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Using the Unsharp Mask filter

From: Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images

Video: Using the Unsharp Mask filter

In this exercise, I am going to show you how to use the Unsharp Mask function, an oldie but a goody sharpening filter inside of Photoshop. Notice that I am working inside the Happy family.jpeg image found inside the O3 Sharpen Filters Folder. It comes to us from Justin Horrocks of iStockphoto.com. We are going to sharpen the image by going to the Filter menu, choosing Sharpen and choosing Unsharp Mask. Two things to note: I have gone ahead and given this filter a keyboard shortcut of Shift+F5. You can do the same using the Keyboard Shortcuts command under the Edit menu.

Using the Unsharp Mask filter

In this exercise, I am going to show you how to use the Unsharp Mask function, an oldie but a goody sharpening filter inside of Photoshop. Notice that I am working inside the Happy family.jpeg image found inside the O3 Sharpen Filters Folder. It comes to us from Justin Horrocks of iStockphoto.com. We are going to sharpen the image by going to the Filter menu, choosing Sharpen and choosing Unsharp Mask. Two things to note: I have gone ahead and given this filter a keyboard shortcut of Shift+F5. You can do the same using the Keyboard Shortcuts command under the Edit menu.

It is a pivotal filter, that's why I have given it a keyboard shortcut, a very useful filter inside the program. But what's with the name? If it sharpens, which it does, why is it called Unsharp, which is the opposite of what it does and whats with the mask? Well, it's basically masking an unsharpening effect. It's masking actually Gaussian Blur in order to create the effect of sharpening and if you don't believe me- well, you will. Just check out the next exercise. It's amazing; it's just utterly amazing, that's what is going on under the hood. It's that Photoshop is actually blurring the image in order to create the effect of sharpening.

But that's what it is doing. So I am going to go ahead and choose the command. Here is the dialog box. We have three sliders in all, we have already talked about how Amount and Radius work in Chapter 1, but we are going to see these functions at work inside of this image and I will explain how the Threshold function works right there. Instead of focusing on the baby's face this time, lets check out this gentlemen right here. In fact, I want to take a look at his ear. I am going to go ahead and zoom in on his ear a little bit here, so that we can take in a little bit of the razor stubble and he has got this piercing hole right there that I want to focus in on.

And of course if we raise the Amount value, we are going to get a heightened perception of sharpening. So I am going to go ahead and crank this value all the way up to its maximum, which is 500%. I actually wish we could go higher with value, I wish that Adobe would change this filter. Since the beginning of time, we have been able to go as high as 500% for the Amount value, but these days I wish we could go even higher than that. And of course the Radius value is going to control the thickness of those edges, so of course the filter is exaggerating the degree of difference around the existing edges inside the image, around the previous original edges inside the image.

It's drawing light halos on one side and dark halos on the other side and the width of those halos is defined roughly by the Radius value. Again, this is a Gaussian distribution, so its distributed across a larger area than 3.2 pixels. Then finally we have got this Threshold value. Now notice right now that I am exaggerating the contrast of everything. Of his pores, of his razor stubble, just a little bit of it going on. He is clean shaven. Just all this granularity that's associated with the skin and with the digital photography process and that's because I am currently saying, with the Threshold of zero, I am saying that any two neighboring pixels, you want to go ahead and sharpen them, Unsharp Mask, as long as they're at least zero luminous levels different from each other.

Well of course any two pair, any pair of pixels, is going to be at least zero different from each other. It can't be less than zero different from each other. So everything is getting sharpened. But if I raise this value, then I am going to sharpen fewer and fewer details. So if I take this value up to lets say 40 luminance levels, then I am saying any two neighboring pixels have to be at least 40 luminance level different from each other in order to be sharpened and that's not much. So you can see that this entire range right here of skin tones and this area appears- well, its not getting sharpened. So if I click and hold, that's the original- this is the sharpened version, so this area is getting ignored, the piercing hole that's getting sharpened and some of the highlights and the shadows are getting sharpened as well and some of the razor stubble, just little bits and pieces of the razor stubble. I will go ahead and zoom in here, that's getting sharpened as well.

So we are getting this kind of pockmarked effect. I don't like it. Actually, I am not really fond of the Threshold value because it is an on or off proposition. Either the neighboring pixels don't get sharpened at all or they do get sharpened according to the values I have specified for Amount and Radius, but there is no gradual drop off between the two, which means that you either want to leave the Threshold value set to zero or you just want to take it up a little bit. If you are trying to avoid noise inside of an image, random pixel variations that are associated with digital photographs for example, then you want to take this value up to two or three or even four, maybe even five pixels, but not higher than that.

What you don't want to do is try to account for things like razor Stubble and pores and little tiny variations and get rid of them using Threshold because if you do that, you will end up with that pockmark effect that I have showed you before. So that's whats going on with Unsharp Mask. I just want to introduce you to the filter. In the next exercise, I am going to show you why this command is called Unsharp Mask and we will see how we can mimic the effects of the command using Gaussian Blur and nothing more.

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This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images
Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images

115 video lessons · 16989 viewers

Deke McClelland
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  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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