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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.
Alright, so we have seen how the conventional sharpening workflow works and there is nothing terribly wrong with it necessarily. I mean it does provide a benefit; you are sharpening for the printer, which is an important thing to do. It's just that I think most folks agree any more that it's an antiquated approach and one of the things it doesn't account for is layers. Layers have been with us, layers are a big part of what we do inside Photoshop. The whole conventional just sharpening for the printer workflow doesn't take layers into account at all. It doesn't take the source of the image into account either.
It doesn't take the content of the image into account, it doesn't take the details into account, it doesn't take various layers into account, and as it turns out, it's not the right approach for this image at all. So let's see what went wrong where this image is concerned and we'll also see a better approach and sort of take a look at what's going on under the hood where this composition is concerned. Then in the next exercise, we'll take a look at few different kinds of workflows that are available to us and of course different workflows suit different kinds of images.
Now where this image is concerned, currently I am looking at the sharpened version, the last thing that we saw at the end of the previous exercise and that was the sharpened version of the re-sampled image, the image that measures four inches by seven inches by 360 pixels per inch. In fact, I've gone ahead and save this version of the image as Sharpened 4x7x360.TIFF. So if you don't have your image up on screen, you can open this one if you like from the 02_when_to_sharpen folder. I'll tell out what's wrong here.
Now most portions of this image are sharpened just fine. We've got Sammy's face, which is over-sharpened of course where the screen is concerned, but it's going to suit the printer quite nicely. We've got all of these details inside of his coat that all looks pretty good. We've got a little bit of patterning that's occurring in his coat. That's starting to show up here. That's natural patterning I believe from the coat. So that's OK. His jeans are a little crunchy, a little too much so I would argue, same with the rocks in the background. Max's jeans also suffer from that.
Max has more of a problem going on inside of the orange, that sort of middle portion of his orange coat. You can see that things are breaking down a little bit, the shadows are and it's partly because of the reflectivity of the fabric, but it's the kind of thing that we might want to settle down with the little selective adjustment. Then his face is actually in very good shape given that he is a kid with his finger stuck up his nose. Generally speaking, I think most of the image looks pretty good; the background is in pretty good shape as well.
The thing that doesn't look good, I'll go ahead and zoom in on it here, is the text. You do not want to be sharpening flatten text because you are start getting jagged transitions. Anything that's that graphic, in other words, we have very rapid transitions between different colors, between radically different luminance levels. When that occurs, when you have these kinds of graphic transitions whether you are working with text or with graphic art, then applying sharpening, any of the sharpening filters, is going to result in jagged transitions.
Where the transitions used to look just fine before, now they are turning jagged on us. We've got all kinds of examples inside of this graphic. AlSo note this weird little bit of halo on George Washington's head right there following the Y, so the Y is creating this little weird halo, thanks to of course the halo that's applied by the Smart Sharpen function. So all sorts of weird little stuff going on with the text and it just breaks down in all kinds of ways. Towards the bottom of the image, you'll also see some radical transitions and some jagged edges around the tips of the arrows as well.
So what's a better approach where this composition is concerned?, Well let's go ahead and switch over to the layered composition, the original one. Holiday Card 2007.PSD, once again found inside of that 02_when_to_sharpen folder. First of all, I want you to notice over here inside the Layers palette that we already have some sharpening going on. So this image already is sharpened and it has some noise reduction as well. If you go down to the boyz layer, the bottom of the Layers palette, and you expand it, you'll notice that this boyz layer is the Smart Object and as I say, I'll be telling you more about how Smart Objects work later in this series.
Now I have a Smart Filter applied and that's the Reduce Noise filter. The great thing about that is I could now turn around and adjust the settings if I want to, so this is totally non-destructive. Whenever possible, you want to apply non-destructive modifications inside the Photoshop and that goes for sharpening as well. There's really no excuse for ever doing flat sharpening inside the program if you can avoid it. The only exception is at final sharpening for print but even then you might want to go non-destructive. Anyway, so I could modify the Reduce Noise setting just by double-clicking on Reduce Noise to bring up the Reduce Noise dialog box, and then I would make a few modifications.
Now you can see if you look carefully here, I'll go in and zoom in on Max's face, you can see that we've got a heck of a lot of noise reduction going on. I am really smoothing over the skin, so I've got high Strength setting, a low Preserve Details setting. So when you are going back and forth like this, high for Strength, high for Reduce Color Noise, low for Preserve Details, low for Sharpen Details then you are going to have a maximum effect, a maximum smoothing effect. It's mitigated, I'll go and cancel out by a mask right there, by a filter mask which is something that you can do when you are working with Smart Filters and as I say I'll show you more about that later.
Just important to remember that you can and should work non-destructively. I have another non-destructive modification going on. This guy right here, the HP 3.0 layer, that's a High Pass layer. That's actually a static layer but it's being applied non-destructively to the layer below. That's another way to work inside Photoshop. If I turn that layer off, you'll see, I'll go in and zoom in on Max once again because he is such a delightful kid to look at here. He is quite soft with HP 3.0 turned off and that's High Pass with a radius of 3.0 by the way.
If I go ahead and turn that on, you can see that it does apply some sharpening on the fly and I could change the degree of sharpening on the fly if I wanted to either by adjusting the opacity of this layer or by adjusting this inset levels adjustment layer. Again, we'll see how all of those things work. The question becomes how should we sharpen this image for print at this point given all the things that are going into it? Well, notice that I have allocated all of the text elements to this group right here, I'll go ahead and zoom out from the image so that we can see that this is the case.
So here we are at the 25% zoom ratio. If I turn off that text group, you can see that all of the text elements go away. As so. So that's great; they are already relegated to their own independent group. So let's go and turn them back on. I'll go and click on gradient and I'll shift click on boyz in order to select this range of layers, so everything except the text group. Then I'll go up to the Layer menu and I'll choose Merge Layers or I can press Ctrl+E or Command+E on the Mac in order to merge all of those layers together. Now we have a flattened version of just the continuous tone photographic image elements.
Now I will reduce the size of this graphic by pressing Ctrl+Alt+I, you may recall that we need it to take it down to 4x7x360. So I'll press Ctrl+Alt+I or Command+Option+I on the Mac to bring up the image Size dialog box. I'll make sure all three checkboxes are turned on. Now that's very important because we have a live layer effect going on at this point, a live style applied, not only to that '&' right there, there is lot of stuff going on with it, but all of the other text elements, many of the other text elements anyway, have drop shadows assigned to them.
So make sure all three of those checkboxes are turned on, four for the Width, Height will automatically change to seven, let's change Resolution value to 360 and then I'll click OK in order to accept that modification and I have resized this image. I've sampled it down. Now let's go ahead and apply the filter. So Smart Sharpen should be last filter I applied. It's right up there at the top of the menu. So if just want to reapply those same settings, I will just choose the command again, or if I want to confirm the settings, I'll press Ctrl+Alt+F or Command Option+F on the Mac.
Sure enough I have an Amount of 140% just as in the previous exercise, a radius of 1.8, things are looking very good. Let's take a look at Sammy. You may very possibly be sick of looking at my son with his finger up his nose. I mean shame on you for that but still. I'll go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification and now let's take a look at what's going on here. I'll zoom in on the image and you can see that we have these wonderfully sharpened details. There's Max again. For those of who aren't sick of looking at him. And there's, of course, a handful of famous presidents.
I'll go ahead and zoom in on Washington's head. You can see that we no longer have that halo that's being cast by the Y and notice that the text is not so brittle anymore. It's not all jagged, I'll go ahead and zoom in so that you can see it's nicely anti-aliased. Nice, smooth, transitional edges going on there. So things look much, much better indeed and now at this point, if you would go up to the Layer menu and you would choose Flatten Image to flatten everything together, to merge the entire image together and now this image is ready for print.
Of course, you would go up to the File menu, you would go ahead and choose the Save As command so you don't overwrite your original PSD document and save that out as a separate TIFF file. So there you go a different approach where this specific image is concerned. In the next exercise, we'll talk about some other alternative sharpening workflows that are available to us inside Photoshop.
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