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Sharpening Techniques

We use a host of techniques in the sharpening workflow—some obvious, others less so. Some attempt to avoid accentuating dust and scratches, noise, and film grain by sharpening through a mask. Others seek to make sharpening non-destructive, and editable after the fact, by applying the sharpening on a layer, and still others use localized sharpening applied with a brush, to pick out specific details in the image. In practice, we often mix these techniques into a single sharpening move, and we'll provide some examples. However, it's easier to digest the various techniques separately, so that's how we'll present them.

Sharpening Layers

We prefer to do most of our sharpening on layers, for much the same reasons we prefer using adjustment layers to burning Curves or Levels directly into an image—it's non-destructive, it affords us control after the fact, and it allows us to use masking when we need to. In the first stage of the sharpening workflow, layer-based sharpening also provides an easy way to concentrate the sharpening in the midtones through the Blend If sliders in the Layer Options dialog box.


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