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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.
In this exercise we are going to the mask that I have assigned to the Smart Sharpen, Smart Filter and we are going to convert it into an edge mask. It just traces along the edges inside of the image and protects the non-edges so that we don't sharpen a bunch of noise. I am working inside of a catch-up document, those of you who may just be joining me called Sharpened moment.PSD and it's found inside of the 04_Support_Stuff folder. I am going to Alt-click or Option-click on this Filter Mask icon right there in front of the words Smart Filters in order to view the mask by itself.
Now currently it's just a copy of the red channel nothing more and the sharpening effect is going to show through the white and light areas of the mask and its going to be hidden by the dark and black areas of the Mmask and then we are going to have sort of soft transitions provided by the gray areas. Alright. So lets make an edge mask. Lets convert this guy to an edge mask. Now if you have watched my Photoshop CS3 Channels & Masks Series, you know how to create an edge mask for sharpening archival photographs. This edge mask is going to be slightly different.
Its basically the same idea, just a little different spin here. So the first thing that I am going to do is I am going to apply the Median filter because I want to get rid of as much noise inside this image as possible right upfront. I am going to go onto the Filter menu and I am going to go to Noise and then I will chose Median and I am going to apply a pretty high value Radius of 10 pixels. Now this recipe that I am about to share with you is going to work for just about any image as long as you follow the steps. So the steps will always remain the same. You will choose Median and then you will choose another filter and another filter and so on. However, the exact Radius values you enter is kind of up to you.
Basically you need to enter a high enough Radius value. It's totally OK to go over the top here a little bit. A high enough Radius value that you get rid of the noise inside the image is as much as possible. If you ruin a little bit of image detail, if you are gumming up a little bit that's OK. But high resolution images you might want to go even higher, although this is a big image. Alright. So Radius value of 10 pixels is what I am going to apply and I will click OK and you can see that we have a pretty gummy image going on here. Now I am going to go up to the Filter menu. This is the key step to creating an edge mask.
You go to Stylize and you choose this command right there, Find Edges, and it locates the edges inside the image, which is a terrific thing. Without Find Edges we wouldn't be able to create an edge mask and you get this effect here. Now I want the edges to show up this white and the non-edges to show up as black; so I need to reverse this mask, and I am going to do that by pressing Ctrl+I or Command+I on the Mac to invert it. Next, I want to increase the brightness of this mask, because right now we wouldn't be able to see much at all in the way of sharpening going on inside of this image and if you want to check it out you can just Alt-click or Option-click on that mask icon and you will see now we have pretty much obliterated the sharpening effect.
Alright. So I am going to Alt-click or Option-click on the filter mask once again and I am going to press Ctrl+L or Command+L on the Mac in order to bring up the Levels dialog box and you can see we just have a little bit of a Histogram here. I am going to increase the brightness by dragging this white slider triangle right there over until I get a value of about 40; so notice that its starting to cut into the slope of that Histogram, and we are bringing out a lot of whites, a pretty cool effect, that we are seeing right here.
Even though we are just using as amask, it looks pretty darn cool actually. So I went ahead and applied the white point value 40. So that I am saying anything with a brightness value of 40 or lighter is going to become white. So that's an awful lot of luminance levels. Then I will click OK in order to accept that modification. Alright. Now lets take a look at what we have brought so far. I am going to Alt-click or Option-click on the filter mask once again or I can just click on the layer thumbnail right there in order to switch back to the full color image and you can see that this has limited the sharpening filter to a great extent here actually.
I am going to bring up the History palette so that we can compare this last step that we just applied to the original filter mask. So I will go ahead and choose Add Filter Mask right there and you can see that we have a lot more sharpening going on before we converted this right channel right here to an edge mask. So its a much more subtle sharpening effect, though by no means subtle because I still have this very high Amount value assigned to Smart Sharpen. Alright. So this is pretty good, I would just like to expand the edges a little bit. They're still a little thin for my taste.
So I am going to go ahead and click on the filter mask icon and from this point on we are going to work on the filter mask but we are going to preview the effects in the full color image. So here's how we make the edges thicker inside the Mask. The first step is to go up to the Filter menu and choose Other and choose Maximum. Maximum increases the maximum brightness value, which is white. So it expands the white areas of the mask and I am going to go ahead and expand those edges by a radius of 4 pixels. Now again this is going to vary exactly which values you apply are up to you so you might want to experIiment with this a little bit.
But I will go ahead and click on the eye here so we can see that eye; this is before. And bear in mind, we are looking at the mask here inside the preview inside the Maximum dialog box. This is the before view of those edges and this is the after view. So that greatly expands those edges so that we are sharpening a wider swath of edge there. And then I will go ahead and click OK to accept that modification. Now the one thing before we click OK I want you to notice that Maximum ends up blowing up pixels, it ends up expanding pixel so you get these big squares, you may notice here.
So I will click OK. We need to round up those squares and the ticket where rounding squares is concerned is the Median filter. Once again, the Median filter will go ahead and round off corners inside of an image. So I am going to go to the Filter menu, choose Noise and choose Median. It's a part of the averaging process as it turns out. I am going to enter a Radius value that matches the radius inside the Maximum dialog box, which was 4. Alright. So whatever you enter in Maximum, enter the same value here into Radius and that will round off those edges as you can see there.
So this is before with all the little squares; this is after with all the little circles essentially. Now I will go and click OK. Then finally we want to go ahead and blur the edges a bit and I am going to apply a Blur value of twice the Maximum and the Median values. So I am going to go to the Filter menu, choose Blur and choose Gaussian Blur the best blur for our purposes because we need a nice Gaussian distribution and I am going to go with the Radius value of 8 pixels. Just as I have here, lets look at the eye again. So this is it before, this is it after. It looks very blurry, doesn't look as cool as it looked before the mask. Doesn't looks nearly as cool as it did before, but it's going to serve our purposes much better.
Now I will click OK in order to accept that modification. You can see that we now have a pretty subtle sharpening effect considering how high the Amount value is and we have managed to avoid sharpening much in the way of the noise inside the image. So if I turned off, I will go ahead and turn off the Smart Filter here. This is a before view of this noisy area in the image and this is the after view and if you are not seeing much happened inside the video that's no surprise, not much is happening. There is not much difference.
We have successfully avoided that noise. We are doing a little bit of sharpening, but mostly we are avoiding it, thanks to this edge mask. So an edge mask is ideal for sharpening. Now one more thing I am going to do here is change my Smart Sharpen settings because I don't really want to work with an amount of value of 500%. I'm going to go ahead and double click on the word Smart Sharpen right there and I am going to take the value down to lets say about 250% or it may go higher. Why don't we take it up to about 300%? And then click OK to accept that modification. The dialog box preview here does not take the mask into account, so you are going to see the amount applied across the entire image.
When you click OK though, you are going to see the effect applied inside of the mask region. So this is perfect. In the next exercise I am going to show you how to use a non-rdge mask in order to smooth away the noisy portions of the image.
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