away and get smoothed over. Now if you look closely, you can still see color noise inside the image that is random variations and color values. So I am going to have to increase the Reduce Color Noise value as well. And this one is measured as a percentage. So it goes from 0% to 100% whereas Strength just goes from 0 to 10. And I am going to go ahead and take this Reduce Color Noise value up to 45% where this image is concerned and of course, this is a subjective, a purely subjective evaluation.

I am just looking at what I can see on screen and trying to make a decision based on it. But I tend to actually keep the Reduce Color Noise value some place between 25% and 60%, but that's just kind of this vague guideline that I found for myself over time here. I am also going to take this Preserve Details value up to about 20% for this particular image. Now I tend to go low on Preserve Details because I would rather go a little too strong with this filter than too weak with it. Because really, if you start raising this value up too high and you take the Strength value too low, you are not going to do much in a way of any good for your image.

It might be good enough for screen work but for print, it's barely even going to resolve. So I tend to go little strong with these values. So as I say, I am taking Strength up to 8 and I am taking Preserve Detail down to 20 and that's it. 8, 20, 45, and 0, leave Remove JPEG Artifact turned off for this particular image because it doesn't have a problem with JPEG compression and I will click OK. Even though it a JPEG image, by the way, it's a high quality JPEG image. So there is not much in the way of JPEG artifacts at work here. I'll go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification and the filter is not a super fast filter so it does take a few moments to apply.

So you just have to wait have for this spinning beach ball on the Mac or that's spinning blue thing on Windows Vista anyway to disappear. It's not going to look all that different; this is the before view of the image. So lets go and zoom in on her eye. That's where we are likely to see the biggest difference. This is the before version of the image and this is the after version of the image. So a little bit of softening going on, but not nearly as big of an effect as we saw with the Median command, for example, and a more likely degree of effect that we'd see with Despeckle but its a very different effect. It is a much more disciplined effect that's being applied.

Alright, so now that we have done that you may recall in the previous exercise in History palette, we made sure that we kept the Smart Sharpen state, which is the sharpened version of the original image without any noise reduction. Now lets go ahead and apply Smart Sharpen to the reduced noise version of the image. I am going to go up to the Filter menu and choose the Smart Sharpen command. I am going to go ahead and accept those exact same settings that we have applied before. So there is over the top Amount value of 500%, a Radius of 4.0 and so on, click OK in order to accept that. The reason I am doing this over the top version of the Smart Sharpen filter, it's just so that we are comparing apples to apples. Just so that you can see the difference here.

This is Smart Sharpen after reduce noise and this is Smart Sharpen by itself, right there. Big difference as you can see. Tons more color artifacts going on and more artifacts in general, a lot of luminance artifacts as well. So this is the much smoother Smart Sharpen version. Lets go ahead and zoom out here so that we can take in more of her face. Now she is over-sharpened at this point. I would not really apply this much sharpening to this image. But just so you can see it, it's downright subtle compared to the previous effect, to Smart Sharpen by itself. So this is Smart Sharpen by itself.

We have got all of these almost like flakes of snow on her at this point and we have all of these purple artifacts that are showing up in her hair. We could get rid of those, of course, by applying the Luminosity blend mode in order to settle that stuff down but we would still have way too much sharpening going on and way too many artifacts being drawn out. And especially, check out this shadow detail, this is different. This is the Smart Sharpened shadow detail by itself and this is the shadow detail subject to noise reduction and then Smart Sharpen on top of it.

Now we are still seeing too many noise artifacts and that's because we went crazy with Smart Sharpen. Now that I have gone ahead and compared the two variations on Smart Sharpen, let's apply a more normal amount of sharpening. I am going to go ahead and click on Reduce Noise to back up to it. Then I am going to press Ctrl+Alt+F or Command+Option+F on the Mac in order to re-invoke the Smart Sharpen filter here. I am going to reduce that Amount value to 200%, which is still a high value, but it's a more normal value for this image and actually would be well suited if we are going to output with this image.

It's a good amount of sharpening. She is going to look a little crunchy on screen here. Lets actually even take her higher, 250%. So that's going to keep her good and crunchy on screen but its going to look great in print as I'll show you. So anyway, an Amount value 250%, a Radius of 4.0, click OK. Of course, we would go ahead follow that up with an application of the Luminosity blend mode. So lets go ahead and hide the History palette, so we can see what we are doing. Even though we are not necessarily noticing an awful lot of color artifacting that's happening inside the image, it is still there. And it's always worth, if we are working with a flat effect, going up to the Edit menu and choosing the Fade Command or if we're working with a layer, go ahead and apply the Luminosity blend mode directly to the layer.

But either way you need to apply that Luminosity blend mode. So I am going to go ahead and choose the Fade command. Go to Mode, set it to Luminosity. It's going to settle down the effect and then click OK. And you are probably going to notice the most in the eyes and her hair as well. This is the final sharpened version of this image and just to test it out, to make sure that its going to look good in print, what I would suggest you do is go ahead and image size it down, just temporarily, of course, just to soft proof it on screen to your screen resolution which you measured back in Chapter 1. So I am going to press Ctrl+Alt+I or Command+Option+I on the Mac.

Notice that I have got it set to 8 inches wide by 12 inches tall. This is the native resolution, by the way, for the digital camera that captured this image. The resolution happens to be 292 when the width is 8 and the height is 12 inches. I am going to go ahead and click on Resample Image and I am going to reduce that resolution down to 117, which is my conceit, right? That's what I am pretending my screen resolution is for the purposes of this series. And then I am going to click OK in order to accept that modification and now lets just go ahead and zoom in on the image and this is the final version of the image. It's going to pop off the page.

We could have probably stood to apply even a little more sharpening than this frankly. We do have a little bit of noise that's surviving down here in the shadow detail but its going to resolve out very, very nicely in print. A beautifully sharpened image. Thanks to the combination of Reduce Noise and Smart Sharpen here inside Photoshop.

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