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Sharpening

From: Photoshop CS4 Essential Training

Video: Sharpening

Sharpening is an important last step in a digital workflow. You have to sharpen, because the very process of capturing an image digitally, either from a camera or a scanner, softens the image. And then at the other end of the workflow, when you go to print, you soften it further. Some people sharpen more than once. At first when they capture an image, during the editing process, and then they also sharpen for final output. I concentrate primarily on the final output sharpening when I sharpen. Before I show you how to sharpen an image, I would like to explain what sharpening does.

Sharpening

Sharpening is an important last step in a digital workflow. You have to sharpen, because the very process of capturing an image digitally, either from a camera or a scanner, softens the image. And then at the other end of the workflow, when you go to print, you soften it further. Some people sharpen more than once. At first when they capture an image, during the editing process, and then they also sharpen for final output. I concentrate primarily on the final output sharpening when I sharpen. Before I show you how to sharpen an image, I would like to explain what sharpening does.

To do that, I have this plain image of light gray next to dark gray. I am going to go to the Filter menu at the top of the screen, and I am going to choose Sharpen and Unsharp Mask, which is the filter I most often use to sharpen. I am going to zoom way in, in the preview here, so that you can see what's happening in the Unsharp Mask dialog box. This filter has found the edge between the light gray and the dark gray. And to make that edge look sharper, it makes the light side of the edge lighter and the dark side of the edge darker.

That's what those bands are right here. And that's really all sharpening is, increasing the contrast in an edge to give the illusion of sharpness. So what do these three sliders do in the Unsharp Mask dialog box? The Amount slider affects the strength of sharpening, and the way it does that is to change the brightness or the darkness of this edge. So, for example, if I drag that slider to the left, you can see the edge becomes less bright and less dark and so sharpening doesn't look as intense. Let me put that back for a moment to show you what the Radius slider does.

The Radius determines the range of pixels at an edge that will be sharpened. So if I drag that to the right, you can see that there are now more pixels at this edge that are getting this lightning and darkening treatment, and finally there is Threshold. What Threshold does is protect those pixels that aren't really an edge from being sharpened. If Threshold is at 0, there are more lines here. More pixels are getting sharpened around the edge. But if I increase Threshold, some of this disappears, because I am setting a Threshold beneath which there won't be sharpening.

Let's cancel out of here and get a real image to sharpen. I am going to click in the second tab to see slipper.psd, and again, I am going to go the Filter menu, but before I choose Unsharp Mask, I am going to choose Convert for Smart Filters and say OK. In the Layers panel, you can see that what that has done is to convert the slipper layer into a smart object. And because this is a smart object, I can apply my Unsharp Mask filter in a way that will make it re-editable in the future.

So I am going to go to the Filter menu again and go down to Sharpen and choose Unsharp Mask. By the way, of the choices here, the only ones I recommend are Unsharp Mask and Smart Sharpen, which is similar to Unsharp Mask but has some additional features. So I will choose Unsharp Mask and I want to make sure that at least one of these previews is at 100%. In fact both of them are, as I see here and here, because 100% view is necessary in order for you to really judge the sharpening.

So when I use this dialog, I usually do set Amount really high and then I vary the Radius, because with Amount high I can see the effects of changing the Radius. Now I never go larger than about 2, and you can see that does not work in this image. Your choices for the Amount slider and the Radius slider will vary depending upon the size of the image, so I strongly recommend that you resize your images before sharpening. I usually have a master copy of a layered file, and then I make separate copies from there, resize the copies for whatever my output is, and then sharpen the copies.

So I have got my Amount, I have got my Radius. I might increase my Threshold here, because I see that some items are getting sharpening up here that aren't really edges, these little white spots. So as I increase Threshold, those will go away and it won't be sharpened. I will click OK, and that completes the sharpening. Now because I converted the slipper layer into a smart filter, I can always come back in and re-edit my sharpening settings. So if I change my mind and I think that this slipper looks a little too crispy, I can double-click Unsharp Mask and I will just turn the Amount down a bit and that looks better. I will click OK.

So that's how sharpening works. Be sure to resize your images before sharpening, and here's a tip if you are sharpening for print. You are going to want to sharpen to an extent that looks like a little bit too much on your computer screen, and that will give you a print that's just the right amount of sharp.

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This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS4 Essential Training
Photoshop CS4 Essential Training

103 video lessons · 67353 viewers

Jan Kabili
Author

 
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  1. 2m 31s
    1. Welcome
      1m 27s
    2. Using the example files
      1m 4s
  2. 25m 14s
    1. Touring the interface
      4m 25s
    2. Working with tabbed documents
      5m 15s
    3. Using tools efficiently
      3m 51s
    4. Arranging panels
      3m 53s
    5. Customizing keyboard shortcuts
      2m 50s
    6. Saving a custom workspace
      3m 0s
    7. Changing screen modes
      2m 0s
  3. 19m 3s
    1. Touring the Bridge interface
      6m 31s
    2. Opening images from Bridge
      1m 20s
    3. Reviewing images
      4m 42s
    4. Finding images
      6m 30s
  4. 44m 53s
    1. Setting preferences
      4m 23s
    2. Choosing color settings
      8m 11s
    3. Zooming and panning
      5m 27s
    4. Resizing and image resolution
      3m 17s
    5. Adding to the canvas
      2m 2s
    6. Rotating the canvas
      1m 44s
    7. Choosing color
      4m 49s
    8. Sizing a brush tip
      3m 4s
    9. Undoing and the History panel
      5m 0s
    10. Saving and file formats
      3m 29s
    11. Creating a file from scratch
      3m 27s
  5. 37m 58s
    1. Making geometric selections
      6m 14s
    2. Modifying selections
      4m 43s
    3. Combining selections
      3m 16s
    4. Using the Quick Selection tool
      5m 34s
    5. Refining selection edges
      4m 12s
    6. Using Quick Mask mode
      2m 18s
    7. Selecting with the improved Color Range command
      4m 32s
    8. Selecting with the Magnetic Lasso tool
      2m 28s
    9. Using the Background Eraser tool
      3m 7s
    10. Saving selections
      1m 34s
  6. 39m 56s
    1. Understanding layers
      5m 43s
    2. Creating layers
      5m 12s
    3. Working in the Layers panel
      2m 19s
    4. Locking layers
      4m 17s
    5. Working with multiple layers
      4m 6s
    6. Merging and flattening layers
      3m 55s
    7. Adding a shape layer
      4m 43s
    8. Basic layer masking
      4m 23s
    9. Using layer blend modes and opacity
      5m 18s
  7. 23m 19s
    1. Cropping
      3m 26s
    2. Straightening
      3m 17s
    3. Transforming
      4m 42s
    4. Working with Smart Objects
      6m 48s
    5. Using Content-Aware Scaling
      5m 6s
  8. 1h 10m
    1. Reading histograms
      4m 21s
    2. Using adjustment layers and the Adjustment panel
      6m 4s
    3. Adjusting tones with Levels
      7m 49s
    4. Limiting adjustments with layer masks
      5m 40s
    5. Using masks in the new Masks panel
      6m 9s
    6. Limiting adjustments by clipping
      3m 6s
    7. Adjusting with Shadow/Highlight
      5m 7s
    8. Adjusting with Curves
      7m 37s
    9. Adjusting with Hue/Saturation
      3m 42s
    10. Adjusting with Vibrance
      2m 16s
    11. Removing a color cast
      4m 26s
    12. Using the Black & White adjustment layer
      2m 39s
    13. Using the Dodge Burn and Sponge tools
      4m 11s
    14. Reducing noise
      2m 39s
    15. Sharpening
      4m 42s
  9. 38m 0s
    1. Using the Spot Healing Brush tool
      5m 17s
    2. Using the Healing Brush tool
      5m 51s
    3. Using the Patch tool
      4m 52s
    4. Using the Clone Stamp tool
      4m 8s
    5. Enhancing eyes
      9m 29s
    6. Changing facial structure
      5m 0s
    7. Softening skin
      3m 23s
  10. 44m 38s
    1. What's a raw image?
      4m 25s
    2. Touring the Camera Raw interface
      7m 35s
    3. Working in the Basic panel
      7m 54s
    4. Working in the Tone Curve panel
      2m 21s
    5. Working in the HSL/Grayscale and Split Toning panels
      3m 46s
    6. Looking at the other Camera Raw panels
      3m 45s
    7. Using the Adjustment Brush tool
      4m 2s
    8. Using the Graduated Filter tool
      3m 56s
    9. Working with multiple files
      6m 54s
  11. 21m 6s
    1. Using the Brushes panel
      8m 30s
    2. Filling with color
      3m 49s
    3. Replacing color
      4m 14s
    4. Using gradients
      4m 33s
  12. 16m 55s
    1. Working with point type
      9m 59s
    2. Working with paragraph type
      3m 17s
    3. Warping text
      3m 39s
  13. 25m 23s
    1. Adding a layer style
      4m 6s
    2. Customizing a layer style
      3m 35s
    3. Copying a layer style
      3m 5s
    4. Creating a new style
      3m 32s
    5. Using Smart Filters
      5m 22s
    6. Working in the Filter Gallery
      5m 43s
  14. 13m 14s
    1. Auto-blending focus
      4m 47s
    2. Creating Photomerge panoramas
      4m 2s
    3. Combining group photos
      4m 25s
  15. 23m 27s
    1. Creating an action
      7m 16s
    2. Batch processing with an action
      6m 36s
    3. Using the Image Processor
      9m 35s
  16. 29m 20s
    1. Printing
      11m 32s
    2. Making a contact sheet from Bridge
      6m 12s
    3. Creating a web gallery from Bridge
      7m 17s
    4. Preparing photos for the web
      4m 19s
  17. 30s
    1. Goodbye
      30s

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