Sharpening Refinement


Today’s Question: When sharpening an image for print [in a lesson from the “Understanding Sharpening” video course] you worked on a flattened image and applied Smart Sharpening directly to the image [in Photoshop]. Then you said you’d carefully inspect the printed result and make adjustments later as necessary. But how would you go about adjusting the sharpening of that image? The sharpening is burned in and you didn’t use a preset. You wouldn’t trust your memory to the adjustments, would you? Would creating a smart object to which sharpening was applied allow you to make adjustments later?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The settings for the Smart Sharpen filter (as well as other filters) in Photoshop are “sticky”, so when you return to the Smart Sharpen dialog the settings you used previously would be there for reference and refinement. That said, using a Smart Filter in this type of scenario could certainly be helpful.

More Detail: You may have noticed that when you bring up the dialog for the Smart Sharpen filter (or the other filters in Photoshop), the settings for the various controls seem to have someone random values, rather than a round number. That’s because the settings default to those you used the last time you applied that filter.

As a result, it is relatively straightforward to review and refine the sharpening settings when you have printed a photo and feel the result wasn’t optimal. You would naturally want to undo the sharpening step in the history for the image first. You could then choose the applicable sharpening filter (such as Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpe in this case) to bring up the filter dialog.

Initially the settings would reflect those you used the last time you applied the filter in Photoshop, which in this case would mean the settings you had previously applied to the current image. You could then adjust those settings as needed and apply before printing the image again.

As noted in today’s question, you could also make use of a Smart Filter in Photoshop to ensure you’re always able to review and refine the settings you had used when sharpening the photo. To do so, after flattening and resizing the duplicate image you’re using for print preparation, choose Filter > Convert for Smart Filters from the menu. Then choose Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen to apply the Smart Sharpen filter, which will now be applied as a Smart Filter.

You can later just double-click on the Smart Sharpen item that will be added below the Smart Object layer on the Layers panel in order to bring up the Smart Sharpen dialog for that layer. The settings will reflect the latest updates you had applied to the layer, providing you with a degree of flexibility in your workflow, such as when you might be working with multiple images at the same time.

If you’d like to learn more about sharpening your photos for optimal results, check out my “Understanding Sharpening” course in the GreyLearning library here: