#CreativeFriday – Crazy Sharpening for texture

Today’s post is all about revealing the texture of the image using a very different sharpening technique. It doesn’t actually use any traditional sharpening inside Photoshop, but uses blending modes instead.

Open the image inside Photoshop and make your adjustments (in the example supplied I have used a Gradient Map adjustment layer and applied a Selenium Tone 2 (available in the Photographic toning gradient maps, for a tutorial see this past post). When it comes to final sharpening, either make a final flattened image or a layer that contains all of the adjustments layers. To make the layer that contains all other layers, there is one keyboard shortcut that will really test the finger flexibility, press SHIFT+ALT+CMD+E (replace CMD with CTRL on a PC) (or Merge Visible upwards (including the ALT key will place the new layer above the others), this new layer is called “Consolidated Layer (Shift+CMD+ALT+E” in the example file (on Creative Cloud)).

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 16.17.06

Then duplicate this layer using CMD+J (MAC) or CTRL+J (PC), the example layer is called “Dup -Consolidated Layer (Shift+CMD+ALT+E copy)”.

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 16.16.53

Select both of these layers and place them into a group. Click on the fly out menu in the layers palette and choose new group from layers.

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 16.17.21

When you are making the new group, you can either set the blending mode here to be “Overlay”, or change it once the group has been created (directly on the layer in the layers palette)

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 16.22.16


Now change the upper most layer within the group to have a blending mode of “Vivid light”, then invert the layer using CMD+I  (MAC) or CTRL+I (PC). Before the Invert is applied to the image it will look very contrasty, after the invert it will look the same as when we started. If it does not go back to this look, then something went wrong.

Now we have inverted the “Vivid light” blending mode layer, we can then extract the details with a “Surface Blur” filter. This may sound strange, but remember we have inverted the “Vivid light” layer, so a Blur filter will sharpen.

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 16.27.01


To achieve the exact look that suits your image, you may need to adjust the sliders, making sure you are working at 100% zoom (to see the sharpening effect). I have used 15/15, and it works really well and will bring out some crazy details. But by experimenting i find that I actually prefer 5/15 (as shown above), it is not a crazy, but brings out some lovely texture in the image.

If you want to dial down the effect then you can reduce the opacity of the sharpen group, or you can place a mask on the sharpen group and paint in/out the effect.


This shot was taken inside the Chernobyl 10km zone with the Leica Monochrom with a Leica APO-Summicron-M 90mm F2 ASPH lens. This lens has the ability to resolve amazing sharpness, and this technique really brings out the texture in the tones. The final image is available to view here, don’t forget you are able to turn on and off the layers to see the changes that the sharpening has.

CC Layers

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