Sharpening can make—or break—an image, so it’s an important element of post processing. But there’s more than one way to sharpen an image in Photoshop, and which one to use depends on your image type and resolution. Here’s a rundown of the two most basic sharpening techniques.

One of the most important aspects to mastering the art of sharpening your photos in Photoshop is finding a good balance—you don’t want to leave your images dull, but you don’t want to over-sharpen either. A good indicator of over-sharpening is when the elements in your images start to have a halo effect to them; if there’s a white line around high-contrast elements in your image, you’ve gone too far. Zoom in on your images when you are applying sharpening techniques so you can see when that halo starts to creep in.

Using Unsharp Mask is a quick and well-known way to achieve sharper images. The effect of Unsharp Mask is actually done by enhancing the contrast between pixels. It’s helpful to know what all three sliders do when you apply the effect, however. The Amount indicates how much sharpening you are applying to the image. The Radius indicates how much area the effect is applied to—if you have too much, you’ll see that halo effect from over-sharpening very easily. Adjusting the Threshold will change where the sharpening is applied—the technique is applied based on contrast. If your threshold is high, the lower-contrast portions of the image won’t be affected by the Unsharp Mask, and vice versa.

Here’s a step-by-step look at the process:

The Smart Sharpen is a little more advanced technique over the Unsharp Mask and also helps eliminate some noise. The Amount and Radius sliders work the same way as in Unsharp Mask. You can also reduce noise and pinpoint what kind of sharpening you need. Say you have a bit of blur from motion; you can pinpoint that error more accurately. For the most flexibility, use a layer mask when applying this technique.

This one is a bit more step intensive, so check out this video:

Unnsharp Mask and Smart Sharpen are two basic, quick ways to sharpen an image. For more advanced sharpening techniques, head here.

About The Author

When Hillary Grigonis isn't writing, she's shooting—with her camera that is. A freelance writer and photographer, she's always keeping track of the latest photography news and gadgets. Follow her on Facebook or Google+.

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