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In this exercise I am going to show you how to gauge the ideal Sharpening settings whether you intend to output your image to the web or you intend to print your image. Now these are two very different media so they will require different settings but I'll show you how it all works inside this exercise. I am working inside of the image called Macro butterfly.jpg found inside the 15_sharpen folder. Before we go any farther, I need to make sure that you have established your screen resolution. You've measured your screen resolution and made Photoshop aware of it, and that's something I showed you how to do back in Chapter 4 of Photoshop CS5 One-on-One fundamentals.
But just to confirm, press Ctrl+K or Command+K on the Mac to bring up the Preferences dialog box and then click on Units and Rulers and note the Screen Resolution value. It should be set to something other than 72 pixels per inch, 72 is the default setting, and it's wrong. Now, 117 happens to simulate a 17 inch MacBook Pro. So if you've got that kind of machine, great! You can work with 117. Otherwise, you need to measure your screen resolution and enter it into this Option box and then click on the OK button before you go any farther.
Once again to figure that out, go to Chapter 4 of my Photoshop CS5 One-on-One fundamentals course and take a look at the movie called Viewing the image at print size. Assuming that you've done that, let's go ahead and prepare our image for output to the web first and then we'll see how to prepare it for print. So if you're going to the web you want to view the image at the 100% view size. So go ahead and press Control+1 or Command +1 on the Mac to zoom the image to 100%. You can also go to the View menu and choose the Actual Pixels command.
At this zoom ratio, Photoshop devotes 1 screen pixel to every image pixel which is the way it works on the web. So my assumption is you've gone ahead down-sampled the image, so it's going to fit on the web page. This image is of course way too big. So let's say we're going to eventually crop it. I'll go up to the Filter menu and I'll choose the Sharpen command and I'll now choose Unsharp Mask or press Shift+F5 if you've loaded dekeKeys. And I usually start things off by maximizing my Amount value. Even if I don't intend to apply that much sharpening, I'll start with an Amount value of 500%.
So I can accurately gauge Radius and Threshold. Then if your destination is the screen, which is the way it is on the web, then you want to reduce your Radius value. I typically take it as low as 0.3 pixels, any lower than that and you really lose any distinguishable sharpening effect even at a very high amount value. Notice if I take it down to 0.2 pixel, we really lose the effect onscreen. It's still there a little bit, but not enough to be noticeable. So I'll keep it as low as 0.3 pixel, I might raise it as high as 0.7.
So that's pretty much the range I work with when I am going to the web. Anyway, let's keep it really tight here. I'll take it down to 0.3. Now I am bringing out a bunch of noise in my image and because so much of this image is out of focus, because it's a macro shot, I'll take the Radius value higher than I might normally take it. I'll take it to 5 levels in this case. I could take it even higher than that, pretty much altogether eliminate that noise showing up in the background. However, if I do that, I am going to have fairly stark contrast between the pixels that are getting sharpened and those that aren't getting sharpened.
And I want this to look like a homogeneous sharpening effect. So in my case, this works out pretty nicely; 500%, Radius of 0.3 pixels, and a Threshold of 5 levels; I am going to go ahead and Zoom-in to 200% so I can really see the detail inside my image. Now, I'll turn the Preview check box off. This is the original version of the image before I sharpened it. If I turn Preview back on, this is the sharpened version of the image. So it's a fairly subtle effect even at such a high Amount value, notice that.
However, that's what I want. I don't want to over-sharpen the image, I don't want to go too far with it. I just want to give it some additional punch, and sizzle onscreen. All right! So that's how you go about sharpening an image for screen work for the web. That is to say, you go ahead, and view the image at 100% zoom ratio or higher and then you work with a high Amount value and a very low Radius value. What do you do if you're preparing the image for print? Well, the first thing you do is go to the View menu and you choose the Print Size command or you press Ctrl+Alt+0 or Command+Options+0 on the Mac.
Again, I need to emphasize this command performs accurately if and only if you've assigned a screen resolution value there in the Preferences dialog box. Otherwise, it's totally misleading. Anyway, I'll go ahead and choose the command, and I zoom out in my case to 48.8%. It will be something different in your case. Now, I am seeing the butterfly as it will output. I'm going to leave my Amount value set to 500% for now, and then I'll select the Radius value and I'll take it up to let's say 3 pixels. That looks like we've got way too much sharpening going on at this point, and we do.
I'm over-sharpening the image. But what I really want you to keep in mind is that we need a high Radius value, a higher Radius value than we do when we're going to screen work, in order to survive the print process. So basically, you need at least 1 pixel of Radius for every 100 pixels of resolution. So in other words, 3 pixels would be ideal for a 300 PPI output. Now, this is the rule of thumb when you're working inside the Unsharp Mask dialog box. If you're working inside Smart Sharpen, the equation changes slightly.
Especially, if you're accounting for Lens Blur, then you might want to take that Radius value up a little farther. You may not know what I'm talking about now but you will before you're done with this chapter. Anyway, I'm going to 300 pixels per inch. So radius of 3 is going to work out nicely. I already know that Threshold should be set to 5 levels for this image. So I'll leave that set as is. Then I would probably want to take this Amount value down to something much lower. Now at about 100 where this image is concerned, it pops pretty nicely at the print size that I am seeing here onscreen.
Just to show you what I mean, here is the before version of the image if I turn Preview off, here is the after version of the image if I turn Preview back on. Again, it's a subtle, but meaningful difference. Now, because I'm preparing an image for output, things will change in the conversion from the screen image to the final printed image, and I am going to lose some sharpness in that process. So I typically add another 50 % on just for good measure. So if 100% looks good, then give it 150% for example. Now, I am going to go ahead just because I want to exaggerate an effect here.
I am going to go ahead and take this guy up to 500% which is way too far, but we will back it off in just a moment, so that I can show you, I will go ahead and click OK. I want to show you how that is bringing out if we go ahead and zoom-in here, a bunch of aberrant colors along the edges inside of my image. So notice all of these blues and purples that are going on here, and we have all sorts of weird off-color pixels going on as well. You can just see dots of color here and there inside of this animal's fur or whatever you call it.
So I'll go up to the Edit menu and I'll choose Fade Unsharp Mask; Ctrl+Shift+F, Command+Shift+F, something to note about this command. It's only available for the very last pixel operation. So immediately after applying Unsharp Mask, you need to choose this command. I'll go ahead and choose the command, and I'll change the mode from Normal to Luminosity, so that same trick in order to make those aberrant colors go away and you just saw them completely disappear onscreen. Then I want to reduce my Opacity value. Now, I had my amount value set to 500% just to exaggerate things, just so we could really see those aberrant colors, because otherwise they are a little easy to mess even though they are still there.
So what I really wanted was an Amount value of 150%. I don't necessarily expect you to work this way but 150 turns out to be 30% of 500. So if I reduce this Opacity value down to 30%, I am going to get the same effect as having applied 150% in the first place. I'm just doing this for demonstrational purposes. What I would tell you to do is where this butterfly is concerned, set the Amount to 150%, set the Radius to 3 pixels, set the Threshold to 5 levels, then choose the added Fade command, and set the mode to Luminosity, and you are done.
But in my case I am taking the Opacity value down as well. All right! So I'll go ahead and click OK, and this is my sharpened image for output. I'll go ahead and take the image out to 100% view size here, and I'll bring up my History panel and I'll click on this guy right there, Revert which is the last step I applied before I applied Unsharp Mask. So this is the version of the bug as it looked when we started out the exercise here, and this is the sharpened version of the image. Accurately gauged, using the Print Size command here under the View menu, assuming of course that you've accurately set up your Screen Resolution inside the Preferences dialog box.
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