Fix It In Photoshop | Sharpen Like A Pro

David Coultham

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This article is an extract from the Fix It In Photoshop book, which is available as an eBook, paperback and in hardback. Please check out my store for more details. Here is how to sharpen your images in Adobe Photoshop like a pro:

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We will use Photoshops Camera RAW app to sharpen images. If you are editing a RAW file, it will automatically open up in the Camera RAW app. If however you are opening a JPG or other compressed format, there are a couple of additional steps to get set up. But once you have done this, you can go back and forth from the Photoshop main panel to Camera RAW whenever you need.

STEP 1: Make sure you have the image you want to edit inside Camera RAW selected in the Layers Tab of the Panels. Then right-click on the Layer and select ‘Convert To Smart Object’. You can also go via the Application Bar and ‘Layer >Smart Objects > Convert To Smart Object’. This ensures that any changes done in Camera RAW are stored in Photoshop, i.e., your edits are non-destructive.

STEP 2: Head up to the Application Bar and select ‘Filter > Camera RAW Filter’. Camera RAW then opens.

To sharpen an image, head down to the Detail Panel. Depending on what type of image you are working on will depend on how much sharpening you can apply

STEP 3: Start by sharpening the complete image using the Sharpening Slider. I generally work within the range of 50 to 80, noting that RAW images can take more sharpening than JPEGs due to the relative resolution between the two file types. I tend to leave the Radius and Detail at their default values of respectively 1 and 25 as these work for most images.

 STEP 4: Now adjust the Masking slider. Note that if you click the Option key on a Mac (Alt on a PC) whilst moving the slider. Your display will temporarily turn into a negative style view; as a black and white mask (illustrated right). The principle is that masking is only applied to the white areas of the mask, and not the black areas. You, therefore, adjust the slider until you are only applying focussing to the elements that need sharpening; e.g., you typically don’t want to sharpen the background.

Press OK to commit the change, and you will return to Photoshops main panel.  Once you are back in Photoshop, you will notice that the Camera RAW Filter is attached to your Layer as a Smart Object (illustrated right). Double-clicking the Layer Icon re-opens Camera RAW again, so that you can make further changes.

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