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Sharpening an image with Unsharp Mask

From: Photoshop CS5 Essential Training

Video: Sharpening an image with Unsharp Mask

One could argue that the filter that you'll end up using the most is one of the Sharpen filters in Photoshop. Now I do recommend that you sharpen your images in Camera Raw before you bring them into Photoshop, especially if you are starting from a RAW file. But even if you have sharpened the image in Camera Raw, you might need to sharpen it further once you have the image in Photoshop, especially if you re-sampled image. If you've made the image smaller and thrown away pixels, you're always going to end up with the softer image when you do that. So, you'll still need to learn how to sharpen directly in Photoshop as well.

Sharpening an image with Unsharp Mask

One could argue that the filter that you'll end up using the most is one of the Sharpen filters in Photoshop. Now I do recommend that you sharpen your images in Camera Raw before you bring them into Photoshop, especially if you are starting from a RAW file. But even if you have sharpened the image in Camera Raw, you might need to sharpen it further once you have the image in Photoshop, especially if you re-sampled image. If you've made the image smaller and thrown away pixels, you're always going to end up with the softer image when you do that. So, you'll still need to learn how to sharpen directly in Photoshop as well.

Tip number one is you need to make sure you sharpen at the 100% view. That's the most accurate view for sharpening. What you see at the 100% view is what you'll notice in your final destination, whether that be a print or onscreen. So, let's take this to the 100% view the quick way, Command+1 or Ctrl+1, back to 100% here. And I have got my Hand tool. Just press H if you don't have it. And we'll pan this down so we can see a good representative slice of the image here. So we'll see his face, and her face, her hair and his shirt and so forth. All right. So let's start sharpening the image.

Unlike any filter that we want to run on the image, before we actually run the filter, I always recommend that you convert it for Smart Filters first. So, convert this layer to a Smart Object, so that you can run the filter non-destructively. Then let's go to Filter > Sharpen, and we'll use Unsharp Mask. Unsharp Mask gives you three sliders. Now before we get too much further though, let's actually describe what you're doing when you sharpen an image in Photoshop. You're looking for edges. Now what's Photoshop's definition of an edge? It's a light pixel next to a dark pixel.

And when you sharpen those edges, the dark half of that edge gets darker, and the light half of that edge gets lighter, so you're increasing contrast of edge pixels. The Amount slider basically says, how much brighter and how much darker should you make each half of that edge? The Radius is how wide should you go out from the edge to do that enhancement, the darkening and the lightning of those edge pixels? How far out from the middle of that edge should this adjustment occur over? And then the Threshold is where you tell Photoshop what to consider an edge, how many tonal levels, when it says levels there it says, how many toner levels apart do two adjacent pixels need to be before Photoshop treats them as an edge? So, the amount, I typically start out with 150% just to kind of give me a good baseline.

The Radius is going to be determined by the resolution of your image. The higher the resolution, the higher the radius you'll use. Again, there is really no magic numbers here Each image might need a little bit adjustment, but somewhere in the range of 1 to 2 is a great starting point, so I am going to make it 1.5, and then the Threshold, I just leave it at the default of 4. If I make this threshold too high, then basically, Photoshop isn't going to find any edges. You see the overall sharpening just went away because pixels that are already 90 levels apart, in terms of tonality, are probably already sharp enough, because there is already enough contrast between them.

So, Photoshop ends up only sharpening edges that don't really need to be sharpened. If the Radius is too low, then Photoshop thinks everything is an edge. And you can see on his face here, we're actually sharpening the skin tone or the skin texture there, and that's probably not what we want either. So, I am going to increase the Threshold back to 4, and it's default. And you can see it did a much better job on the face texture. And if we are still seeing too much sharpening there, then I can just increase the threshold slightly to, say, about 9. Somewhere between 7 and 9 is a good setting when you are trying to protect the skin and not oversharpen skin detail. All right.

Here is before. Then we will turn the Preview off. Here is after. You can see that shirt is really starting to pop, and we're sharpening the scruffiness of his beard there as well and her earrings are starting to get really sharp as well. So, Unsharp Mask, Amount, Radius, Threshold, you play with these sliders until you get the look you are looking for. We'll go ahead and click OK. And again, if it's too sharp, no worries. Because we did this as a Smart Filter, I can always go back and tweak those values by double-clicking on the word Unsharp Mask and either lowering the Radius, increasing the Amount.

It really just depending on what you're trying to achieve, and in which direction you are trying to shift the sharpness of that particular image.

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This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS5 Essential Training
Photoshop CS5 Essential Training

154 video lessons · 93197 viewers

Michael Ninness
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 6m 10s
    1. Welcome
      1m 47s
    2. What is Photoshop?
      2m 49s
    3. Using the exercise files
      1m 34s
  2. 28m 29s
    1. What is Adobe Bridge?
      1m 54s
    2. Getting photos from a camera
      3m 39s
    3. A tour of the different workspaces in Adobe Bridge
      4m 58s
    4. Customizing how thumbnails are displayed
      3m 35s
    5. Changing obscure camera file names with the Batch Rename command
      2m 36s
    6. Adding basic metadata to every image with metadata templates
      3m 36s
    7. Creating and applying keywords to images
      4m 6s
    8. Viewing images in Full Screen Preview mode
      4m 5s
  3. 23m 4s
    1. Using Review mode to filter out rejects
      5m 27s
    2. Protecting the keepers by saving them in collections
      3m 18s
    3. Rating images
      3m 15s
    4. Using the Filter panel to view different subsets
      4m 43s
    5. Viewing final choices in a slideshow
      2m 12s
    6. Organizing groups of images into stacks
      4m 9s
  4. 30m 50s
    1. Raw vs. JPEG files
      5m 13s
    2. Why you should start in Camera Raw instead of Photoshop
      5m 9s
    3. A tour of the Camera Raw user interface
      6m 44s
    4. Previewing before and after adjustments
      4m 2s
    5. Toggling onscreen Shadow/Highlight clipping warnings
      2m 37s
    6. Choosing output settings
      2m 45s
    7. Saving a copy without going to Photoshop
      4m 20s
  5. 41m 34s
    1. Eliminating red-eye with the Red Eye Removal tool
      1m 13s
    2. Improving composition with the non-destructive Crop tool
      3m 33s
    3. Correcting a rotated horizon line with the Straighten tool
      3m 5s
    4. Fixing color casts with the White Balance tool
      2m 13s
    5. Fixing blown-out highlights with Recovery
      2m 36s
    6. Revealing hidden shadow detail with Fill Light
      1m 47s
    7. Reducing distracting color noise with Noise Reduction
      5m 37s
    8. Removing color fringes with Chromatic Aberration
      2m 36s
    9. Sharpening the details
      8m 59s
    10. End to end: Taking a so-so photo and making it great
      9m 55s
  6. 39m 5s
    1. Fixing blown-out skies with the Graduated Filter tool
      4m 34s
    2. Retouching blemishes with the Spot Removal tool
      5m 41s
    3. Making local adjustments with the Adjustments Brush
      4m 28s
    4. Quick portrait retouching technique using Clarity
      4m 33s
    5. Converting to black and white
      3m 36s
    6. Editing images directly with the Targeted Adjustments tool
      4m 18s
    7. Easy sepia and split tone effects
      2m 35s
    8. Adding digital film grain texture effects
      2m 46s
    9. Adding vignettes and border effects
      2m 13s
    10. Saving variations within a single file with Snapshots
      4m 21s
  7. 15m 48s
    1. Copying settings from one file and pasting across another in Adobe Bridge
      3m 7s
    2. Processing multiple files in Camera Raw
      2m 28s
    3. Saving and using a library of Camera Raw presets
      5m 33s
    4. Using Image Processor to batch process multiple files
      4m 40s
  8. 30m 39s
    1. Opening files from Adobe Bridge
      3m 1s
    2. Opening files from Mini Bridge
      3m 28s
    3. Customizing the Mini Bridge panel
      2m 57s
    4. Changing Mini Bridge so it auto-collapses
      1m 20s
    5. The Application frame
      2m 16s
    6. The Application bar
      1m 16s
    7. Switching and saving workspaces
      4m 23s
    8. Panel management
      5m 31s
    9. Switching tools using the keyboard
      3m 18s
    10. Customizing the keyboard shortcuts
      3m 9s
  9. 16m 12s
    1. Tabbed documents
      2m 1s
    2. The Arrange Documents widget
      1m 38s
    3. How to stop Photoshop from tabbing documents
      3m 34s
    4. Pan and zoom
      5m 21s
    5. Cycling through the different screen modes
      3m 38s
  10. 36m 59s
    1. File formats
      13m 6s
    2. What resolution does your image need to be?
      10m 15s
    3. Resize vs. Resample
      9m 40s
    4. How big a print can you make with your image?
      3m 58s
  11. 42m 17s
    1. Crop options
      4m 12s
    2. Hide vs. Delete for the Crop tool
      3m 30s
    3. Bringing back hidden pixels with Reveal All
      1m 34s
    4. Making the canvas bigger with the Crop tool
      6m 1s
    5. Making the canvas bigger by a specific amount with Relative Canvas Size
      1m 39s
    6. Correcting perspective with the Crop tool
      3m 5s
    7. Straightening a crooked image
      50s
    8. Scaling, skewing, and rotating with Free Transform
      4m 12s
    9. Nondestructive transformations with Smart Objects
      4m 2s
    10. Warping images
      3m 40s
    11. Preserving the important elements with Content-Aware Scaling
      9m 32s
  12. 54m 42s
    1. The Background layer
      5m 14s
    2. Using a layer mask instead of deleting pixels
      4m 12s
    3. Loading multiple images into a single Photoshop document as layers
      1m 30s
    4. Naming, hiding, creating, and deleting layers
      4m 18s
    5. Changing the stacking order of layers
      2m 51s
    6. Selecting layers without using the Layers panel
      6m 28s
    7. Transforming layers
      7m 16s
    8. Aligning and distributing layers
      3m 51s
    9. Changing the opacity of layers
      2m 57s
    10. Organizing layers into groups
      2m 55s
    11. Saving variations with layer comps
      5m 3s
    12. When to merge and rasterize layers
      5m 0s
    13. Flatten vs. Save As (a Copy)
      3m 7s
  13. 1h 4m
    1. Using the Marquee and Lasso tools
      7m 23s
    2. Transform selections
      2m 40s
    3. Quick Mask is your friend
      4m 31s
    4. Converting a selection into a layer mask
      6m 33s
    5. Using the Quick Selection tool
      3m 1s
    6. Re-selecting a previous selection
      1m 35s
    7. Improving a selection with Refine Edge
      4m 21s
    8. Touching up a layer mask with the Brush tool
      12m 7s
    9. Changing the opacity, size, and hardness of the painting tools
      2m 59s
    10. Blending images with a gradient layer mask
      4m 53s
    11. Swapping heads in a family portrait
      3m 53s
    12. Combining multiple exposures with the Blend If sliders
      6m 26s
    13. Replacing the sky in an image
      4m 19s
  14. 1h 1m
    1. Introducing adjustment layers
      7m 57s
    2. Starting with a preset
      4m 25s
    3. Improving tonal quality with Levels
      10m 28s
    4. Increasing midtone contrast with Curves
      5m 4s
    5. Removing a color cast with Auto Color
      5m 56s
    6. Changing the color temperature with Photo Filter
      2m 55s
    7. Shifting colors with Hue/Saturation
      9m 0s
    8. Making washed out colors pop with Vibrance
      2m 46s
    9. Converting color to black and white
      5m 49s
    10. Controlling which layers are affected by an Adjustment Layer
      7m 28s
  15. 11m 32s
    1. Shadow/Highlight
      9m 3s
    2. Matching color across multiple images
      2m 29s
  16. 34m 12s
    1. Removing blemishes with the Spot Healing brush
      6m 21s
    2. Quick technique for smoothing skin and pores
      8m 23s
    3. Taming flyaway hair
      4m 47s
    4. Making teeth bright and white
      1m 43s
    5. De-emphasizing wrinkles
      4m 41s
    6. Removing unwanted details with Content Aware Fill
      4m 26s
    7. Body sculpting with Liquify
      3m 51s
  17. 21m 6s
    1. Creating panoramas with Photomerge and Auto-Blend
      7m 20s
    2. Combining multiple frames of an action sequence
      8m 30s
    3. Combining group shots with Auto-Align
      5m 16s
  18. 25m 36s
    1. Overview of filters
      4m 6s
    2. Applying filters nondestructively with Smart Filters
      4m 45s
    3. Giving an image a soft glow with the Gaussian Blur filter
      4m 41s
    4. Adding noise to an image with the Add Noise filter
      3m 34s
    5. Sharpening an image with Unsharp Mask
      4m 12s
    6. Giving an image more texture with the Texturizer
      1m 17s
    7. Applying a filter to multiple layers
      3m 1s
  19. 30m 44s
    1. Cycling through the blending modes
      4m 43s
    2. Three blending modes you must know
      6m 41s
    3. Adding a lens flare effect with Screen
      3m 33s
    4. Making a cast shadow more realistic with Multiply
      4m 33s
    5. Creating a diffused contrast glow effect with Overlay
      6m 2s
    6. Sharpening an image with High Pass and Overlay
      5m 12s
  20. 21m 39s
    1. Character (point) type
      8m 19s
    2. Paragraph (area) type
      4m 42s
    3. Type on a path
      2m 54s
    4. Clipping an image inside type
      2m 24s
    5. Warping type
      3m 20s
  21. 20m 35s
    1. Adding a drop shadow effect
      4m 43s
    2. Adding an outer glow effect
      3m 13s
    3. Adding a border around an image
      2m 53s
    4. Copying layer effects and applying them to other layers
      2m 3s
    5. Saving layer styles and applying them in other documents
      2m 42s
    6. How (and when) to scale layer effects
      5m 1s
  22. 16m 6s
    1. Creating PDF contact sheets
      6m 41s
    2. Exporting web photo galleries
      6m 8s
    3. Saving for the web
      3m 17s
  23. 1m 19s
    1. Goodbye
      1m 19s

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