Sharpening. A subject that has potentially endless possibilities when it comes to how it can be done, high pass, unsharp mask, sharpening etc are the main one’s that most of you will know about, however I’m here today to offer you a method of sharpening that I personally, have found so impressive that I just had to pass it on! I actually call this method “The Sharpening” because I find it to be hilarious and entirely unnecessary. ;)
Also for those of you who ask me about the Toolkit every time I post on YouTube! – A super quick shout out to the insanely talented and awesome friend Conny Wallstrom who created the BEST retouching toolkit Photoshop has ever seen, I use it for everything, check it out here.
Do any of you know what the opposite of sharpening is?
Of course, not a trick question! It’s blurring! With that in mind, how many options do we have for blurring vs sharpening? At a quick guesstimate I’d say there’s at least 10+ Blur filters and more around 5+ sharpening filters within Photoshop, and when we look at the degree of control that we get from those filters, in your opinion, which ones offer the most versatility? Because if you’re anything like me, we’ll agree on the fact that the amount of control and options you get in blurring your images is far more complex and varied in comparison.
So why am I talking about blurring instead of sharpening here?
Well my friends, it’s time to have your mind blown (and if you already know what’s coming next, you deserve a high five!). What if I told you that we could use all of that control within the blur tools, and invert that information to convert it back into sharpening? Giving us greater choice, control and precision in how we go about sharpening our images.
Now what if I told you that not only am I giving you an action that my dear friend and co-writer Stefan Kohler has made for you all (THANK YOU STEFAN!!!) but I’m also gonna break down the manual way to do it for you too!
Here’s the Action: The Sharpening Action
Step 1: – Have your image ready to be sharpened.
Step 2: Stamp Visible all the layers (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E / CMD+OPTION+SHIFT+E)
Step 3: Invert the image (CTRL+I / CMD+I)
Step 4: Set the opacity of the layer to 50%.
Select “Surface Blur” under Filter>Blur>Surface Blur.
I find a radius of 3-5 and Threshold of 15-20 to suit my taste (and default image size) best as it allows for duplicating the layers to gently increase the sharpening to taste.
Step 6: Stamp Visible the layer again and delete the old one below it.
Change the layer mode to “Overlay” (or “Soft Light” if you prefer it even softer).
Now duplicate the layers (CTRL+J / CMD+J) until you get the sharpening you level you like.
Before / After:
The thing I really love about this method is that it’s so damn respectful to the integrity of the image, it’s capable of being so gentle and so “peeling” of the softness. I love it! I hope you guys do too!
*I wanted to dedicate this article to Simon Sigrist (The man in the photo), who as of the publishing of this article is living out his last week with his battle to cancer. RIP my friend.*