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Understanding the history of Unsharp Mask

From: Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images

Video: Understanding the history of Unsharp Mask

The all we have going here a two-parter. We've got two exercises in a row. I am just basically trying to break things up a little bit to show you whats going on under the hood with the Unsharp Mask Command, because once you understand how Unsharp Mask is put together you're going to understand a lot more about how sharpening works inside the program. In the next exercise actually, I am going to show you how to build your own Unsharp Mask using nothing more than Gaussian Blur and Apply image, but first, I want to tell you this is going to be a little bit of a talky exercise. I am not really showing you too much at this point. I want to tell you where Unsharp Mask came from just so that you know that, in case you want to know that.

Understanding the history of Unsharp Mask

The all we have going here a two-parter. We've got two exercises in a row. I am just basically trying to break things up a little bit to show you whats going on under the hood with the Unsharp Mask Command, because once you understand how Unsharp Mask is put together you're going to understand a lot more about how sharpening works inside the program. In the next exercise actually, I am going to show you how to build your own Unsharp Mask using nothing more than Gaussian Blur and Apply image, but first, I want to tell you this is going to be a little bit of a talky exercise. I am not really showing you too much at this point. I want to tell you where Unsharp Mask came from just so that you know that, in case you want to know that.

You know by now that Unsharp Mark uses blurring hence the unsharp part, in order to create the effect of sharpening and it's basically masking away the edges. that's why we have the word Mask in there. But still you might think this is very tenuous. I mean what kind of engineer would come up with this crazy name? And in fact, no engineer did. Unsharp Mask is based on a traditional darkroom technique that I believe began in the 1920s, 1930s, somewhere in that range. So it's a very old technique. It's actually a fairly obscure technique. It wasnt very popular, it wasn't used very often, but the idea was, youd be working with a photo enlarger and you have a glass plate negative, just give you a sense of how old this technique is.

You duplicate the glass plate negative onto a low contrast positive, and then you would take that low contrast positive and you would put it on the other side of the glass plate on the non-emulsion side of the glass plate. So on one side of the glass plate youve got the negative, on the other side youve got this low contrast positive. They are separated by the plate. Then you would put the plate into the enlarger, you would focus the enlarger on the negative, on the emulsion side of the glass plate, and that way the positive was a little bit out of focus, so it is little bit out of the focal range and that blurring effect would cancel out the low detail information and you would end up with this higher contrast effect.

Now unless you have traditional darkroom experience and you've worked with an enlarger, I doubt that makes much sense. It's hard to wrap your mind around whats going on there. that's why I am going to show you how to do it with Gaussian Blur because actually the Unsharp Mask command that's available to us here inside Photoshop does a heck of a job of simulating the traditional darkroom technique. We can see that whole glass plate positive negative thing going on using Gaussian Blur. I am working inside of an image that's called Test shapes.PSD and its found inside of the 03 sharpen filters folder and notice that I've got this flat version of that familiar serpentine line with light dots inside of it that we saw back in Chapter 1, but I've gone ahead and flattened that image so that we have a single background layer here and then in front of that I've got this layer that's called USM which stands for Unsharp Mask 100/12/0. Those are range settings, the Amount value of a 100%, a Radius value of 12 and the Threshold of zero, and this is the effect we get right there.

We can simulate this effect down to the last pixel using Gaussian Blur and Apply Image, nothing more. I am going to go ahead and turn off that layer just so that we can confirm that these are the settings I applied. I am going to go ahead and select the Background layer. I am going up to the Filter menu. I'll choose Sharpen and I will choose Unsharp Mask, and there are my settings right there, Amount of a 100%, Radius of 12 pixels, Threshold of zero. Now we are going to set our Gaussian Blur filter to a Radius of 12 pixels in order to exactly match this effect. Its important to note, however, that we can't vary the Amount value.

We have to stick with a 100%. We cant vary this Threshold value, it has to be zero. This is the part that we can really simulate. So it has to be a 100%, it has to be a Threshold of zero, and then whatever for the Radius- we can change that. I am going to cancel out. In the next exercise I am going to show you how this is done because it's multi-step technique, this is really weird technique, but I think it's pretty interesting. It helps you understand whats going on under the hood. If you're inclined to think that its going to help you understand then please join me in the next exercise.

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This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images
Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images

115 video lessons · 17003 viewers

Deke McClelland
Author

 
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  1. 50m 30s
    1. Why every image needs sharpening
      2m 38s
    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 54s
    10. Gauging the ideal sharpening settings
      6m 13s
  2. 59m 31s
    1. Everyone knows you sharpen last (and everyone is wrong)
      1m 8s
    2. Understanding the conventional sharpening workflow
      5m 4s
    3. Flattening and saving to TIFF
      6m 39s
    4. Downsampling (and why you shouldn't upsample)
      6m 8s
    5. Understanding last-step sharpening
      6m 44s
    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 49s
    13. Learning that technique trumps timing
      4m 40s
  3. 1h 27m
    1. Comparing and contrasting neighboring pixels
      1m 6s
    2. Using the Gaussian Blur filter
      4m 25s
    3. Using Gaussian luminance distribution
      4m 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 25s
    2. Using the Median filter and Dust and Scratches
      7m 7s
    3. Using Smart Blur and Surface Blur
      6m 12s
    4. Using the Despeckle filter
      8m 17s
    5. Softening flesh tones selectively
      10m 15s
    6. Using the Reduce Noise filter
      7m 27s
    7. Combining smoothing and sharpening
      8m 24s
    8. Making an image into a smart object
      9m 24s
    9. Applying editable smart filters
      6m 8s
    10. Combining two smart filters
      8m 5s
    11. Assigning a filter mask
      5m 59s
    12. Nesting one smart object inside another
      10m 32s
    13. Employing a static High Pass layer
      8m 59s
    14. Matching static pixel-level edits
      4m 37s
    15. Avoiding clipping with luminance blending
      9m 7s
    16. Sharpening and smoothing
      6m 36s
    17. Making an edge mask
      8m 14s
    18. Making a non-edge mask
      7m 17s
  5. 1h 33m
    1. Sharpening with Adobe Camera Raw
      1m 29s
    2. Introducing Camera Raw (4.1 or later)
      8m 13s
    3. Understanding why to sharpen for source
      5m 14s
    4. Using Camera Raw’s sharpening control
      5m 52s
    5. Previewing limitations and tricks
      6m 45s
    6. Why downsampling doesn’t work
      3m 12s
    7. Reducing chromatic aberration
      7m 30s
    8. Using the Defringe option
      3m 32s
    9. Understanding high frequency, low radius
      5m 21s
    10. Raising the Detail value
      3m 6s
    11. Using on-the-fly edge masking
      5m 41s
    12. Sharpening a low-frequency portrait
      6m 36s
    13. Eliminating color noise
      4m 47s
    14. Reducing luminance noise
      4m 42s
    15. Correcting “false sharpening”
      7m 15s
    16. Reducing shadow noise
      5m 22s
    17. Approximating ACR sharpening in Photoshop
      8m 35s
  6. 59m 8s
    1. Gauging and exploiting luminance frequency
      1m 27s
    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 2s
    8. Actioning a high-frequency edge mask
      5m 4s
    9. Downplaying color artifacts and clipping
      4m 4s
    10. Sharpening a medium-frequency image
      5m 24s
    11. Sharpening a layered composition
      7m 16s
    12. Sharpening for multiple frequencies
      4m 10s
  7. 1h 8m
    1. Who needs dull when you have sharp?
      56s
    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 39s
    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 28s
  8. 1h 18m
    1. Reverting back to convention
      1m 37s
    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 18s
    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 45s
    11. Sharpening for inkjet output
      4m 58s
    12. Revealing high-frequency multipass sharpening
      5m 21s
    13. Using Gaussian Blur to sharpen hair
      5m 41s
    14. Flatten, Save As, Resample, and Sharpen
      5m 9s
    15. Revealing low-frequency multipass sharpening
      3m 30s
    16. Sharpening an image for web or screen
      6m 22s
  9. 1m 50s
    1. Goodbye
      1m 50s

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