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Two of the most commonly used filters for sharpening in Photoshop are the Unsharp Mask and the Smart Sharpen. They both help to prepare your images for the device that you're going to display your image on whether that's on screen or in print. So, let's take a look at both options to see when we might use one of these filters over the other. Now, before we apply the filter to make it non-destructive, we'll use our contact-sensitive menus and convert this to a smart object. Then, under the Filter menu, you'll notice under the Sharpen menu there are a variety of different options. These Sharpen, Sharpen Edges and Sharpen More.
You'll notice that there aren't three dots or an ellipse after these. That means that you really don't have any control. You just apply the filter and no dialog box comes up. Photoshop just applies it. So, even though it's flexible, meaning that we could take the filter off or use a mask and paint it in. Selectively, I would prefer to have a little more control, so I'll either select Smart Sharpen or Unsharp Mask. Since Unsharp Mask has been in Photoshop the longest, let's go ahead and start there. In the Unsharp Mask dialog, we have three different sliders, the Amount, the Radius and the Threshold. You do have a preview area up here in Unsharp Mask. But if you want to preview the sharpening in your image, you'll want to make sure you're viewing your image at 100%.
So, I'll use Cmd Plus on the Mac, Ctrl Plus on Windows in order to zoom in. I can use the space bar or Hand tool in order to reposition it. Now, the Amount slider is the amount of contrast that Photoshop is going to add when it finds an edge. That's how sharpening tricks your eye into thinking that the image is sharper. It's finding an edge and making one side of the edge darker, and the other side of the edge lighter. So, as we move the Amount slider over the right, you can see the added contrast along the edges. I'll go ahead and leave that set really high for now because I want to bring over the Radius slider.
The Radius slider determines when Photoshop finds an edge how many pixels are affected by the contrast. When Photoshop finds the edge like around the wing, how many pixels on the inside of the wing and the outside of the wing should Photoshop apply the amount to? And this dialog box lets you just add a crazy amount of radius. I guess you can add this as like a special effect, but typically you're going to want keep the radius down between one and two pixels. Now, the Threshold can help you to suppress sharpening in areas that don't have a lot of contrast.
So, for example, if we look in this flat green area right now, there seems to be a lot of noise in there. If I toggle off the Preview, we can see that that noise wasn't in the original image. So, it's the sharpening that's enhancing the contrast in those flat areas. So, let's turn back on the Preview, and then I'll use the Threshold in order to suppress the sharpening in the areas that don't have a lot of contrast. So, in this case, we're looking at it in the background. If you're sharpening a portrait, you would want to look at the skin and make sure that you're not sharpening every single pore on someone's skin.
You would want to relax that by using the Threshold. Now, the Amount is still set up way too high. And I know that because I'm seeing not only this halo, but this added contrast in the color values along the edge. So, let's back off on that quite a bit. And then, we'll use the Preview to view before and after. So, there's before and after. It might be a little difficult to see this after those videos compress so I might just bump this up a little bit more.
Maybe the amount as well to make sure that we can see it. There's before and there's after. If this is the way we would like it we would go ahead and click OK. Since I'm going to show you a second method to sharpen, I'm going to cancel out of here, and then return to the Filter menu. Select Sharpen again and go to Smart Sharpen. My dialog box opened up in the Expanded view. If you're not seeing all of these options is because the shadow highlights area here is collapsed. So, you just expand that with the little triangle.
But let's actually collapse it at first, so we can just explain these options. Here at the top, you'll notice that one of the advantages of Smart Sharpen is that you can actually save out your presets. So after I refine all my sliders, I could then choose save preset from the list. And then when I want to sharpen another image, I could just select that preset to apply those same settings. So, we have the Amount slider. The Amount slider is the same as in Sharp Mask, so the amount is the amount of contrast. The Radius then determines how many pixels are affected when Photoshop does find an edge. Obviously, that's way too much, let's bring that back down between 1 and 2. And then, we have a reduce noise slider as opposed to a Threshold slider. And if we toggle that all the way off, we can see just that like unsharp mask, the Smart Sharpen is capable of sharpening the entire document evenly. But this reduce Noise slider is going to help us suppress it, just like the threshold did in unsharp mask.
In addition, Smart Sharpen can remove a small amount of either a Gaussian blur, a lens blue or a motion blur. And if it doesn't detect one, don't worry. It won't make any corrections unless it actually thinks there is a correction to be made. Now, under the shadow and highlight area, we can selectively choose where we want to increase or decrease the amount of sharpening based on your shadow area and your highlight area. Because a lot of times, if you've taken a photograph in low light, your shadow areas will have a lot of noise. So, we can actually chose to fade the amount of sharpening that's taking place in those darker noiser areas.
We can also determine what shadows are by moving the Tunnel Width slider. And the Radius determines how far out from the darker areas Photoshop should blend the fade amount. And we have the same set of optinos for your highlights. So to preview this on and off, we'll toggle the P key. There's before without the sharpening, and there it is with the sharpening. If I thought I was going to want to reuse these settings over and over again, then I could save my preset and then it would become available on the next image. I'll click OK for now, we can see this Sharpening, toggle it off or on and of course, we have this Smart Filter.
So if I wanted to selectively paint in and out the Sharpening Filter, I can do that as well. So don't forget, you'll want to sharpen a bit more if you're going to be printing to matte paper and a bit less if you're printing to glossy. Of course, the great thing about it being a Smart Filter is that if you do decide that you've got too much or too little sharpening. After you print the image, you can always go back in and refine it.
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