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In Photoshop CS6 Essential Training, Julieanne Kost demonstrates how to produce high-quality images in a short amount of time, using a combination of Adobe Photoshop CS6, Bridge, and Camera Raw.
The course details the Photoshop features and creative options, and shows efficient ways to perform common editing tasks, including noise reduction, shadow and highlight detail recovery, retouching, and combining multiple images. Along the way, the course explores techniques for nondestructive editing and compositing using layers, blending modes, layer masks, and much more.
One of the most commonly used filters in Photoshop is the Unsharp Mask Filter. Now before we add this filter, I will turn my background into a Smart Object, and then I want to make sure that I'm viewing my image at 100%, so we can use Cmd+ or Ctrl+1 to zoom in, hold down the Spacebar in order to navigate maybe to an important part of the image, say like this detailed area here. Then I'll choose Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask. You will notice that I didn't choose Sharpen or Sharpen Edges or Sharpen More, because those three filters, they don't have the three dots after them.
That tells me that I have no control. Whenever you see a filter or any command in Photoshop that has the three dots, that tells me that another dialog box is going to pop-up where I will have additional control. So Smart Sharpen and Unsharp Mask are the two most popular, we're going to go ahead and use Unsharp Mask. Let's scoot this out of the way, and then let's talk about the different settings. I think we all know that when you add sharpening to an image, you're really just trying to fool the eye into thinking that the image is sharper.
And the way that we do that, is we add contrast along edges. So when you apply Unsharp Mask, Photoshop looks for an edge in your file, and on one side of the edge, it will make it darker, and on the other side of the edge, it will make it lighter. And that increase in contrast is going to trick your eye into thinking the image is sharper. There are three different variables; the Amount, the Radius, and the Threshold. The Amount is how much contrast Photoshop is going to add. So when it finds an edge, how much darker does it make one side of the edge, and how much lighter does it make the other side of the edge.
Let's really move up the Radius here so that we can see what's going on. I will turn the Radius way too high, in this case to 3.8, and watch right along this line right here. Do you see that halo that's occurring? That's because the Amount is too high. If I take the Amount down, you won't see that strong halo. So any time you see that kind of halo in your image, that tells you that the Unsharp Mask settings are too high. The Radius Amount is usually kept down between 1 and 2.
It's dependent on the resolution. Because the Radius determines when Photoshop finds an edge, and it adds the amount; how many pixels on either side of the edge does the amount get applied to. So if you have a Radius of 1, Photoshop just sharpens 1 pixel on either side of the line, and by sharpening, I mean it adds contrast. If I move the Radius up to 2, now Photoshop is going to be adding the contrast to 2 pixels every time it finds a line. If we scoot this up again, I think you can see, there is the difference between 2 pixels for my Radius and there's 1.
So it's going to be a lot more subtle. If you have a higher resolution file, meaning that you're printing at 300 pixels per inch instead of maybe 240, then your Radius might be a little bit higher because you're putting more pixels closer together at the 300 pixels per inch than you are at the 240. Now, I am going to turn these both way up again so that we can take a look at the Threshold. The Threshold slider helps suppress the sharpening in areas that don't have a lot of contrast.
So you can imagine here we're talking about the sky area, or if you had a portrait, it would be in the skin tone. As I move the Threshold slider over to the right, you can see that all of the sharpening in the sky just disappeared. When I bring it back, right now the sky is being sharpened, this Amount to this Radius. So in order to quickly suppress that, we'll just scoot over the Threshold slider. I am also going to bring down the Radius slider to maybe 1.5 and let's bring the Amount down until I no longer see that halo here.
Then I'll use my Preview button or tap the P key to toggle on and off of before-and-after. One small tip that you want to remember, when you're sharpening in Photoshop, it's typically because you're sharpening for a specific output device. So if you're printing to a glossy paper, your sharpness level is going to be a little bit lower than if you're printing to a matte paper. Because when you print to a matte paper, because of the tooth of the paper the ink can spread more on a matte paper than it can on a glossy paper.
As your inks spread and bleed together, you're going to lose a little bit of sharpness to your image. So people tend to sharpen a little bit more for matte paper than they do for glossy paper. Of course, the nice thing about using the Smart Filter is that if we do print this image, and it's either too sharp or not sharp enough, we can quickly come back and change these settings. Finally, just as a suggestion, you might want to rename the layer perhaps Unsharp Mask (USM) for, and then just put the device that you sharpen for.
So for example if we just sharpen this for glossy paper, I would go ahead and name the layer, USM for Glossy. So there you go, you now have mastered the Unsharp Mask in Photoshop, just make sure that you apply it to a Smart Object. That way you can come back and change the parameters at any time.
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