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Chapter 12. Sharpening > Sharpening an Image

Sharpening an Image

To sharpen an image, choose Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask and type in the generic numbers of Amount = 500, Radius = 1, and Threshold = 0, just to make sure you can easily see the effect of sharpening the image (Figure 12.36). Now, adjust the Threshold setting. With it set to 0, everything in the image will be sharpened. That can cause areas that used to have fine detail (like a brick wall) or areas that used to look relatively smooth (like a skin tone or a shadow) to suddenly have overly exaggerated detail. That will make those bricks look noisy and will add years to anyone's face because you've exaggerated every imperfection. To avoid that, slowly increase the Threshold setting until those areas smooth out (Figure 12.37). You'll usually end up using settings in the single digits. Next, experiment with the Radius setting and try to find the highest setting that makes the image look like it's been sharpened without making it look like everything is glowing (Figures 12.38 and 12.39) (usually in the range of .5 to 2). Images with very fine detail will look best with lower Radius settings, whereas images that contain little detail or that will be printed large and viewed from a distance will look best with higher Radius settings. Then adjust the Amount setting until the image looks naturally sharp instead of artificial (Figure 12.40) (usually in the range of 15 to 200, depending on the Radius setting you used). Let your eyes be your guide. There are two common indicators that the Amount setting is too high.

  • Obvious bright halos appear around the edge of objects. (There will always be halos; you just want to make sure they aren't very noticeable.)

  • Very fine detail (like hair, or texture in bricks) will become overly contrasty—almost pure black and pure white.


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