Join Nigel French for an in-depth discussion in this video Sharpening overview, part of Photoshop for Designers: Filters (2015).
Before we look at the sharpening filters, I'd just like to make a few observations about sharpening in general. Firstly, what it is and what it's not. So here we have an image. The left side has been sharpened. The right side remains un-sharpened. I've achieved this by applying a filter mask right here, and you can see that the right side of that filter mask is black. Now, when we are looking at this at Fit in Window view, we may not notice much difference from one side to the other. And indeed, looking at the video of this, I'm not sure how much of this relatively subtle effect will carry across.
But when we zoom into 100%, we can clearly see that the detail on the left side is a lot crisper than that on the right. So sharpening achieves this through increasing the contrast of the edges. It gives you the illusion of a sharper or more punchy image. What it doesn't do is, it will not take something that's out of focus and bring it into focus. Secondly, Photoshop has five sharpening filters.
The first three of them are not much use to us. There's nothing that Sharpen, Sharpen Edges, and Sharpen More can do that can't be done with more control using either Unsharp Mask or Smart Sharpen. Now what's the difference between the two? Well, not much really. Smart Sharpen has a few more options than Unsharp Mask. Which is the order of the two filters. But either is a good choice for sharpening. For localized sharpening, there is also a Sharpen tool.
It's here under the Blur tool. Although I prefer to do any localized sharpening the way I've done it here by working on a filter mask. So, that's not really a tool that I use. Thirdly, almost every image you work with will benefit from sharpening. Depending on the nature of the image, some of them will benefit greatly, and some will benefit only in a small way. It really depends on how much edge detail there is. And that's why I've chosen this image to demonstrate sharpening because it has a lot of edge detail. The next point I want to make is that you need to know where your sharpening is being applied.
Many cameras allow you to apply sharpening in-camera. I recommend you turn off this feature and apply your sharpening in Photoshop, where you'll have far more control. If you're shooting camera raw images or using the Camera Raw plug-in to edit your JPEGs or TIFFs, be aware that you can apply sharpening here, and that's fine. There is a different scale of sharpening here. The scale is from zero to 150, whereas in Photoshop with the Unshut mask and the Smart Sharpen filters the scale is from zero to 500.
It's fine to apply sharpening in the Camera Raw plugin, but be aware that if you've done so, you'll obviously need less in Photoshop. Some people prefer not to sharpen in the Camera Rawl plugin and do all the sharpening in Photoshop. Personally, I sharpen in Raw and then add a bit extra in Photoshop according to whether the image is destined for screen or print and at what size it's going to be reproduced. I'm only going to cover the basics of sharpening.
Deke McClelland has recorded a ten hour course for the lynda.com library on sharpening. That's how deep this subject is. Now, even though it was recorded for Photoshop CS3, the information is still very relevant. Lastly, we'll be working with the sharpening filters, Unsharp Mask and Smart Sharpen. But there are also other ways to sharpen that involve the use of other filters. High Pass, Surface Blur, and Gaussian Blur, combined with different layer blending modes.
And we'll also be taking a look at and comparing those methods.
- Understanding the importance of Smart Filters
- Sharpening with filters
- Creative use of filter blend modes
- Painting in the effect of a filter using filter masks
- Combining filters
Skill Level Intermediate
2. Sharpening: What Every Designer Needs to Know
3. Blurring for Effect
4. Artistic Filters
5. Brush Strokes Filters
6. Working with the Distort Filters
7. Effective Use of the Pixelate Filters
8. Using the Render Filters
9. Creative Use of the Sketch Filters
10. Working with the Stylize Filters
11. Using the Texture Filters
12. Creative Use of the "Big" Filters
13. Applying Camera Raw as a Filter
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