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Gauging the ideal sharpening settings

From: Photoshop CS4: Sharpening Images New Features

Video: Gauging the ideal sharpening settings

Now everything we've done so far over the course of the last several exercises has been about establishing a system with which we can accurately soft proof output sharpening. We've done that, of course, by entering the Screen Resolution value, confirming that we have an OpenGL video card, and then going to the View menu and choosing the Print Size command. You can be working inside a different image if you want to. You don't have to have this gorgeous, luscious image open. If you want to, though, it's called Star eyes 12 x 8.jpg, found inside of the 01_how_it_works folder.

Gauging the ideal sharpening settings

Now everything we've done so far over the course of the last several exercises has been about establishing a system with which we can accurately soft proof output sharpening. We've done that, of course, by entering the Screen Resolution value, confirming that we have an OpenGL video card, and then going to the View menu and choosing the Print Size command. You can be working inside a different image if you want to. You don't have to have this gorgeous, luscious image open. If you want to, though, it's called Star eyes 12 x 8.jpg, found inside of the 01_how_it_works folder.

Now if you never want to have to enter that Screen Resolution value again, or confirm OpenGL support, you want Photoshop to be good to go from now on, then go ahead and quit out of Photoshop, which I can do by clicking on this Close box here under Windows or by going to the File menu, choosing the Exit command. That would be File>Quit on the Mac. And the reason you would do that and then restart Photoshop is because Photoshop saves Preference settings when it quits. If you crash inside of Photoshop after entering a preference setting, then when you restart Photoshop, you'll have your old preference settings again, because they're not saved on the fly, they're saved during the quit.

Anyway, now we've got everything good to go. We don't have to do that stuff over and over again. What we do now is we gauge the settings on the fly and we assume that we're going to be seeing things correctly, and then by the end of this exercise, I'll show you whether or not our assumptions are correct. So here's what I want you to do. I don't care what image you're in. Just make sure it's beautiful. Make sure you've gone to the View menu and chose the Print Size command. Then, go to the Filter menu, choose Sharpen, and then choose Smart Sharpen. If you've loaded my DekeKeys in the Photoshop CS4 One-on-One Fundamental Series, then you have a keyboard shortcut of Shift+F6.

That will serve you well, because it's such an awesome filter. All right, I don't want you to look at the preview inside of the dialog box at all, but I am going to go ahead and bring the eye over, just so that we can keep track of it. And when you're sharpening portrait shots, by the way, the eye is the most important thing. We only have one eye that's in focus, but we want to make sure that one eye stays nice and sharp. However, because we're viewing it at 100%, we're not really concerned with it where output sharpening is concerned. So I'm going to do this.

I'm going to move it off screen, out of the way, so that we can see the output size version of the image on screen, because that's the one that we're going to really care about. If you've been working along with me, you might see some ridiculous settings like 500% and 12 pixels and so on, but here's what you want to do. Make sure More Accurate is turned off. I'll tell you more about that one in a later chapter. Remove, for now. Just leave it set to Gaussian Blur. You can leave Amount set to this excessive value right now, but we're going to take the Radius value down to something more reasonable.

So I'm going to have you change the Radius value to two pixels right now. Look at the image on screen. Are our edges thick enough, or are we seeing halos? What we want is halos that pretty much disappear. We don't want to see the halos, but we want to see the effects of the halos. So in other words, the halos resolve down to the point that they become just barely visible, so that our end user, the consumer of our image, does not notice their existence. So we don't want big, whopping thick halos like this.

I just change the Radius value to four pixels, so we see halos around the eyelashes, for example, and around the lips and around the bottom of the lip. That's terrible. That's exactly what we don't want to see. So we'll start at two, and then I'm going to have you press the Down Arrow key to reduce that Radius value in increments of 0.1 pixel at a time. When I get this Radius value down to about 1.6 pixels, I'm feeling pretty good about it. Now you could go lower if you want to or higher. It's really up to you. But 1.6, where this image is concerned, it's looking good to me.

Then I'm going to change this Amount value to something reasonable. Let's go ahead and take it down to 100%. That ends up producing a pretty good result. So let's go ahead and turn off Preview for a moment, so we can see the original image. This is the image as it looked before we enter the Smart Sharpen dialog box. This is the image the way it looks after we apply the Smart Sharpen settings, so just a little bit sharper. That's what we're looking for. We just want it to survive the natural softening of the print process, after all. The image was already sharply focused in the first place.

So come up with an Amount value, a combination of Amount and Radius that seems to do a good job for the image, and then I want you to add 50% to the Amount value. That's because there's going to be more softening associated with that print process, then you can reasonably anticipate on the screen. And it doesn't do the image any harm. We're not over-sharpening the image with an additional 50%. So let's go ahead and turn off Preview. There is the un-sharp version of the image, that is, the image as shot ostensibly.

I don't know exactly what photographer Alexandra Alexis has done to this image in advance, but it doesn't look to me like she did any output sharpening. Then I'll turn on the Preview to see the Sharpening settings in force. So this looks good to me. Now, I'm going to move the dialog box over so you can see what happened to the image at 100% view size. This is before. Nice. It looks good. This is after. It looks crunchy. It looks brittle. It looks over-sharpened. But it's not. If we're sharpening it for output, it sharpened exactly to the right extent. All right.

Let's go ahead and click OK. I'm telling you that in Photoshop CS4, things are so much better. In the old days, you could not trust the Print Size command for output sharpening because the Print Size command threw away pixels. It didn't really throw them away, but it threw away pixels for purposes of screen display. So the image looked a lot sharper than it actually was going to output. It looked more jagged, really, is the way it looked. I'm telling you now that if you have OpenGL support that Photoshop CS4 behaves way better. I'm going to demonstrate to you, at 100% view size, that this is truly a believable view.

I'm going to prove that to you in the next and final exercise.

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Photoshop CS4: Sharpening Images New Features

13 video lessons · 12282 viewers

Deke McClelland
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