September 27, 2011

Photoshop CS5 hidden gem: Brush-based sharpening

Way back when–before you learned never to be caught dead near Photoshop’s Dodge, Burn, Sharpen, or Brightness/Contrast tools, as no Real Userâ„¢ would ever give them a second look–didn’t those tools seem nicely simple & straightforward? Trouble is, over time better (if usually more complicated) alternatives emerged, so folk wisdom dictated that these tools be treated as obsolete.

We liked how direct the tools were, though, so in Photoshop CS4 and CS5 we updated the underlying algorithms. In the 1-minute video below, Photoshop PM Bryan O’Neil Hughes shows how effective it can be to apply sharpening via painting:

Posted by John Nack at 8:50 AM on September 27, 2011

Comments

  • Nat Brown — 10:52 AM on September 27, 2011

    Great post John (and Brian).

    I tell people Photoshop is like a city. We all tend to hang out in our own neighborhoods. We really need to spend some of our time getting out and site-seeing around town.

    I’ve not looked at these tools in years.

    When I watched Brian’s video, my first thought was, “So what. It’s just a bunch of destructive changes.”

    I took a few minutes to play around with the sharpen tool. If I ever knew it, I’d forgotten that blur, sharpen, and smudge can be used on a blank layer. Far from being destructive, placing the effect on a separate layer increases flexibility.

    I’ve recently been working on a project where I want to selectively smudge lines that are best identified by creating a paths. I won’t tell you the hoops I’ve been jumping through to stamp a layer, turn it into a smart layer, blur, mask, yada, yada, yada.

    You and Brian solved my problem in 60 seconds. Now I’ll just stroke the path on a blank layer with the blur and/or smudge tool. Done.

    Many thanks.

  • Jonas Berggren — 11:50 AM on September 27, 2011

    Hi

    I love these short instructions. I use both LR3 and PS5.5 (mostly LR3) and I wonder when the tools is in both software, which is the better?

  • Jaddie Dodd — 12:11 PM on September 27, 2011

    I learned about this one from Kelby soon after CS5 shipped. I believe he said one of your engineers told him this was the most advanced sharpening tool ever offered in Photoshop, so long as “Protect Detail” is checked.

    I use this on almost all eyes.

    I appreciate Adobe’s efforts to educate its users.

  • marc cardwell — 12:53 PM on September 27, 2011

    erp. man, i use dodge/burn tools as a basic way to create illustrations in pshop (i copy art from AI, paste into sep. layers, then dodge/burn for shadows and highlights), IDNK they were considered un-pro… but that old sharpen tool, yeah, it was heavy-handed.

  • Peter — 3:10 PM on September 27, 2011

    I’d love to know how all that magic works and if there is any way to maybe replicate that type of functionality with other tools to get better results out of the regular global sharpening filters? Or in other applications like, say, After Effects?

    I always find that knowing about how image processing stuff works behind the scenes is incredibly useful as it opens up so many more options to use the tools for much more than the creators had anticipated (a simple example is using the Dodge/Burn tools and combinations of blur and the legacy version of Brighness/Contrast for cleaning up masks for instance. At least it was before Refine Edge came along. Though it still comes in handy when working on parts of a layer mask since Refine Edge will either work on the mask or the selection, but not on the selected area of the mask).

  • Jeremy Chone — 3:35 PM on September 27, 2011

    Photoshop never stop to amazed. All these little details are the reason photoshop will last as long as software does.

  • Lards — 10:04 AM on September 28, 2011

    still does not work very well.

    i prefer to sharpen with nik sharpener and mask out areas. nik sharpener has local tools too but nothing beats masking in PS.

  • lg — 7:04 PM on September 28, 2011

    Been doing this for years with another product – Pixel Genius Photokit Creative Sharpener, using Bruce Fraser’s techniques. Good stuff.

  • Jaddie Dodd — 5:30 AM on September 29, 2011

    I still use Nik Sharpener Pro, and I used to use Pixel Genius’s sharpening tools until they weren’t compatible with CS5 (now are). The new tool inside of Photoshop that Bryan describes in the video is excellent. It’s not heavy handed at all and produces subtle, realistic results.

    I use Nik for final output sharpening.

  • Keith — 12:03 PM on September 29, 2011

    The sharpen tool has gotten much better in CS5 for design, especially with the pressure sensitivity and use of brush weights and shapes. However, I still use of a mask or selection to get the most precise sharpening.

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