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When sharpening an image, naturally you're going to focus your attention on the image and trying to make it look its best. And yet, in many cases, you really can't base your final sharpening effect entirely on what you see on your monitor display. For example, when printing an image, the spreading of ink on paper, Dot Gain, is a significant concern. You can compensate for docking with sharpening, but generally, you'll need to apply relatively strong sharpening in order to produce the best final results. In other words, the best sharpening effect will often require a bit of trial and error, and may yield over sharpening.
Sharpening you think is too strong, but is actually beneficial for the final result. Let's take a look at an example of output sharpening. In this case, I've prepared the image for printing and I'm ready to sharpen it. But I'm going to be sending the file to an offset press printer, and they've sent specific requirements for sharpening. In particular, they require a relatively high radius sharpening in order to proceed the best result when printing. So, go ahead and choose Filter > Sharpen, and then Unsharp Mask from the menu in order to bring up the Unsharp Mask dialog.
I'll bring my Threshold down to zero, and increase my Radius up to a value of three pixels. Now, this is normally extremely high for an image that has relatively high radius, especially an image that is of a relatively small size. In this case, I'm printing a roughly 4 by 6 image, and so this is a very high Radius setting. I'll then adjust the Amount, and the printer suggested a setting of around 200% for the Amount. Now, you can see the image looks very, very crunchy.
This is certainly an over-sharpened image. And in many cases, this would be problematic sharpening. But because I'm sending this image to a printer that will exhibit relatively significant Dot Gain, the final print will not look anywhere near as sharp as this. And in fact, by applying these Sharpening settings, I'll be able to produce a better result for these particular output settings. I'll go ahead and click OK in order to finalize that sharpening. When applying sharpening to your images, it's important to keep in mind that you are evaluating the effect on your computer monitor.
But the final image you share likely won't be viewed on your monitor. It's important to take the final output conditions into account when evaluating the effect of sharpening an image. In many cases, the best sharpening effect might look a bit oversharpened on your monitor display. In this case, I've taken the advice of the printer who will be printing this image, and have applied specific Sharpening settings. When you're printing to a Photo Inkjet Printer, for example, you'll still need to over sharpen a bit, and those settings will vary depending on the Print Media and your specific printer. Through a little bit of trial and error, but keeping in mind that sometimes the best final result will be achieved by slightly over-sharpening the image, you'll be able to produce great results when printing your photos.
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