Sharpening VI. in Photoshop

This Photoshop article helps in enhancing details in photos to be published in web galleries. It is most efficient when dealing with pictures of about 800×600 pixels in size. If you reduce a photo to such a web-friendly size, it will look a bit soft and blurred. As a last step, you may consider applying some sharpening to enhance finer details. The procedure below can be used in practically any version of Photoshop.

Load the photo in Photoshop

This photo details could do well with some edge enhancement. We reduced it in order to be conveniently downloadable and displayable on the web, and the only step that remains is sharpening.

Double layers

First, duplicate the existing layer (Background). You can click Layer/Duplicate Layer, but it is faster to drag the layer upon the indicated icon. From now on, you’ll be working on the freshly created layer, Background copy.

Custom made

We’ll be using an unconventional means to apply sharpening: the Filter/Other/Custom filter. This feature lets you create your own filters if you’re not satisfied with built-in effects. Suppose this is the situation indeed, and create a fine sharpening filter.

For Scale at the bottom, enter 11. For sharpening the fine details, you’ll have to use the middle area of the matrix. The sum of the values entered here should match the value specified for Scale, otherwise you’ll also modify lightness values. We entered 15 in the very middle field, and -1 into the four adjacent ones, which sums up to 11. This will slightly sharpen the picture. This can be checked by selecting and unselecting the Preview check box.

The change is rather modest, so press CTRL-F four times after applying the sharpening. This repeats the last used filter (your Custom one) four times. The image you now have is oversharpened, but what have you created two layers for? Yes, to solve this!

See right through

You can decrease the (Opacity) value of the upper layer to control the intensity of the sharpening. The lower layer contains the unmodified image, so decreasing opacity will let more of the original show through. In our case, a value about 50 to 55% produced nice results.

Hard and fast

Well, can you guess which one is the original? On the right you can see how the photo “hardened up”. From the soft haze, details come forth harshly.