Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images
Illustration by Don Barnett

Sharpening a layered composition


Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images

with Deke McClelland

Video: Sharpening a layered composition

In this exercise, I am going to show you how to sharpen a layered composition that contains both low-frequency and high-frequency imagery mixed together. One such file as this one right here. It's called Album cover.PSD. Its found inside of the 06 for detail folder and i'ts the cover art for an imaginary album from an imaginary group called "Outrage by June" right here, and notice what we've got. We have a handful of layers as well as these vector objects up top.
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  1. 50m 30s
    1. Why every image needs sharpening
      2m 37s
    2. Understanding the effects of sharpening
      5m 26s
    3. Understanding the mechanics of sharpening
      4m 19s
    4. Understanding sharpening and gradual transitions
      3m 21s
    5. Understanding sharpening and noise reduction
      4m 0s
    6. Understanding amount and radius
      7m 50s
    7. Measuring your screen resolution
      6m 19s
    8. Using reliable zoom ratios
      5m 30s
    9. Calculating the actual print size
      4m 55s
    10. Gauging the ideal sharpening settings
      6m 13s
  2. 59m 28s
    1. Everyone knows you sharpen last (and everyone is wrong)
      1m 7s
    2. Understanding the conventional sharpening workflow
      5m 3s
    3. Flattening and saving to TIFF
      6m 40s
    4. Downsampling (and why you shouldn't upsample)
      6m 8s
    5. Understanding last-step sharpening
      6m 43s
    6. Recognizing problems with the conventional workflow
      9m 38s
    7. Erasing sharpening with the history brush
      4m 30s
    8. Using alternative sharpening workflows
      2m 37s
    9. Sharpening a scanned photograph shot on film
      2m 45s
    10. Sharpening a digital photograph
      3m 6s
    11. Sharpening specific details
      3m 43s
    12. Finding broad workflow conclusions
      2m 48s
    13. Learning that technique trumps timing
      4m 40s
  3. 1h 30m
    1. Comparing and contrasting neighboring pixels
      1m 6s
    2. Using the Gaussian Blur filter
      4m 25s
    3. Using Gaussian luminance distribution
      7m 47s
    4. Using the Unsharp Mask filter
      4m 54s
    5. Understanding the history of Unsharp Mask
      3m 51s
    6. Building your own USM with Gaussian Blur
      7m 35s
    7. Using the Smart Sharpen filter
      7m 35s
    8. Compensating for camera shake
      8m 50s
    9. Building your own Smart Sharpen with Lens Blur
      6m 59s
    10. Using directional sharpening with Emboss
      9m 13s
    11. Using Smart Sharpen extras
      8m 56s
    12. Using Convolution Kernels for more accuracy
      7m 8s
    13. Using the High Pass filter
      7m 32s
    14. Using Luminance Sharpening
      5m 5s
  4. 2h 14m
    1. Smoothing filters, smart objects, and masks
      1m 24s
    2. Using the Median filter and Dust and Scratches
      7m 6s
    3. Using Smart Blur and Surface Blur
      6m 14s
    4. Using the Despeckle filter
      8m 18s
    5. Softening flesh tones selectively
      10m 16s
    6. Using the Reduce Noise filter
      7m 27s
    7. Combining smoothing and sharpening
      8m 23s
    8. Making an image into a smart object
      9m 23s
    9. Applying editable smart filters
      6m 10s
    10. Combining two smart filters
      8m 6s
    11. Assigning a filter mask
      5m 59s
    12. Nesting one smart object inside another
      10m 31s
    13. Employing a static High Pass layer
      9m 0s
    14. Matching static pixel-level edits
      4m 37s
    15. Avoiding clipping with luminance blending
      9m 7s
    16. Sharpening and smoothing
      6m 37s
    17. Making an edge mask
      8m 15s
    18. Making a non-edge mask
      7m 17s
  5. 1h 33m
    1. Sharpening with Adobe Camera Raw
      1m 28s
    2. Introducing Camera Raw (4.1 or later)
      8m 12s
    3. Understanding why to sharpen for source
      5m 14s
    4. Using Camera Raw’s sharpening control
      5m 51s
    5. Previewing limitations and tricks
      6m 45s
    6. Why downsampling doesn’t work
      3m 12s
    7. Reducing chromatic aberration
      7m 29s
    8. Using the Defringe option
      3m 31s
    9. Understanding high frequency, low radius
      5m 21s
    10. Raising the Detail value
      3m 6s
    11. Using on-the-fly edge masking
      5m 40s
    12. Sharpening a low-frequency portrait
      6m 35s
    13. Eliminating color noise
      4m 47s
    14. Reducing luminance noise
      4m 41s
    15. Correcting “false sharpening”
      7m 14s
    16. Reducing shadow noise
      5m 22s
    17. Approximating ACR sharpening in Photoshop
      8m 35s
  6. 59m 12s
    1. Gauging and exploiting luminance frequency
      1m 26s
    2. Using low-frequency source sharpening
      5m 53s
    3. Using High Pass for portraits
      4m 19s
    4. Actioning a low-frequency edge mask
      7m 42s
    5. Modifying the source sharpening
      5m 21s
    6. Using high-frequency source sharpening
      5m 26s
    7. Using Smart Sharpen for cityscapes
      3m 1s
    8. Actioning a high-frequency edge mask
      5m 5s
    9. Downplaying color artifacts and clipping
      4m 5s
    10. Sharpening a medium-frequency image
      5m 25s
    11. Sharpening a layered composition
      7m 17s
    12. Sharpening for multiple frequencies
      4m 12s
  7. 1h 8m
    1. Who needs dull when you have sharp?
    2. Focusing in on a person’s eyes
      4m 22s
    3. Blurring the area outside the eyes
      4m 22s
    4. Sharpening eyes and other details
      5m 38s
    5. Darkening the lashes and eyebrows
      7m 13s
    6. Sharpening dark-haired people
      5m 2s
    7. Edge mask and emphasize
      3m 38s
    8. Nesting a Smart Sharpen effect
      4m 48s
    9. Density mask sharpening
      5m 35s
    10. Adding depth of field
      4m 39s
    11. Sharpening a background
      4m 23s
    12. Masking background from foreground
      8m 51s
    13. Eliminating halos around a person
      5m 38s
    14. Deepening and warming a background
      3m 27s
  8. 1h 18m
    1. Reverting back to convention
      1m 36s
    2. Understanding the use-neutral composition
      4m 15s
    3. Restoring much-needed antialiasing
      4m 2s
    4. Reducing noise in a high-frequency image
      7m 24s
    5. Making a third-level smart object
      3m 55s
    6. Preparing an image for print
      5m 19s
    7. Using ideal settings for commercial reproduction
      5m 37s
    8. Calculating very large-format settings
      5m 11s
    9. Using ideal settings for inkjet output
      4m 26s
    10. Sharpening for commercial reproduction
      5m 44s
    11. Sharpening for inkjet output
      4m 57s
    12. Revealing high-frequency multipass sharpening
      5m 21s
    13. Using Gaussian Blur to sharpen hair
      5m 42s
    14. Flatten, Save As, Resample, and Sharpen
      5m 10s
    15. Revealing low-frequency multipass sharpening
      3m 31s
    16. Sharpening an image for web or screen
      6m 22s
  9. 1m 51s
    1. Goodbye
      1m 51s

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Watch the Online Video Course Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images
10h 33m Intermediate Feb 15, 2008

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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.

Topics include:
  • Understanding the effects of sharpening
  • In-depth examinations of Unsharp Mask, Smart Sharpen, Emboss, and High Pass
  • Smoothing an image with the Surface Blur, Despeckle, and Reduce Noise features
  • Working with smart objects and smart filters
  • Creating edge masks and non-edge masks
  • Sharpening for digital-image capture using Camera Raw
  • Gauging and exploiting luminance frequency
  • Exploring creative applications of sharpening
  • Sharpening a multilayer composition
  • Sharpening eyes, hair, and out-of-focus backgrounds
  • Reducing noise in a high-frequency image
  • Determining ideal settings for commercial and inkjet output
  • Sharpening very large-format images
  • Sharpening an image for the web or screen output
Deke McClelland

Sharpening a layered composition

In this exercise, I am going to show you how to sharpen a layered composition that contains both low-frequency and high-frequency imagery mixed together. One such file as this one right here. It's called Album cover.PSD. Its found inside of the 06 for detail folder and i'ts the cover art for an imaginary album from an imaginary group called "Outrage by June" right here, and notice what we've got. We have a handful of layers as well as these vector objects up top.

So if you were to turn off this top group, you could see that it contains the bar that's sort of greenish yellowish bar down the center, and it also contains all the text elements and incidentally, you might get a warning. You might get a warning that's telling you that you don't have the fonts required to work with this document. Don't worry about that. As long as you are not editing the text, it won't make any difference. So just go ahead and click OK or Ignore or whatever it wants you to click. Anyway, I am going to go ahead and turn those objects back on. Obviously, were not going to be sharpening the objects inside of that vector objects group. Because you don't want to sharpen highly-graphic objects such as rectangles for example nor do you want to sharpen text.

You just want to stick with the imagery itself -- the photographic imagery. In that case, the photographic imagery includes these guys right here - yowo, which is short for young woman of course, and then rock and the rock image is colorized using a gradient map layer right there. Both of these layers are Smart Objects that are processed inside of Camera RAW. Now it might be tempting to go ahead and sharpen each one of these Smart Objects independently of each other.

For example, you could sharpen the portrait using the High-Pass filter and you could sharpen the rocks using the Smart Sharpen filter. The reason I am not going to recommend you work that way is because I have already accounted for the fact that one image is low-frequency and one image is high-frequency inside of Camera RAW. The old school way that I showed you in the previous chapter. That is to say, I'll go ahead and double-click on yowo here in order to open Camera RAW and we'll switch over to the Detail panel. By the way, I should tell you this beautiful image here comes to us from photographer, Gabriel Estey,

Notice I followed my advice from the previous chapter which is when sharpening low-frequency images you want to combine a low Amount value 40 in this case with a relatively high Radius value 1.5, a low Detail value, in this case 25 and a relatively high masking value. Actually its kind of a medium-masking value of 35. So I have already accounted for the fact that this is a portrait shot, that it's a low-frequency portrait shot. If you want to see what that means, I'll go ahead and zoom-in at the image so we can see it at the 100% zoom size and we can see the sharpening that's applied.

So if I were to crank the Amount value down to 0, this is what the unsharpened version of the image looks like. Take it back up to 40%, this is the sharpened version of the portrait. Alright, I am just going to cancel out because I didn't make any changes inside of this dialog box. Meanwhile, the rock image, if you double-click on it in order to bring up the Camera RAW dialog box here; lets go ahead and press Ctrl+Alt+0 or Command+Option+0 on the Mac in order to zoom the image to the 100% zoom ratio. I'll switch over to my Detail panel, and you notice again I am following my advice, I am combining -- well with one exception, I am combining a fairly low Amount value, I'll come back to that in a moment, with a low Radius value, a high Detail value and a low Masking value.

So we are doing the opposite number that we do with the low-frequency image. Now the reason I am keeping the Amount value pretty low is because of that gradient map layer. That gradient map layer has a penchant for actually increasing the sharpness of the image. So you'll notice- lets go ahead and find a detail actually that's visible inside of the layered composition. This rock right here once its embedded in your memory for just a moment; remember what it looks like. Oh, and by the way, I want to show you one other thing about this image. I do have some chromatic aberration modifications going on, that make a big difference in terms of the perceived sharpness of the image.

So lets go ahead scroll over to the upper left image for a moment. Notice what happens if I change this value to 0 and press Tab, we get a fuzzier looking rock, and especially after I apply the colorization using the gradient map layer, it ends up just translating to a little bit of fuzziness. Here of course were seeing separate colors, but once we colorize it, we wont see those colors anymore. So it does a world of good to adjust your chromatic aberration settings. Make sure that you have all your colors in alignment, I want to make sure that you do that on a regular basis.

Alright, anyway I am going to go ahead and scroll over to the right, once again to find out one rock, where is it? Oh heck, lets go ahead and zoom at, forgive me here, every once in a while. There it is. Alright, that's the rock that I am thinking of because this is the rock that were going to be able to see over inside the layered image. Alright So kind of burn this in your mind, it's a little bit sharp looking, not super-shape. Lets go back to my Detail settings. If I take this value down to 0, you can see that is definitely softer than this right here. But normally, I would sharpen it to about this level, to about a 100%.

So we get that kind of sharpening with her high-frequency details, right? But in this case, I am not going to go that high. As I say, well kind of keep it medium, just a little bit tempered and when I click Cancel to go back to the layered image, take a look at how sharp that rock appears on screen here. It's a much sharper looking rock than what we saw before. Again, that's a function of this gradient map layer because we are squishing the luminance levels essentially and I am modifying them fairly radically. That ends up creating the perception of sharpness as well.

Alright, so anyway we've got these two different styles of images that we need to accommodate in one sharpening operation. I've already taken care of sharpening her as a low-frequency image and the rocks as a high-frequency image. So the detail sharpening that we are applying here inside Photoshop can be applied to all of these images at once. So I am going to click on one, I am going to Shift+click on gradmap in order to select this entire group of objects right there. Do not select the vector objects group. Leave it out but select everything else.

Then go ahead and convert this to a Smart Object. So group them all into one-layer Smart Object, and you can of course do that by choosing the command from the Layers palette menu and I am going to go ahead and rename this Smart Object Frequencies here like so. Notice if I go ahead and double-click on this frequencies Smart Object here, on that Smart Object thumbnail, I will see the actual images that are involved in the Smart Object, all of the layers and they are appearing un-cropped as well. So this is the un-cropped original version of these layers.

So a Smart Object- the point I am trying to make here is that Smart Object can contain multiple layers including adjustment layers and so on. Alright, I am going to go ahead and close out of this Smart Object so that we are looking at the album cover. In the next exercise, now that we've created the Smart Object and I've shown you the settings that are going on in the background inside of Camera RAW. In the next exercise, we are going to set about sharpening the detail inside of these layers.

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