Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images
Illustration by Don Barnett

Using the Smart Sharpen filter


Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images

with Deke McClelland

Start your free trial now, and begin learning software, business and creative skills—anytime, anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts.

Start Your Free Trial Now

Video: Using the Smart Sharpen filter

In this exercise I am going to introduce you to what is essentially the upgrade to the Unsharp Mask filter And that is the Smart Sharpen command. Introduced a few years back inside Photoshop CS2, it allows you to do just about everything you can do with the Unsharp Mask command and then some. So I would go so far as to call it the preeminent sharpening function inside Photoshop,\. When in doubt, when you want to sharpen an image use Smart Sharpen. That's what I would say anyway. And I am going to demonstrate this filter on this Happy family.jpeg file, which of course comes to us from photographer Justin Horrocks of and its found inside the 03 sharpen filters folder.
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 50m 30s
    1. Why every image needs sharpening
      2m 37s
    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 55s
    10. Gauging the ideal sharpening settings
      6m 13s
  2. 59m 28s
    1. Everyone knows you sharpen last (and everyone is wrong)
      1m 7s
    2. Understanding the conventional sharpening workflow
      5m 3s
    3. Flattening and saving to TIFF
      6m 40s
    4. Downsampling (and why you shouldn't upsample)
      6m 8s
    5. Understanding last-step sharpening
      6m 43s
    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 48s
    13. Learning that technique trumps timing
      4m 40s
  3. 1h 30m
    1. Comparing and contrasting neighboring pixels
      1m 6s
    2. Using the Gaussian Blur filter
      4m 25s
    3. Using Gaussian luminance distribution
      7m 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 24s
    2. Using the Median filter and Dust and Scratches
      7m 6s
    3. Using Smart Blur and Surface Blur
      6m 14s
    4. Using the Despeckle filter
      8m 18s
    5. Softening flesh tones selectively
      10m 16s
    6. Using the Reduce Noise filter
      7m 27s
    7. Combining smoothing and sharpening
      8m 23s
    8. Making an image into a smart object
      9m 23s
    9. Applying editable smart filters
      6m 10s
    10. Combining two smart filters
      8m 6s
    11. Assigning a filter mask
      5m 59s
    12. Nesting one smart object inside another
      10m 31s
    13. Employing a static High Pass layer
      9m 0s
    14. Matching static pixel-level edits
      4m 37s
    15. Avoiding clipping with luminance blending
      9m 7s
    16. Sharpening and smoothing
      6m 37s
    17. Making an edge mask
      8m 15s
    18. Making a non-edge mask
      7m 17s
  5. 1h 33m
    1. Sharpening with Adobe Camera Raw
      1m 28s
    2. Introducing Camera Raw (4.1 or later)
      8m 12s
    3. Understanding why to sharpen for source
      5m 14s
    4. Using Camera Raw’s sharpening control
      5m 51s
    5. Previewing limitations and tricks
      6m 45s
    6. Why downsampling doesn’t work
      3m 12s
    7. Reducing chromatic aberration
      7m 29s
    8. Using the Defringe option
      3m 31s
    9. Understanding high frequency, low radius
      5m 21s
    10. Raising the Detail value
      3m 6s
    11. Using on-the-fly edge masking
      5m 40s
    12. Sharpening a low-frequency portrait
      6m 35s
    13. Eliminating color noise
      4m 47s
    14. Reducing luminance noise
      4m 41s
    15. Correcting “false sharpening”
      7m 14s
    16. Reducing shadow noise
      5m 22s
    17. Approximating ACR sharpening in Photoshop
      8m 35s
  6. 59m 12s
    1. Gauging and exploiting luminance frequency
      1m 26s
    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 1s
    8. Actioning a high-frequency edge mask
      5m 5s
    9. Downplaying color artifacts and clipping
      4m 5s
    10. Sharpening a medium-frequency image
      5m 25s
    11. Sharpening a layered composition
      7m 17s
    12. Sharpening for multiple frequencies
      4m 12s
  7. 1h 8m
    1. Who needs dull when you have sharp?
    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 38s
    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 27s
  8. 1h 18m
    1. Reverting back to convention
      1m 36s
    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 19s
    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 44s
    11. Sharpening for inkjet output
      4m 57s
    12. Revealing high-frequency multipass sharpening
      5m 21s
    13. Using Gaussian Blur to sharpen hair
      5m 42s
    14. Flatten, Save As, Resample, and Sharpen
      5m 10s
    15. Revealing low-frequency multipass sharpening
      3m 31s
    16. Sharpening an image for web or screen
      6m 22s
  9. 1m 51s
    1. Goodbye
      1m 51s

please wait ...
Watch the Online Video Course Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images
10h 33m Intermediate Feb 15, 2008

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Real focus happens inside the camera's lens element. The sharpening features in Photoshop CS3 exaggerate the contrast along edges in a photograph to transform a well-focused image into an outstanding image. In Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images, Deke McClelland teaches a host of sharpening and noise reduction techniques, including using filters such as Unsharp Mask, Smart Sharpen, High Pass, and Reduce Noise. The training teaches the essentials of sharpening, including what it does, why it's important, and how the filters function. Plus, the training covers Deke's recommended best practices, including the four distinct varieties of sharpening, which can be used independently or in combination with each other. Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images is about how to transform images from looking good to looking their absolute best. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Understanding the effects of sharpening
  • In-depth examinations of Unsharp Mask, Smart Sharpen, Emboss, and High Pass
  • Smoothing an image with the Surface Blur, Despeckle, and Reduce Noise features
  • Working with smart objects and smart filters
  • Creating edge masks and non-edge masks
  • Sharpening for digital-image capture using Camera Raw
  • Gauging and exploiting luminance frequency
  • Exploring creative applications of sharpening
  • Sharpening a multilayer composition
  • Sharpening eyes, hair, and out-of-focus backgrounds
  • Reducing noise in a high-frequency image
  • Determining ideal settings for commercial and inkjet output
  • Sharpening very large-format images
  • Sharpening an image for the web or screen output
Deke McClelland

Using the Smart Sharpen filter

In this exercise I am going to introduce you to what is essentially the upgrade to the Unsharp Mask filter And that is the Smart Sharpen command. Introduced a few years back inside Photoshop CS2, it allows you to do just about everything you can do with the Unsharp Mask command and then some. So I would go so far as to call it the preeminent sharpening function inside Photoshop,\. When in doubt, when you want to sharpen an image use Smart Sharpen. That's what I would say anyway. And I am going to demonstrate this filter on this Happy family.jpeg file, which of course comes to us from photographer Justin Horrocks of and its found inside the 03 sharpen filters folder.

Lets go up to the Filter menu choose Sharpen and then choose Smart Sharpen. I've gone ahead and assigned this filter a keyboard shortcut of Shift+F6 using the Keyboard Shortcuts Command under the Edit menu. And that brings up this big old dialog box here, a much larger dialog box and the one associated with the Unsharp Mask command, but I am going to zoom-in. Lets go ahead and zoom-in, not on the baby's face, lets look at Mpm this time around. I am going to crank that Amount value up to 250% I think. So you can see that basically we are outfitted with the same Amount and Radius values that we've seen before and that we saw inside of Unsharp Mask.

In fact, by default these Amount and Radius values behave just like they do inside the Unsharp Mask dialog box; they produce the same results and everything. The only option we're missing as you can see here is the Threshold value, and I was telling you I am not that fond pf Threshold in the first place, so I am not missing it anyway. I am going to ahead and raise the Radius value of 3 pixels, and by the way for now I just want you to focus on these three options right here: Amount, Radius and Remove. We'll come to More Accurate later and in a still later exercise we'll talk about Basic and Advanced and Settings which are kind of flawed options inside of this dialog box.

In fact, I would go so far as to call them sufficiently flawed as to be broken essentially, but as I say, we'll come back to those. But if all you ever do is mess around with Amount, Radius and Remove, you're still ahead of the game. You still having more flexible filter than what you have with Unsharp Mask. So you already understand Amount, you understand Radius, it controls the thickness of the edges of course. What about Remove? Notice that you have three different Remove settings to choose from: Gaussian Blur, Lens Blur and Motion Blur. For a moment I want you to think of this word, not as being Remove, but rather as being Use.

Should Photoshop use Gaussian Blur in order to correct the perceived focus of the image, in order to create the illusion of sharper focus? As we saw on the previous exercise, and recall if you were with me, that we used Gaussian Blur and nothing more than Gaussian Blur in order to fix the image. Or should it use the Lens Blur function or should it use the Motion Blur function? So its actually using these other filters, Lens Blur and Motion Blur are filters under the Blur sub-menu, and it's actually using these filters in order to correct the focus of the image.

And I will prove that to you because I am so fond of doing that, I will prove that to you in a couple of exercises. But at any rate for now what's more important than understanding what's going under the hood, even though I love to show you what's going under the hood, whats more important is to understand when and why you would these functions. So first of all, when you have Remove set to Gaussian Blur, this command, assuming that More Accurate is turned off, and you are not messing around with the basic and advanced functions up here. Then the Amount and Radius values behave exactly like they do inside the Unsharp Mask dialog box.

So if we were to choose Unsharp Mask and set the Amount to 250% and set the Radius to 3 and set the Threshold to 0, then you would see exactly the effect that's pictured here inside of the preview when Remove is set to Gaussian Blur. So why would you use Gaussian Blur though? I would suggest here's my very simple take on these three functions. When you're correcting for scanned artwork or a scanned film photograph you're generally better off setting Remove to Gaussian Blur. You can also experiment with Lens Blur if you want to, the Gaussian Blur is your best bet.

Then if you want to compensate for a digital photograph like this one right here, then you would work with Lens Blur because Lens Blur better simulates the effect of actual optical blurring, and so it's better suited to compensating for optical blurring inside of an image. So use Gaussian Blur for your scanned artwork, use Lens Blur for your digital photographs that come from a digital camera and use Motion Blur for a camera shake. That is to say, when the camera moves a little bit and you get a little bit of back and forth blur, that's when you want to use Motion Blur.

So what would we use for this image? Well this image happens to be a digital photograph. How do I know that? Well, I'll show you. I am going to go ahead and cancel out of here. Because I didnt shoot the photograph, right, so how am I so confident that it's a digital photograph? I'll go up to the File menu and I'll choose the File Info command right here, or I could press that big keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+Alt+I or Command+Shift+Option+I on the Mac, and you'll see all this information about the photographer, about Justin Horrocks, and that he lives in Lake Stevens, Washington. Because I've gone ahead and included this metadata for you to track this image, so you know where it comes from and you could also checkout this guy's URL right here, just by clicking on the Go To URL button, but that still doesn't tell us that it's a digital photograph.

To see if its a digital photograph or not, you go to Camera Data 1 right there, click on it. If you don't see any information, any camera data, that means it's most likely, it's either a very old digital photographs or more likely because of the high-resolution of this image it came from a scanner- scanned artwork, but if you see a bunch of photographic information it means it's a digital photograph and then in this case, this image was shot with the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II and so on and so on and so on. This is all the information about the aperture and about whether the flash fired and about the focal length and all those other jobs.

So I am going to cancel out of here, but that's how you tell if something is a digital photograph. If it is, and of course you might also recall if you shot it yourself that its a digital photograph. If it is, then you want to compensate for the focus by going to the Filter menu, choosing Sharpen, by-passing Unsharp Mask, of course by-passing these other guys. These are just single-shot sharpeners that don't do that much good actually, and you would choose the Smart Sharpen function, you would change Remove to Lens Blur and then you would set up the value set you want to work with. For this image, I think I'll try out an Amount value of 200% and a Radius value of 3.

Now I want to show you one more thing about this Radius value, lets go ahead and zoom-in on the woman's face here for a moment, and notice the difference in the Radius, look at the thickness of the edges around her eyes and her nose and her mouth, all the edges inside the image. I'll switch the Gaussian Blur for a moment and did you notice how those edges just got thicker? Lets actually increase this Radius value to 6 so you can really see them. Look how thick and meaty those edges are. And recall one of the reasons that they are so thick and edgy is because of the Gaussian luminance distribution curve which ends up exaggerating the radius, exaggerating the size of those halos.

Whereas- watch those halos there. As soon as I switch the Lens Blur, they shrink, they get tighter, they get more discrete. This is why the setting right here of Lens Blur is so much better suited to digital photography because it does more discrete job of sharpening those edges. So in our case I'd probably take this Radius value down, to something like 3 pixels, lets say. So an Amount of 200%, Radius of 3, Remove set to Lens Blur, click OK and just so we get a sense of what kind of difference it makes in the happy family here; this is the before-view of the image and this is the after-view.

In the next exercise, I'll show you an example of camera shake which we can solve by setting the Remove function to Motion Blur.

There are currently no FAQs about Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images.

Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.

Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ .

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

Join now Already a member? Log in

* Estimated file size

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.

Mark all as unwatched Cancel


You have completed Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.

Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member ?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

The classic layout automatically defaults to the latest Flash Player.

To choose a different player, hold the cursor over your name at the top right of any page and choose Site preferences from the dropdown menu.

Continue to classic layout Stay on new layout
Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Learn more, save more. Upgrade today!

Get our Annual Premium Membership at our best savings yet.

Upgrade to our Annual Premium Membership today and get even more value from your subscription:

“In a way, I feel like you are rooting for me. Like you are really invested in my experience, and want me to get as much out of these courses as possible this is the best place to start on your journey to learning new material.”— Nadine H.

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.