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Photoshop is the world’s most powerful image editor, and it’s arguably the most complex, as well. Fortunately, nobody knows the program like award-winning book and video author Deke McClelland. Join Deke as he explores such indispensable Photoshop features as resolution, cropping, color correction, retouching, and layers. Gain expertise with real-world projects that make sense. Exercise files accompany the course.
Download Deke's free dekeKeys and color settings from the Exercise Files tab.
In the next couple of exercises, the last two in this chapter, I'm going to explain what to do if you just don't have enough pixels to accommodate a specific print job. So you understand by now that you should shoot as many pixels as you can with your digital camera, scan at the highest optical resolution afforded by your scanner. But maybe you weren't in-charge of the creation of the piece in the first place, and now you just have to make the best of it or you're starting with a beloved low-resolution piece and you want to create a large-format print. Well, in this exercise, we'll examine Photoshop's up sampling options, which I personally don't care for that much, but they are solutions.
And then in the next exercise, I'll show you what I prefer to do. So I'm working inside this image called Moab skyline.jpg. And by the way, if you're not familiar with Moab, it's as awesome national Monument in Eastern Utah. This image has all the pixels we need in order to create the pretty large-format prints. So let's say my client wants to see this printed at 30 inches wide, two and a half feet wide. Well, I go up to the Image menu, choose the Image Size command. I would of course turn off Resample Image because I don't want to change the number of pixels inside of this image.
I want the pixel count to remain constant. And enter 30 inches for the Width value and see what I get. And it looks like the Height is going to be more than 12 inches so that's fine. And a Resolution is going to drop to 233.3 repeating pixels/inch. And so the question becomes is that enough? And the answer in this case is yes. You're fine. It may not be ideal. But conventional wisdom has it that as long as you have more than 220 pixels/inch. You're not going to see the pixels. And the detail is going to work out pretty well.
So you would click OK in this case. If you've got 233 pixels/inch, you're not going to upsample it to 300, because that's just not worth a damage you're going to do to the image. So you would just go ahead and say OK. However, what if you start with this image instead? So, I've advanced to Bicubic (default).tif that image that I downsampled to 100 pixels/inch. And we're now seeing the image at the 400% zoom level, whereas before, we were looking at this image, the nice original image at the 100% zoom level.
All right, I switch to this one at 400%. We're really starting to see the pixels. And we can get a sense that that's what's going to happen in print as well. So if I go up to the Image menu, and I choose the Image Size command, and I say that I want this image comically to be 30 inches wide, why then my Resolution is going to 58.333 pixels/inch which is we know too low? Now there's a caveat. It is too low, if your eye is about an inch away from this artwork.
It's not too low, if you're way the heck away from the artwork. If it's up on a billboard or if it's high on the wall or something like that but we'll come to that in the next exercise. But conventional wisdom has it that this resolution value is too low. So you say to yourself, self, we got to upsample. I don't have any options here. So click on Resample Image to turn it on. When in doubt, turn on Scale Styles and have all three of those checkboxes on. And let's go ahead. And take that Resolution value to 233.333, what have you, to match the other one.
And then I'm going to switch to, well, Photoshop says Bicubic Smoother is best for enlargement. So I'll switch to that. Now I will answer this question. Is it really? Bicubic (best for smooth gradients) is I am maintaining best for low noise images. That's the best way to go, although you will see a little vestige left of some of your pixels. So you can still see the pixels just a little bit when you upsample by a huge amount. And in this case if you switch to percent, you'll see that you're upsampling to 400% of the image's original size.
So that's a big upsampling. So if you want to smooth out some of the pixel transitions just a little bit, again it's going to be subtle then you would switch to Bicubic Smoother (best for enlargement). But you're gumming up to detail, when you do that. So that's just something to bear in mind. But you may prefer the way it looks. Anyway, that's what I did to produce the next image, Upsampled Moab x1, so I've just upsampled it once to the size we've been working with here, so ultimately 400%, Smoother.jpg. And we're viewing the image at the 100% zoom level.
So here's what we would see if we just blew up the image and had big pixels and didn't bother to upsample. And here's what we get when we upsample. Now we've got 16 times as many pixels 400% wide, 400% tall, so 16 times as many pixels in this image, 16 times the complexity. So this is a much larger image that we now have to deal with. And the detail just isn't all that much better. What it is is it's smoother. So we have more contours going on inside the upsampled image, compared with the blockiness of printing the image of the at a low-resolution.
However, that doesn't mean that we've got a great image here. We have a very blurry gummy image. Thanks to the upsampling. Now there's another rule of thumb that says don't just upsample once, upsample something like 10 times, so upsample in increments. And don't use Bicubic Smoother, stick with Bicubic. So let's go back to this image. And that's what you do. You would start with your low-resolution image. I'm going to bring up my Actions panel, which you get to by going to the Window menu and choosing the Actions command or you can press the F9 key.
And that brings up Actions. And I've gone ahead and created an Action for you called Multipass upsample. And if you want to get to it, click on this menu icon, choose the Load Actions command. And then navigate your way to that 05_image_size folder. And go ahead and open Multipass upsample.atn. Then you would go to Upsample 400 %. And click the Play button down at the bottom of the Actions panel. And you will upsample incrementally 10 times. In some programs this would be called a macro.
It's an automatic recorded series of commands and other operations. In this case, we're just playing the Image Size command, expanding the size of the image by 114.87%. It's really what's happening. And that ends up getting you when you do it 10 times in a row. It takes you to 400%. And in case you're wondering how the heck I figured that out, you take four and you take the 10th root of four and it gives you 1.14 etcetera. Anyway you can do that on a scientific calculator, or not worry about it if you don't like math.
You can just play it. Now what ends up happening to this file here is it turns into Upsampled Moab x10. So this is 10 incremental applications of the Image Size command compared with the one we saw previously which was one application of Bicubic Smoother. Now is there a big difference? Here is one application of Image Size. Here are 10 applications of Image Size. There is a difference. The difference is that we have more apparent halos around our details.
So you can see this light halo tracing the outside of the cliffs where that's not so obvious in the one time upsampled version of the image. And that's the sharpest around that detail getting exaggerated over time. And you also see darker tracings as well around the interior of the cliff details. So what I suppose, we're seeing here is more clarity inside the image but it's more fake digital clarity. And it's not something that's going to strike anybody's eye as being better detail in my opinion.
Again, I want you to look at these images and judge for yourself. Clearly, this is the best, capturing the real optical detail in the first place is always your best bet. But what I'm asking you to decide is this, bear in mind this file is just a 16th of size all that much worse than this, sort of blurry murky detail, or this detail that you really have to work out by figuring out the 10th root of the final result that you want. Anyway all this is very detailed sort of make your brain, heart information.
In the next exercise, I'm going to tell you about my simpler preferred approaches.
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