Start your free trial now, and begin learning software, business and creative skills—anytime, anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts.

Start Your Free Trial Now

Correcting “false sharpening”


Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images

with Deke McClelland

Video: Correcting “false sharpening”

In this exercise we are going to take a look at false sharpening, which is a sharpening like effect that results from extreme color modifications inside of Camera RAW and elsewhere inside of Photoshop. As we will see, the way to address the false sharpening effect is not to use your sharpening controls, but rather to back off of your extreme color modifications. Let me show you what I mean. I have the bridge trained once again on the 05_for_source folder here inside the exercise files folder, and I have selected an image called Limestone outcropping.dng.
Expand all | Collapse all
  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

please wait ...
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

Correcting “false sharpening”

In this exercise we are going to take a look at false sharpening, which is a sharpening like effect that results from extreme color modifications inside of Camera RAW and elsewhere inside of Photoshop. As we will see, the way to address the false sharpening effect is not to use your sharpening controls, but rather to back off of your extreme color modifications. Let me show you what I mean. I have the bridge trained once again on the 05_for_source folder here inside the exercise files folder, and I have selected an image called Limestone outcropping.dng.

Its very possible that this outcropping right here, this rock, comprises sandstone as opposed to limestone. I thing it's a mix, I am no geologist, but anyway it's very, very cool. I would like you to go ahead and press Ctrl+R or Command+R on the Mac in order to open this image. I captured this image using a LEICA D-LUX 3, which is essentially a point-and-shoot camera, but its great because it allows you to capture RAW images, and it offers a panoramic lens so that you can shoot very wide images, or in the case of this one here, very tall images.

I captured this image right next door to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, and this is of course another high frequency still life shot. What I would like to do, I would like to up the drama of this image by darkening the sky. So I am going to zoom into the image a little bit, I not going to take it all the way to 100%, I am looking at the image at the 33% zoom ratio. I am going to switch over to this panel, the HSL/Grayscale panel, which I can get to by pressing Ctrl+Alt+4 or Command+oOption+4 in the Mac, if I wanted to.

Then I am going to switch to the Luminance subpanel right here, I am going to click on the Luminance tab, and I am going to drag the blues down to -50. You see how that ends up resulting in a deep dark sky, which is a lovely thing I think. Then I might take some of the saturation out of the sky, so its not such a brilliant blue, by switching over to Saturation. Similarly taking the blues value down to -50 once again, which ends up deepening the luminance of the sky, independently of all the other details inside of the image, but also because I have applied a big modification to one portion of an image, one group of hues inside the image, independently of all the other hues.

What ends up happening as a result, if I zoom in here, you can see that's got a ton of noise that's showing up inside of the sky. Now that's the least of my problems, because its not really there, as it turns out. This noise is popping up because Camera RAW adamantly refuses to show you the results of any of the options that are found inside the Detail panel when you are at any zoom ratio other that 100%. So this information, all this noise that we are seeing here, it's already smoothed away, it's not really there to the extent that we are seeing it. I will verify that by zooming in.

I will go ahead and zoom in to the 100% zoom ratio. As soon as I get there, you can see that the noise more or less disappears, there is still some luminance noise going on, but there isnt a terrible amount of color noise. I will show you what I mean. Lets go ahead and switch over to Detail. Notice that I have very little in the way of sharpening going on. These are the default sharpening settings incidentally. An Amount of 25, a Radius of 1 and a Detail of 25, those values are designed to get rid of the anti-aliasing and interpolation, that's a function of the demosaicing process, and nothing more.

that's what those values are intended for, so I will just leave them alone. Notice that I have modified my luminance and color values, if I were to zero those values out, especially the color value, I will set the color value to zero and press Tab. You can see that a ton of noise is showing up here, and that was the noise that we saw at the 50% zoom ratio. So no matter what Camera RAW is just bound and determined not to show you the results of these options, quite irritating actually, especially in the case of this particular image. Alright, lets go ahead and take this values back up to 30, which serve this image very nicely. Now I was telling you about false sharpening, that's the real problem in this image.

What do I mean' Well, check out that light halo that surrounds the mountain. Lets go ahead and zoom in so we can see it even more closely. You can see that sharp light halo that's surrounding the mountaintop there, if I switch back over to HSL/Grayscale, and I can see the luminance levels right there, if I switch this blues value back to 0, you can see that that light halo pretty well disappears, and that's because we are brightening the sky, essentially to match the halo. The problem with the halo is that it's a different hue value than the sky.

It comprises of some reds, some oranges, and some yellows, and all kinds of other hues, as it turns out. Alright, so lets go ahead and set this value back to -50. What in the world do we do? If we want this kind of radical difference between the sky and the foreground here, if we want the sky to appear much moodier, but we don't want to have this halo, what do we do about it? Well, you are not going to get anywhere by changing your Detail settings. Certainly, at this point we can only raise the Amount value, we are not applying much sharpening at all. Lowering the value, much as we hope that it would help us out, it doesn't really do any good, so might as well leave that value set at 25% in order to correct for the demosaicing process.

We are not going to really get anything out of Lens Corrections either, this isn't a function of chromatic aberrations, so you are wasting your time there. You can experiment with defringing, and actually in the case of this image, all edges doesn't really do us any good. You can see that it actually ends up exaggerating that halo, so it does us a fair amount of bad. Highlight edges does smooth out the contours in the sky a little bit, gets rid of the noise inside the sky ever so slightly, but not enough to really justify turning it on, so I would just leave defringe off. So whats the solution is the question? Well, the solution is to go back to HSL/Grayscale and see if one of the neighboring slider bars is going to help you out.

I am going to go ahead and zoom out a bit so that we can take in the sky. Again, the sky is going to look noisy at this zoom ratio, because we are no longer seeing the effects of our smoothing. So its going to look more noisy than it actually is. Now what I am going to do is, I am going to take down the Purples to -50 as well and see if that helps us out, and sure enough, it does deepen the sky dramatically, and it helps to deepen those halos just a little bit. What it shows me, is not so much its doing the halos any good, but its darkening the sky considerably, so maybe we don't need so much darkening of the blue value.

In fact, maybe we can have both these values; -25 and -25, and still get a deep sky without the halos, and sure enough, that's what we have got here. If I zoom in on this rock top right here, on the top of this rock structure; whether its limestone or sandstone, you can see that the halos have diminished considerably from where they were before, and if I zoom back out, so that I can take in more of the image but I am also seeing the noise and all the other artifact that's not really there, and I turn off the Preview check box, this is what the bright sky looked like, this is what the dark sky looked like.

So if you get that kind of false sharpening effect, don't look to the sharpening controls to fix it, because it is false sharpening after all, try to fix it using those same controls that you messed it up with. So the adjustment, these color adjustment options, they created the false sharpening effect, they can get rid of the false sharpening effect as well.

There are currently no FAQs about Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images.

Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.

Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ .

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

Join now Already a member? Log in

* Estimated file size

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.

Mark all as unwatched Cancel


You have completed Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.


Upgrade to View Courses Offline


With our new Desktop App, Annual Premium Members can download courses for Internet-free viewing.

Upgrade Now

After upgrading, download Desktop App Here.

Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member ?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Learn more, save more. Upgrade today!

Get our Annual Premium Membership at our best savings yet.

Upgrade to our Annual Premium Membership today and get even more value from your subscription:

“In a way, I feel like you are rooting for me. Like you are really invested in my experience, and want me to get as much out of these courses as possible this is the best place to start on your journey to learning new material.”— Nadine H.

Start your FREE 10-day trial

Begin learning software, business, and creative skills—anytime,
anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts. provides
Unlimited access to over 4,000 courses—more than 100,000 video tutorials
Expert-led instruction
On-the-go learning. Watch from your computer, tablet, or mobile device. Switch back and forth as you choose.
Start Your FREE Trial Now

A trusted source for knowledge.


We provide training to more than 4 million people, and our members tell us that helps them stay ahead of software updates, pick up brand-new skills, switch careers, land promotions, and explore new hobbies. What can we help you do?

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.