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Chapter 12. Sharpening > How Sharpening Works

How Sharpening Works

To sharpen an image, choose Filter > Sharpen. Photo-shop will present you with a submenu of choices. The top three might sound friendly (Sharpen, Sharpen More, Sharpen Edges), but ignore those because they are simply presets that enter different numbers into the bottom choice (Unsharp Mask). The bottom two filters in the list are the only ones that allow you to control exactly how much the image will be sharpened. We'll start by exploring the Unsharp Mask filter and then refine our knowledge by exploring Photoshop CS2's new Smart Sharpen filter.

The reason Unsharp Mask has its confusing name is because way back before people used desktop computers, they sharpened images in a photographic darkroom. They would have to go through a process that involved a blurry (unsharp) version of the image. This would take well over an hour (don't worry—in Photoshop it takes only seconds) and would not be much fun. The process they'd go through in the darkroom was known as making an unsharp mask, so Adobe just borrowed that term.


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