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The Unsharp Mask filter

From: Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced

Video: The Unsharp Mask filter

In this exercise I'm going to introduce you to really a great sharpening function that has a really crazy name, and that's Unsharp Mask. Now I'm still working inside Orange on blue.jpg found inside of the 14_sharpen folder, and I want you to go up to the Filter menu, choose Sharpen, and there is Unsharp Mask. Now notice, if you loaded my Deke Keys, way back near the beginning of the previous part of the series Photoshop CS4 One-on-One Fundamentals, then you have access to a handful of keyboard shortcuts for the best of the filters.

The Unsharp Mask filter

In this exercise I'm going to introduce you to really a great sharpening function that has a really crazy name, and that's Unsharp Mask. Now I'm still working inside Orange on blue.jpg found inside of the 14_sharpen folder, and I want you to go up to the Filter menu, choose Sharpen, and there is Unsharp Mask. Now notice, if you loaded my Deke Keys, way back near the beginning of the previous part of the series Photoshop CS4 One-on-One Fundamentals, then you have access to a handful of keyboard shortcuts for the best of the filters.

So I have got Shift+F5 for Unsharp Mark, Shift+F6 for Smart Sharpen, on and on all the way up to this guy right here Shift+F10 for High Pass, which itself is a sharpening function. Now I should say before I go any farther, that you can learn more about sharpening. If you start getting into this, and you find it to be interesting, and it really is important stuff, especially if you do a lot of output work, meaning you print a lot of your photographs, you really want to know the ins and outs of sharpening. I had explained how sharpening works in glorious detail, all kinds of different sharpening scenarios for output, for effect, for detail, and for acquisition too, for input, inside of my series Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images. Sharpening technology really hasn't change here inside CS4, so all the information inside the CS3 Sharpening images series is accurate, except for the part where I rail against the screen resolution or the zoom ratios, and that has actually been resolved in Photoshop CS4, and I'll explain that more in detail as we get into it. But I just want you to know, there's a whole series about sharpening there available to you in the lynda.com Online Training Library, so check it out at your leisure.

Unsharp Mask, it also tells you why Unsharp Mask is called Unsharp Mask. It's based on an old traditional camera technique, and the idea is that you are using blurring, because you can't really sharpen something imposed, it's really pretty much impossible. You can't blur detail imposed, and so Unsharp Mask uses blurring and actually blurs the edges and then masks them in order to create the appearance of sharpening. Is that not weird? And in fact, down to the last pixel, you can mimic the effects of Unsharp Mask using just Gaussian Blur if you want to. True story and I'll show you how to do it, if you want to geek out inside that sharpening images series I was telling you about.

But for now, I just want you to know, it's got a crazy name but it's a great function. It is the Premiere Sharpening function inside a Photoshop, and then it got updated for Smart Sharpen. All right, so I'll go ahead and show you this command, here it is, brings up a dialog box. Let's go ahead and zoom out, a click for the snake for the in dialog box preview. You also have an out of dialog box preview, so you'll see the image change on the fly as long as the preview check box is turned-on. Now in the old days you really had to watch your zoom ratios, when I say old days, I mean Photoshop CS3 and earlier. You had to watch your zoom ratio, something like 67% would be bad, it would be just dropping pixels, and you wouldn't really be able to accurately gage the sharpness of the image.

Now, assuming that you have an OpenGL compliant video card inside Photoshop CS4, you are going to be able to gage good sharpness at pretty much any zoom ratio, and definitely the standard ones are just fine. So these ones that you get by clicking the minus and plus buttons work out beautifully. And I'll show you how to make sure you have got an open OpenGL compliant card in just a couple of exercises here, when I show you how to measure screen resolution. But in the mean time, let's discuss Unsharp Mask, it has three sliders, and at first they are little daunting, but once you learn how to used them, it all make sense, really easy to use this command.

The first one I think is really easy right out the gate. It's just the amount. How much sharpness do you want to apply? Wouldn't it be great for new people if they just made a command instead of having sharpen that just has, you know, the static group of these three options that it applies? Wouldn't it be great if you had sharpened dot-dot-dot, and all it gave you is amount? At least you could control the amount of sharpness and then the newbies would be satisfied, it'd be awesome. But we don't have anything like that, but you could just apply this amount, and notice, if I apply a higher amount value, I get more sharpness on screen.

Great, that's too much sharpness. I'm over sharpening the image, but still, you know I can gauge the difference here, and I can go as high as 500%. That just controls how much sharpness you want. Then let's go ahead and crank it up actually, I'll set it to 250, so we can really see what we are doing. Radius, defines the thickness of the halos. Now it's telling you Unsharp Mask is using a blurring technology in order to create the appearance of sharpness, and I was also telling you in the previous exercise, it's enhancing the contrast around the edges, right? So it's making the dark edge darker, and the light edge lighter. So look at the snout up here.

See how you can see a little bit of dark edge at the top? I'll go and zoom in, and I'm doing this by the way by Control+Spacebar+Clicking. That will be Command+Spacebar clicking on the Mac. So you can't zoom even though you've got a dialog box opened. Now you can't zoom by pressing the Z key, as you can't when the dialog box is close, but you can use that old technique of Ctrl+Spacebar or Command+Spacebar+ Clicking, and you can also just press Ctrl+Plus or Ctrl+Minus, Command+ Plus or Command+Minus on the Mac. All right, so see that little edge there, little dark edge above the snout, light edge below the snout. Watch it gets thicker as I change the radius value.

So notice there is more of a pop now, more of a blur, bigger halo expanding outward and expanding inward. So if you go with high radius value, you can get big thick goopy edges like we are seeing here, and if you go with a low radius value, you are going to get a nice crisp exacting edges, which would make you think you always want a low radius value, but I'll tell you why that's not true in future exercises here. Anyway, let's change this to radius of 2, and then we have this threshold value. Now edges are areas of rapid contrast between neighboring pixels. You've got basically 2 pixels that are right next to each other, let's say, anywhere in the image. Threshold value is saying, all right, if there are at least 0 luminance level different from each other, I'll sharpen them. So in other words, it's going to sharpen everybody inside this image, because everybody is at least 0 levels different than each other.

However, if you've raised that value to let's say 20, okay, then it's only going to sharpen 2 neighboring pixels where they are at least 20 luminance level different from each other, bearing in mind of course, that there are a total of 256 luminance levels in an 8 bit per channel image, and even if you are working in a 16 bit per channel image, threshold is just imagining you're working with 256 levels. You can only go as high as 255 levels there of difference and that, of course, is going to illuminate all sharpness from the image, because no two pixels can be 255 different from each other, unless they are white and black. I guess might be, but I'm not seeing any neighboring pixels that are white and black. Then if you sharpen them, you couldn't create more contrast between them, then black and white, so anyway, no sharpening occurs.

The problem with this function here, and the reason I don't use it, I actually don't use it at all, some people use it sparingly, and I'll tell you how to do that. But if you take it up to something like 30 levels, notice you get this pock marking effect, and that's because it's an on/off proposition, either you are sharpening 2 neighboring pixels, because they are at least 30 luminance levels different from each other, or you are not, because they aren't, and as a result you get this weird, the sun sharpness inside the image, and it usually does a really great job of picking out bad detail like pock marks, and moles and zits. And it's horrible.

However, if you keep it low, you can get half way decent effects, something like 3 to 4 for a low-noise image, this is a pretty high-noise image, so threshold value of about 8 level works pretty nicely for avoiding sharpening the noise in the background, behind the snake there. But we still are getting that pockmark effect, that on/off propositions, so we are drawing at some details and not others, which is why my favorite threshold setting is 0. Anyway, that gives you a sense. There is your three sliders. In the next exercise, I hope to help you make you sense of the most mysterious and the most important of these three sliders, the radius value, coming right up.

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This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced
Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced

218 video lessons · 23900 viewers

Deke McClelland
Author

 
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  1. 22m 32s
    1. Welcome to Photoshop CS4 One-on-One Advanced
      1m 43s
    2. Installing the DekeKeys keyboard shortcuts
      6m 17s
    3. Resetting the function keys on a Mac
      3m 51s
    4. Installing the CS4 color settings
      4m 37s
    5. Setting up the CS4 color settings
      6m 4s
  2. 2h 43m
    1. Highlights, shadows, and midtones
      49s
    2. Low contrast, bad meter
      5m 57s
    3. Auto tone, contrast, and color
      8m 1s
    4. Cache levels and the Histogram palette
      7m 16s
    5. How the auto commands work
      10m 15s
    6. A first look at Levels
      6m 11s
    7. Target colors and clipping
      9m 6s
    8. Modifying input levels
      9m 44s
    9. Adjusting the gamma value
      7m 34s
    10. Previewing clipping
      7m 17s
    11. The futility of output levels
      4m 56s
    12. Channel-by-channel edits
      11m 54s
    13. When levels fail
      4m 34s
    14. A first look at Curves
      8m 46s
    15. Static Curves layer tricks
      7m 45s
    16. Dynamic Curves layer tricks
      7m 25s
    17. Correcting the composite image
      8m 30s
    18. Neutralizing a color cast
      6m 52s
    19. The Target Adjustment tool in Curves
      8m 29s
    20. Correcting an image in Lab
      10m 7s
    21. The Shadows/Highlights filter
      4m 18s
    22. Radius and tonal width
      8m 11s
  3. 1h 48m
    1. Edge-enhancement tricks
      1m 13s
    2. How sharpening works
      3m 48s
    3. The single-shot sharpeners
      4m 29s
    4. The Unsharp Mask filter
      7m 57s
    5. Understanding the Radius value
      6m 25s
    6. Gauging the best settings
      7m 47s
    7. Previewing how sharpening will print
      3m 37s
    8. Measuring and setting screen resolution
      6m 56s
    9. Tweaking the screen resolution
      4m 28s
    10. Sharpening the luminance data
      8m 23s
    11. USM vs. Smart Sharpen
      4m 23s
    12. Smart Sharpen's Remove settings
      5m 50s
    13. High-resolution sharpening
      6m 16s
    14. When to leave More Accurate off
      3m 48s
    15. When to turn More Accurate on
      4m 23s
    16. The advanced options
      7m 57s
    17. Saving Smart Sharpen settings
      4m 23s
    18. Accounting for camera shake
      7m 7s
    19. Sharpening with the High Pass filter
      9m 8s
  4. 2h 16m
    1. Why would you blur?
      1m 8s
    2. Fading after an undo
      3m 27s
    3. The "bell-shaped" Gaussian Blur
      5m 43s
    4. The linear Box Blur
      3m 6s
    5. Add Noise vs. Median
      4m 50s
    6. Despeckle vs. Dust & Scratches
      6m 31s
    7. Smart Blur vs. Surface Blur
      8m 13s
    8. The Motion Blur filter
      4m 33s
    9. Radial Blur's Spin and Zoom variations
      5m 48s
    10. Mixing filtered effects
      3m 56s
    11. The "Captain Kirk in Love" effect
      5m 4s
    12. Diffusing focus with Blur and Overlay
      8m 50s
    13. Simulating Vaseline and film grain
      8m 2s
    14. Filling a layer with a neutral color
      2m 55s
    15. Old-school contrast reduction
      3m 39s
    16. Three steps to diffused focus
      7m 36s
    17. Averaging skin tones
      9m 45s
    18. Addressing the stubborn patches
      5m 26s
    19. Combining Gaussian Blur and Average
      6m 1s
    20. Blurring surface details
      3m 2s
    21. Smoothing blemishes while matching noise
      8m 6s
    22. Reducing digital noise
      8m 47s
    23. Striking a smooth/sharpen compromise
      4m 36s
    24. Smoothing over JPEG artifacts
      7m 38s
  5. 2h 31m
    1. Independent layers of color adjustment
      1m 7s
    2. Undersea color channels
      4m 2s
    3. Inventing a Red channel with Lab
      8m 20s
    4. Mixing color channels
      6m 55s
    5. Making shadows with Levels
      7m 5s
    6. Applying small color adjustments
      6m 0s
    7. Further modifying Levels in Lab
      8m 50s
    8. Creating a dynamic fill layer
      4m 38s
    9. Brushing and blending color
      4m 42s
    10. Working with "found masks"
      7m 31s
    11. Saturation, sharpen, and crop
      8m 9s
    12. Mixing a monochromatic image
      7m 2s
    13. Masking an adjustment layer
      4m 45s
    14. Working with Opacity and blend modes
      3m 39s
    15. Adding a black-and-white adjustment
      5m 53s
    16. The Target Adjustment tool in black and white
      6m 12s
    17. Tinting a monochrome photo
      3m 19s
    18. Introducing Gradient Map
      4m 17s
    19. Adjusting both color and luminance
      5m 44s
    20. Infusing elements with different colors
      6m 22s
    21. Adjustment layers as creative tools
      4m 33s
    22. Inverting and brightening the background
      5m 14s
    23. Blurring live, editable type
      5m 43s
    24. Hue, saturation, and darkness
      6m 51s
    25. Filling type with a color adjustment
      3m 24s
    26. Using one adjustment to modify another
      3m 21s
    27. Breathing color into the title
      3m 38s
    28. The Hue/Saturation humanoid
      3m 44s
  6. 1h 48m
    1. Parametric operations
      1m 23s
    2. The power of blend modes
      6m 16s
    3. Changing the Opacity value
      5m 46s
    4. Opacity vs. Fill Opacity
      4m 37s
    5. Meet the blend modes
      6m 4s
    6. Blend mode shortcuts
      7m 8s
    7. Darken, Multiply, and the Burn modes
      6m 33s
    8. Tempering a Burn effect with Fill
      4m 43s
    9. Saving a blended state
      4m 18s
    10. Lighten, Screen, and the Dodge modes
      8m 22s
    11. Linear Burn = Add minus white
      5m 31s
    12. Overlay and the contrast modes
      6m 52s
    13. Fill Opacity takes priority
      6m 19s
    14. Difference and exclusion
      5m 21s
    15. Using difference for golden highlights
      4m 2s
    16. The composite (HSL) modes
      6m 8s
    17. The brush-only modes: Behind and Clear
      10m 31s
    18. Layer groups and the Pass Through mode
      8m 54s
  7. 1h 53m
    1. It's all about the presentation
      58s
    2. Moving a layer a specific number of pixels
      6m 59s
    3. Adding a pixel mask to a layer
      5m 48s
    4. Editing a layer mask
      7m 19s
    5. Combining layers into a clipping mask
      6m 19s
    6. Introducing the Advanced Blending options
      4m 45s
    7. Using the luminance blending sliders
      7m 26s
    8. Forcing through underlying luminance
      4m 32s
    9. Masking with a path outline
      5m 45s
    10. Refining a mask from the Masks palette
      7m 18s
    11. Creating and modifying a layer group
      3m 29s
    12. Establishing a knockout group
      5m 29s
    13. Fixing last-minute problems
      6m 23s
    14. Introducing layer comps
      6m 40s
    15. Exploring layered states
      6m 43s
    16. Deleting layers and updating comps
      6m 18s
    17. Saving a basic composition
      6m 21s
    18. Assigning and saving appearance attributes
      7m 15s
    19. Layer comps dos and don'ts
      7m 27s
  8. 1h 56m
    1. Type: The great imaging exception
      56s
    2. Establishing default formatting attributes
      4m 5s
    3. Saving formatting attributes as a preset
      8m 5s
    4. Making a point text layer
      6m 18s
    5. Editing size and leading
      6m 44s
    6. Working with vector-based text
      6m 12s
    7. Formatting area text
      4m 16s
    8. Creating a layer of area text
      3m 20s
    9. Resizing the text frame
      4m 34s
    10. Changing the anti-aliasing setting
      3m 58s
    11. Obscure but important formatting options
      6m 31s
    12. Text editing tricks and shortcuts
      8m 44s
    13. Creating a cast shadow
      6m 1s
    14. Blurred shadows and beveled text
      7m 16s
    15. Drawing a path outline
      4m 51s
    16. Creating type on a path
      6m 39s
    17. Flipping text across a circle
      3m 18s
    18. Vertical alignment with baseline shift
      4m 16s
    19. Warping text
      4m 57s
    20. Scaling your text to taste
      3m 33s
    21. Applying a custom warp
      6m 24s
    22. Creating an engraved text effect
      5m 11s
  9. 2h 17m
    1. Bending an image to fit your needs
      53s
    2. Creating a canvas texture
      6m 48s
    3. Masking objects against a white background
      5m 42s
    4. Scaling an image to fit a composition
      8m 9s
    5. Aligning one layer to fit another
      3m 51s
    6. Changing the Image Interpolation
      8m 10s
    7. Merging faces
      5m 32s
    8. Rotating the first clock hand
      7m 17s
    9. Adding hands and pasting styles
      6m 40s
    10. Series duplication in Photoshop
      4m 35s
    11. Masking objects against a black background
      6m 34s
    12. Skews and perspective distortions
      7m 57s
    13. Envelope-style warps
      9m 2s
    14. Old-school distortion filters
      8m 50s
    15. Introducing the Liquify filter
      4m 9s
    16. Reconstructing an image
      6m 55s
    17. Using the Warp tool
      5m 16s
    18. The Pucker and Bloat tools
      5m 53s
    19. Push, Turbulence, and Twirl
      6m 41s
    20. The Freeze and Thaw mask tools
      5m 45s
    21. Saving and loading a mesh file
      3m 59s
    22. Creating and applying a texture layer
      8m 30s
  10. 1h 28m
    1. Effects vs. styles
      1m 11s
    2. Of layer styles and masks
      4m 37s
    3. Everything about drop shadow
      8m 2s
    4. Adding a directional glow
      4m 39s
    5. Colorizing with Color Overlay
      5m 18s
    6. Stroke and fill opacity
      5m 48s
    7. Creating a multicolor Outer Glow
      9m 22s
    8. Introducing Bevel and Emboss
      7m 48s
    9. Contour and Texture
      4m 35s
    10. Simulating liquid reflections
      6m 28s
    11. Saving layer styles
      6m 18s
    12. Applying and appending styles
      4m 36s
    13. Saving and swapping style presets
      3m 16s
    14. The five effect helpers
      3m 47s
    15. Blending the effect before the layer
      5m 1s
    16. Colorizing a signature
      3m 30s
    17. Clipping an effect with a mask
      4m 5s
  11. 1h 50m
    1. Welcome to the digital darkroom
      1m 46s
    2. Opening Camera Raw in the Bridge
      5m 44s
    3. The Camera Raw 5 interface
      4m 39s
    4. Adjusting the white balance
      5m 0s
    5. Finessing and saving changes
      7m 55s
    6. Using the White Balance tool
      2m 43s
    7. Working with the Exposure controls
      7m 34s
    8. Straightening and cropping a raw image
      5m 53s
    9. Applying automatic exposure adjustments
      6m 6s
    10. Exposure warnings
      5m 44s
    11. Clarity, Vibrance, and Saturation
      4m 47s
    12. Using the Graduated Filter tool
      3m 33s
    13. Dodging with the Adjustment brush
      9m 24s
    14. Tone Curve adjustments
      6m 54s
    15. Using the Spot Removal tool
      2m 48s
    16. Removing noise and sharpening detail
      4m 5s
    17. Adjusting HSL values
      4m 18s
    18. Adjusting luminance, color by color
      4m 14s
    19. Black and white and split toning
      5m 16s
    20. Camera Raw tips and tricks
      7m 32s
    21. Correcting JPEG and TIFF images
      4m 42s
  12. 57s
    1. Until next time
      57s

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