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Virtually all digital images need some degree of sharpening to look their best, but it's not always easy to find the right way to go about it. This workshop from leading Adobe Photoshop expert Tim Grey dispels many myths and misunderstandings about sharpening, teaches you the underlying concepts involved in sharpening, shows you a wide variety of methods you can use to apply sharpening, and helps you determine which technique is best for a given image. In addition to Photoshop's native sharpening tools, learn how to make use of the options available in Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw, and third-party plugins like Nik Sharpener Pro and PhotoKit Sharpener. The workshop concludes with several projects designed to help reinforce your knowledge of sharpening. See how to apply sharpening and softening to different areas of an image, apply creative sharpening to specific areas, and sharpen a black-and-white image.
PhotoKit Sharpener is a tool from the photographers at PixelGenius, and it's truly tailored to a multiple-path sharpening workbook. In effect, it provides automated sharpening of your images without giving up the flexibility of a more hands-on approach. Allow me to introduce you to this software tool. I'm working with a sample image at relatively low resolution but we'll use this as a test bed for the use of the photo kit sharpener. To access the sharpener I can choose file, automate and then one of the photo kit sharpener options. We have capture sharpening, creative sharpening and output sharpening, and those are the three phases of sharpening.
We would typically apply in a multiple pass sharpen and workflow. We'll go ahead and get started with the capture sharpener, but keep in mind that we can actually access any of these options once we've initiated the PhotoKit sharpener. So I'll choose the PhotoKit capture sharpener from the menu here. And that will bring up the Pixel Genius toolbox dialog where I can choose the various settings related to my sharpening. Now note that I chose capture sharpening from the menu but I can also switch to any of the other types of sharpening that I'd like.
Capture sharpening should be applied immediately after you've converted your raw image. So that you're sharpening as early in your workflow as possible. Creative sharpening can be applied at any time in your workflow and output sharpening should be applied to the final image that has already been re-sized for its final output. Let's take a look at the options for capture sharpening, I'll choose that from the pop up here. And then I can specify which set I'd like to use. There are options for various resolutions, high, medium, and low resolution.
Sharpening with smoothing versus without. A scanning back digital camera. Let's assume a relativly high resolution digital camera where I want to sharpen but retain smooth edges. In otherwords I don't want lines that are diagonal, for example, to get jagged. So I'm going to choose the sharp/smooth option, and then I have an effect option. I can do auto-edge sharpening, super-fine edge sharpening, narrow-edge ecetera. In this case, I think I'll opt for the super-fine edge sharpening. Since this is a relatively high-detail image.
I can also merge the results into a single layer, or, if I leave the checkbox turned off, I can retain all of those layers in a set so that I can go back and fine-tune things a little bit later. In most cases, you're not likely to go back and tinker with things, although you might want to reduce the opacity of certain layers. But I think it would be fine to merge the results and then have a single layer to work with. I'll go ahead and leave this turned off though so that we can see the final set. We can also add a layer mask to that set and I can choose the option either to have the effect completely visible, the show effect option, or to completely hide the effect if I mostly want to hide the effect and then paint it in to specific areas of the image. I'll leave this option turned on, but chances are I won't apply any changes to that layer mask because I'll want to sharpen the entire image in most cases for capture sharpening.
If I'm working with multiple images I could also turn on the show batch options dialog, but in this case I don't need to worry about my batch options, since I'm working with a single image. At this point I have chosen all the settings I need, so I can simply click the Okay button in order to apply that sharpening. You'll see that multiple layers are created, and they're placed into a layer group. I'll go ahead and enlarge the size of my layers panel here by switching to my masks panel, and you can see that several additional layers, copies of my background image layer have been added. In this way, you can also explore exactly what approach was taken to some extent with the particular option you chose with a photo sharpener. And keep in mind, we do have a layer mask associated with our layer group and so I can go in and block the sharpening from specific area by painting with black on that layer mass if I wanted to.
I'll go ahead and revert y image by choosing file revert, just to undo everything I've done this far. And we'll go back and take a look at some of the creative options that are available with the Photokick sharpener. I'll choose the Photokick creative sharpener, and that will bring up our dialog again and I can choose the particular set that I like to work with once again. We have sharpening effects, smoothing effects, and special effects. If we take a look at sharpening effects, for example, we will see there are a wide range of sharpening options that are available to us. And generally speaking you really just need to use trial and error to get a sense of which of these are going to produce an effect that you like. Obviously, we have some edge sharpening effect, so this would only sharpen a high contrast edges within the image.
Along with a variety of other options. We can also take a look at some of the other settings here, for example, special effects. Let's take a look at some of those effects here. We can add a fog effect which, obviously, is sort of the opposite of sharpening. We can reduce haze and we can add grain to the image. I think I'll go ahead and use a mid-tone contrast high option here and I'll leave the option set to have a layer mask added. And then I'll click okay and the PhotoKit Sharpener will get to work creating the layers necessary to create the effect. In this case A mid tone contrast effect, which is similar to sharpening, but not exactly sharpening.
It's more of a localized contrast enhancement. I'll zoom in a little bit. I'll turn the visibility of the layer that's been added here off and on, and you can see that we're adding just a little bit of contrast along the higher contrast edges within the image. I'll go ahead and revert the image one more time, by choosing File Revert, just to get back to my original starting point, and we'll take a look at the out put sharpening options. So once again, I'll choose File Automate, and then in this case the Photo Kit Out Put Sharpener.
And now we can take a look at the various options that are available for our out put sharpening. You'll see that various types of output are available. Continuous tone, photo inkjet printing, half tone and even web and media. Let's assume that we're printing this image ourselves on a photo inkjet printer and we can choose which type of paper we're using. I'll opt for glossy in this particular case. And we'll make sure that the sizing is as we want it in this case. Obviously I'm just demonstrating the concepts here. Sop I'm not especially worried about the actual output size.
And then I can click okay in order to apply that sharpening. In this case sharpening tailored to a photo inkjet printer. And as I toggle the visibility off and on, you'll see that we're getting a little bit of an enhancement in the image. I'll go head and zoom-in on some of the finer detail, and you can see greater contrast along those edges. Let's take a look at one of the other options. I'm going to revert the image once again, and then we'll chose File, Automate, and PhotoKit Output Sharpener. And then I'll chose a different option.
Let's take a look at the half-tone output sharpeners, and you can see that now we have a variety of options that are related to whether we're printing to coated or un-coated stock and the screen size, lines per inch versus pixels per inch for the particular image we're printing. For that particular output. So let's just assume the 85 line per inch option here, just arbitrarily, I'll go ahead and click okay, and we'll see once again and photo kit sharpener processes the image and you might notice here the effect is a bit stronger because when we're printing to an offset press printer with half tones we need a bit more compensation for that dot game.
And so the effect is a bit stronger. So as you can see, using PhotoKit Sharpener is rather straightforward. We simply choose one of the options and various settings based on whether we're applying capture sharpening, creative sharpening or output sharpening. If you produce prints under a wide variety of circumstances, PhotoKit Sharpener is probably a good fit for your workflow. It provides numerous methods of sharpening and performs all the tricky work for you, so you can get great results with minimum effort.
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