Join Chris Orwig for an in-depth discussion in this video Selective sharpening with the Adjustment Brush, part of Photoshop CC for Photographers: Sharpening.
In the next few movies we'll take a look at a technique which will be helpful when we're interested in getting more specific to improving the details in our photographs. In particular we'll look at how we can work with the Adjustment brush in order to paint in sharpening and noise reduction to certain areas of our images. We'll start off with this portrait here, which is a picture of my daughter Sophie's good friend, holding this painting that she made of these three owls. And you may notice in this picture it has a really shallow depth of field. So that the background is completely out of focus.
Well in, rather than sharpening the entire photograph, what I want to do is just sharpen her face here. I also want to apply a sharpening amount to the painting which she's holding in her hands. Well, to do that, we'll work with our Adjustment Brush tool, and we'll talk about some of the settings with this tool, and how we can take advantage of using the mask overlay and also auto mask as well. All right, well, before we get into all of that, let's first open up some screen space so that we can focus in on the image. You know, if you're going to get more advanced, you really need to clear away the clutter, and let's do that by pressing Shift+Tab on your keyboard.
Next press the F8 key on your keyboard. That will bring back the panels on the right. Now in order for us to take advantage of a few of the features which I highlighted, we also need to make sure that the toolbar, this area right here, is visible. If it isn't visible on your screen, tap the T key. That's a shortcut key which allows you to toggle between the visibility of showing or hiding the toolbar. Next, we'll select the Adjustment brush. Tap the K key to choose this tool, or click on the Adjustment brush tool icon right here.
Now we need to dial in a few settings for how we'll use this tool. And we'll begin by doing so by working with our Effect pulldown menu. And the reason why I like to work with this menu, is often we'll have adjustments and sliders which we've previously used, as you can see here. And what need to do is reset everything back to its default setting, and just apply a certain or specific setting. In this case, sharpness. To do that, we'll click on the pulldown menu, and then we'll choose the option for Sharpness.
So, again go to the Effect area, click on this pulldown menu, and select Sharpness. Notice how it reset all of my settings to their default values, and then it just gave me a value of 84 for the Sharpness amount here. All right, perfect. The next thing we need to do is to dial in our brush. Here we can choose brush size, feather and flow, and also whether or not we want to use auto mask. Let's begin with size. If we choose the, or click on the Size slider, you can see I have a really big brush right now, we can increase or decrease the size of the brush.
If we want to work on the area of the face first, perhaps we'll want to choose a smaller brush, a brush which will allow us to paint inside of the area which we're going to affect. Now what's the deal with the two circles that you may see there? Well the outer circle is the one that has to do with our feather amount. If we increase the feather, the brush strokes will have softer edges. There will be a bigger area of transition to that which is sharpened to that which isn't. Or that which isn't affected by whatever adjustment you're painting in.
If you have a lower feather amount, that probably means you want to get more precise. In this case, because we'll just start off by sharpening the face, we do want a little bit of a lower feather amount, but we don't want to remove this altogether. That will look unnatural and harsh. So we do need a certain amount of softness there with those edges. Let's try about 35. Looks like my brush size is a touch too big. I'll bring that down to about a size 10. All right. Well what about flow? What's interesting with flow is, if you have a high flow amount, when you make a brush stroke, it will paint in the effect at full intensity.
If you have a lower flow amount, let's say something down here like 20 or maybe even 10, what is will do is it will paint in that effect at about 10%. Another brush stroke will build it up to 20, and then 30, and 40 and so on. So a lower flow amount allows you to gradually build up the effect. When it comes to sharpening the face, I want to have some ability to subtly paint that in. So I'll bring this around maybe 30 or 40 or so. All right, we're ready to begin to sharpen the photograph.
Here let's go down to the tool bar, and for a moment let's turn off this option to show the selected mask overlay. Then we'll just start to click and paint over the face. In doing that, I can't really tell what's happening. Yet, if we click on this indicator to show the mask overlay, you notice that it will now show me what is a red overlay. If I paint again, let's say over the eyes, which I want to have even sharper, notice how that red area is even darker.
I can then paint around the image down here to the chin, and this is showing me which part of my image is affected, or which area I'm affecting in this part of my photograph. Now, obviously this overlay can be really distracting, right? It looks a little bit strange. So what we may need to do is to toggle this visibility off so that we can actually view the image. You also will find that there is a pin showing where you first clicked, and showing you or highlighting the adjustment that you made. You can change the way that those pins show up.
What I prefer to do is use Auto. What that means is, that this will show up, but then when I position my cursor out of the area of the image, over here in my controls, it disappears. So again, I can show and hide that, which is helpful. I just need to position my cursor off the image to actually see how that looks. And of course when it comes to sharpening, we need to zoom in, right? So here, let's press Command+ on Mac, or Ctrl+ on Windows, and then next we'll press the space bar key, and click and drag so I can zoom in on the face.
And in order to evaluate the amount of sharpening, I'm going to click on this toggle switch. This shows me the before and after. And what I am seeing here is that this looks really nice, but that I need a little bit more around the eyes here, and also around the mouth, so I'm just going to paint over these areas. I'm also going to increase the value to even increase the sharpening affect even more. All right, I think that looks really good. Let's apply a second adjustment here, to do so, press Cmd- on a Mac or Ctrl- on Windows.
To create a new adjustment, let's click on the New indicator here over underneath our Adjustment Brush tool. Again I want to apply some sharpening, yet this time I'm going to apply this much more aggressively. Rather than subtly building up this effect, I really want to sharpen this beautiful painting to bring out some of the details there, and I want to do so quickly. In that case, I'll increase the flow all the way up to 100. Now the trick though, with the painting is that if I paint in this area, it'll add the sharpening effect to the painting but also the area behind the painting.
So in order to limit the sharpening to certain areas, you can use a feature which is called Auto Mask. Turn on Auto Mask, and then position your cursor over the image. Next let's turn on the visibility of the mask overlay. This is just helpful to kind of teach us how this whole thing works. And then click and paint. As I do that, notice as long as I keep the crosshairs of this brush inside of the painting area, it will only apply this effect to that part of the photograph. So here I will just go ahead and click and drag around to make sure I'm sharpening just up to that edge, but not any further.
In this way we can get really specific and selective about what we're sharpening. Once we've done some edge work, we may decide to turn that off, and then of course we can go ahead and just click and paint around, to sort of fill in the effect in the other areas. And the great thing about this technique, of course, is it just gives us the ability to be incredibly precise about which part of the photograph we're affecting. And also at what intensity. Well, the overlay is distracting, so let's turn the visibility of that off for a moment.
I also can't really tell how this effect looks. So let's zoom in. Press Cmd+ on mac, Ctrl+ on Windows, then press the space bar key, and click and drag to focus in on the photograph. Well, now here that we can see this effect, we can change these values. Notice how when I have a negative sharpness, this becomes blurry and dull. As I increase the sharpness amount, it looks a lot better. I can also increase my contrast, because contrast does make photographs appear sharper.
What about clarity? That will add some midtone contrast. I'm going to definitely add some of that as well. You know, sharpening isn't just about using the sharpening slider. Rather, it's about using all of the controls together, sometimes in order to create better results. And just to illustrate here, we can also effect the overall brightness of this area. You can see how I'm changing the exposure there. I'm just going to make this a little bit darker. I think that looks a touch better. How about if we change the saturation by boosting those colors? Again, it just helps to enhance this part of the photograph.
If we want to see our before and after, click on the toggle switch, and there you can see is the before, and then now here's the after. So we not only sharpen that area, we added some contrast, some midtone contrast as well, and we just gave this a little bit of boost in regards to the overall color. Now whenever you're getting close, and making adjustments like this, you also need to make sure to zoom out, and make sure it looks good within the larger context of the photograph. To do that, press Cmd- on a Mac, or Ctrl- on Windows, and then click on the toggle switch to view your before and then after.
And in this case, I think with a few simple adjustments using the Adjustment brush, we're able to make some advanced improvements to this picture. In particular, by painting in some adjustments to the area of the face and also to the painting that she's holding here, in this portrait.
- Reducing luminance and color noise
- Improving details in portraits and landscapes
- Selective sharpening with the Adjustment Brush
- Sharpening with filters
- Creating sharpening presets
- Using blending modes to avoid color problems when sharpening
- Smart filtering and masking
- Edge sharpening
- Batch sharpening