If you know what to look for, you’ll know what path to choose and how far down it to go.

Identifying and developing a sensitivity for the artifacts digital sharpening produces will help you choose a sharpening method and what settings to use during any stage of your sharpening workflow.

You can easily see the artifacts digital sharpening produces by overdoing it.

Here are the seven most common digital sharpening artifacts.

1         Noise

2         Exaggerated Texture

3         Visible Light Halos

4         Visible Dark Lines

5         Loss of Highlight Detail

6         Loss of Shadow Detail

7         Increased Saturation

Each of these artifacts can be reduced in one or more ways.

Here’s a list of options.

1         Noise

Mask areas; consider an edge mask.

Raise Unsharp Mask’s Threshold.

Use High Pass sharpening.

2        Exaggerated Texture

Mask areas; consider an edge mask.

Reduce Unsharp Mask’s Amount.

Use High Pass sharpening.

Filter the High Pass layer with blur or noise reduction.

3       Visible Light Halos

Reduce Unsharp Mask’s Radius to thin.

Reduce Unsharp Mask’s Amount to darken.

Use High Pass sharpening for more feathered contour accentuation.

4        Visible Dark Lines

Reduce Unsharp Mask’s Radius to thin.

Reduce Unsharp Mask’s Amount to lighten.

Use High Pass sharpening for more feathered contour accentuation.

5         Loss of Highlight Detail

Use the Blend If sliders in Layer Styles to recover it.

Mask the highlights only.

6        Loss of Shadow Detail

Use the Blend If sliders in Layer Styles to recover it.

Mask the shadows only.

7         Increased Saturation

Change the blend mode of the filter or sharpening layer to Luminosity.

Desaturate High Pass layers.

Training your eye for what to look for and understanding the upper limits of what other people find to be naturalistic, or at least not distracting, is the first step to developing your unique sharpening style. The second step is knowing what tools are at your disposal and how to use them. Once you’ve taken these steps, you can take the third and final step, knowledgeably putting craft in the service of your vision to make interesting visual statements.

Read more about digital sharpening here.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.


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