In this final post about split sharpening I will provide a method of sharpening lighten and darken components of the Unsharp Mask in a way that will allow for changing all the parameters even after multiple saves, edits, etc. (Part 1 and Part 2) Of course, in most instances sharpening will be the last step to be performed anyway, but if after making a print you realize that the sharpening parameters need to be changed you will be able to do that. The secret is Smart Objects!
Let’s get going:
- Download Ekin Sharpen and extract the contents to a known location
- Although the extracted action, Ekin Sharpen.atn, the file can remain in any folder you can easily locate, you may want to copy it where Photoshop keeps these action files. On Windows systems, they are stored in:
C:\Users\Your Name\App Data\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS6\Presets\Actions
- Start Photoshop, open Actions palette if not open
- Click on the panel menu icon on the top right corner of the panel and choose Load Actions
- Navigate where you saved the Ekin Sharpen action collection and click on OK to load it. Double-clicking on the Ekin Sharpen.atn file will also load the action set but you are probably better off knowing where the action file resides. You decide.
- When you are ready to sharpen your image, go to the Actions palette, select Ekin Sharpen group, highlight Sharpen: Split USM SO action and click on the Play button at the bottom of the palette
This action, Sharpen: Split USM SO, will do the following leaving the top layer as shown on the right. I added the red markers for reference.
- Create a merged copy of all the layers
- Convert that layer to a Smart Object
- Apply USM smart filter twice with negligible parameters to each (10, 1, 0)
- Change their blend modes to Darken and Lighten
- Be ready for you to apply your real USM parameters to each of the smart USM filters
To apply the desired level of sharpening with potentially different parameters to each of the Darken and Lighten filters:
- Double click on the lower “Unsharp Mask” to bring up the lighten component sharpening parameters. Adjust amount, radius, threshold to desired levels
- Double click on the upper “Unsharp Mask” to bring up the darken component sharpening parameters. Adjust amount, radius, threshold to desired levels
- Repeat 1-2 as many times as you need to fine-tune the overall sharpening
Although you cannot add a separate mask to darken and lighten USM components you can adjust their opacity if you want. The strange icons on the right that look like a physics experiment are used to bring the blend mode and opacity adjustments. Double click on the one you wish to adjust and leaving the blend mode the way it is, change the opacity of that filter to taste. If you wish to mask parts of the sharpening, simply paint on the mask next to Smart Filters keeping in mind that masking will apply to all the smart filters. (Yes, there is a way to use smart filters and mask them separately but that’s for another post.)
In this three-part series, I have presented a carefully controlled approach to using one of the backbone filters in Photoshop, the Unsharp Mask. Sharpening an image is a blend of art and science. It requires judgment calls on how far to push the sharpening. Remember that “sharper” is not always “better.”
Like in any illusion, on stage or in Photoshop sharpening, the entire audience sees what the magician does but nobody really notices the trick. So, keep your sharpening from jumping out of the print and your illusion will delight more.