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Photoshop is one of the world’s most powerful image editors, and it can be daunting to try to use skillfully. Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced, the second part of the popular and comprehensive series, follows internationally renowned Photoshop guru Deke McClelland as he dives into the workings of Photoshop. He explores such digital-age wonders as the Levels and Curves commands, edge-detection filters, advanced compositing techniques, vector-based text, the Liquify filter, and Camera Raw. Deke also teaches tried-and-true methods for sharpening details, smoothing over wrinkles and imperfections, and enhancing colors without harming the original image. Exercise files accompany the course.
Recommended prerequisite: Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Photoshop from the Exercise Files tab.
In this exercise I'm going to introduce you to the Smart Sharpen filter, and show you how it compares to Unsharp Mask. We're going to see how these filters work as applied to this diagram right here. It's called Big brushstrokes.psd, found inside the 14_sharpen folder. That is actually how they were created, by brushing a path outline. But what we have and what we're going to be able to work with here is this very obviously dark sort of serpentine shape right here. Against a light background with some even lighter circles on the inside and throughout we have some textures, some noise, sort of a bump map texture here that will give the filters a lot to grab on to, essentially.
By the way, notice that each one of these guys, and there is four versions of this artwork in all, all arranged on independent layers as you can see here inside the Layers palette. All right. So I'm going to go up to the Filter menu, choose Sharpen, and choose Unsharp Mask, or you could press Shift+ F5 there if you loaded my Deke Keys of course. Just for the sake of comparison, I'm going to change the Amount value to 200%, the Radius value to 20 pixels. I want you to note this by the way; typically we're going to with high Amount values and low Radius values in order to create tactile sharpening effects.
But if you just want to enhance the contrast of the image to create this things that's known as clarity inside the image, just bolster the edges ever so slightly, then you can combine a low Amount value, let's say 50%, with a high Radius value such as 20 pixels. Notice that just goes in there and applies some deep shading and some highlights as well in order to define the object, sometimes add a little bit of volume to your objects as well. So it can work out very nicely, by the way, it's not strictly speaking a sharpening effect, but it's a pleasing effect nonetheless.
I am not going for pleasing. I'm going to take this value up to 200%, 20 pixels of Radius, 0 for Threshold. Very important for our comparative test here that the Threshold value stays at 0, because there is no equivalent for the Threshold option inside the Smart Sharpen dialog box. All right. Now, I'm going to click OK in order to accept this modification. Now, let's move down to this layer that's called Gaus Blur. I'm going to go up to the Filter menu. This time, I'm going to go ahead and choose the Smart Sharpen filter, but you know what? Before I do, because this is a whopping big dialog box, I'm going to go ahead and press Shift+Tab to hide my palettes for a moment and I'm going to move my window over to the right side of the screen; I'm working in an independent image window here as you can see.
That way I'll have space for the ginormous Smart Sharpen dialog box. I'm going to go to Filter menu, choose Sharpen, choose Smart Sharpen; if you loaded Deke Keys, you've got a keyboard shortcut of Shift+F6, just the next one in line right there. Brings up this big old dialog box, and notice we got an Amount value, we have a Radius value. Now, by default, I believe these values are 100 and 1, something along those lines, with Remove set to Gaussian Blur. Now, that may seem like a weird thing, but we do have the option of specifying what kind of blur we're trying to compensate for and really what we're doing is we're telling Photoshop which kind of blur to use in order to correct the image. So as I was telling you a few exercises ago, Unsharp Mask actually uses Gaussian Blur to create the effect of sharpening.
In fact, if you check out my Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images series, you can find an exercise that tells you how to build your own Unsharp Mask using just Gaussian Blur. These other options, Lens Blur and Motion Blur can be built with those filters, as it just so happens, but they have very specific effects, and they have very specific uses, as you'll see. So anyway, I'll leave that set to Gaussian Blur. I'll go ahead and raise the Amount to 200%, and take the Radius up to 20 pixels, just like I did inside the Gaussian Blur dialog box. Leave More Accurate turned off. We don't need the Advanced settings here. So this is the effect we're looking for, we're done.
Just go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification, and then compare these two visually on screen there. They appear to be very, very similar. Well, they're not very, very similar. They are absolutely pixel-for-pixel identical. That's because Smart Sharpen does allow you to mimic the effects of Unsharp Mask, when you set it to Gaussian Blur, provided that Unsharp Mask obviously has a Threshold of 0, because there is nothing like that inside the Smart Sharpen. But that's just where things start. It only gets better from here.
You have more options available to you in Smart Sharpen, as I'll explain in the very next exercise.
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