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One of the advantages of working with Photoshop is that we can work with layers. Layers give us so much flexibility. And really allow us to be creative in some amazing ways. Yet, one of the tricks with working with layers, is when it comes to sharpening, if you have a really complicated layer document, you may be wondering well, do you go back and sharpen all of those layers or how does it work? Well the easiest way to sharpen a layered document, is to merge all of the underlying layers to the top, and to do so by way of a shortcut, and to apply some sharpening there.
Let's take a look at how we can do that with this photograph. This is an image that I created for one of my other courses which was about changing the background in a picture. If we go to the layer where we have the surfer here, and hold down the Shift key and click on the mask, you can see the original photograph. And then hold down the Shift key and click on the mask again, and you can see that we changed the sky. We brought in some clouds. The cloud layer is down here, and then I also had a little bit of a cleanup layer as well. And then at the top we have some subtle cleanup here too.
So what I need to do is to merge all of this work to one place, to one layer, so that we can then apply some sharpening. And this particular technique works with whatever type of layers you have. What you do is you click in that topmost layer, then you press a really complicated and long keyboard shortcut. This is one that you just have to learn, you want to write this down it's really useful. Here it goes. On a Mac press Shift+Option+Cmd+E. On Windows press Shift+Alt+Ctrl+E.
Let me say those one more time. On a Mack, Shift+Option+Cmd+E. On Windows, Shift+Alt+Ctrl+E. What that will do is it merge or flatten all of the underlying layers to the layer above the one that you selected. That's why we clicked into that top most layer. Well now that we've merged all of our work together, we will double click that layer name. Lets go ahead and name that one Sharpen. Then we can go to any of our sharpening filters or techniques.
Here to keep things simple lets go to Smart Sharpen. I'll choose Filter, then Sharpen, then we'll select Smart Sharpen. This will open up our smart sharpen dialog, and here with this photo, I'm going to look to apply a little bit lower amount here. Nice low radius with this one. And I just want to add a little snap across the whole image. For my Noise reduction, that's pretty good actually, pretty close to where I want it. I'm going to click to hold. There's before, let go, that allows me to see the after.
Again I just want a general sort of clean up or snap to the overall project. This looks great. To apply those settings, click Ok. We'll then Render or Apply those settings to the top most layer. Now the only thing you have to keep in mind, is that if you decide you want to go back and make some changes to the project, to some of the underlying layers, what you may have to do is to delete or get rid of this layer and then do some work down here on your layers and then repeat what we just did, Merge to Top again and then apply the sharpening.
Because, essentially, what the Merge to Top did, is it took all of our work, all of this, and put it in one place up here. So again, just keep that in mind that that's what we're doing when we're working with this technique. And, also, I recommend that you write that shortcut down, put it next to your computer, it's one which is incredibly helpful when it comes to working with layered documents and it's especially helpful when we have layered documents and when we need to sharpen the image.
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