Unsharp Mask: the sharpening filter of choice for photographers everywhere. It’s a fantastic tool that can really take an image to the next level when used correctly and I’m here to tell you that you should never use it again. That’s right, bid it a fond adieu and stop using Unsharp Mask. Forever. Read more…
The Sharpen Tool in Photoshop has always been useful in that it allows you to quickly sharpen specific areas in a photograph, but a major problem was that it had the tendency to introduce nasty artifacts into the image. Alternative methods that avoid this issue (e.g. using a new sharpened layer) became popular, leaving the Sharpen Tool to gather dust on many users’ tool pallets.
Well, if you’ve recently upgraded to Photoshop CS5, you might want to take another look at the tool. They’ve quietly introduced a new feature (on by default) called “Protect Detail”, which allows for brush-based pressure-sensitive sharpening without the annoying artifact problem.
We posted a while back on how to sharpen your photos like Flickr for smaller resolution images. The technique used “Unsharp Mask”, but today we’ll quickly describe how you can ensure sharpness using a simple setting.
When you reduce the size of an image in Photoshop, there’s an option on the Image Size screen that allows you to choose how the image is resampled (shown above). By default, this is set to “Bicubic”, but that’s not optimal for shrinking photographs down to smaller sizes for the web. Instead, you should use “Bicubic Sharper” to preserve the sharpness in your photo.
Here’s a demonstration of the difference. The following photograph was resized from 3883px wide down to 500px using “Bicubic”:
Now compare that photograph with the following version, which we resized using “Bicubic Sharper”:
You can hover your mouse over either photograph to compare it the other (you might have to wait a few seconds to see the change).
To set “bicubic sharper” as your default, go to
Preferences->General->Image Interpoation->Bicubic Sharper (best for reduction)
If you’ve been resizing images poorly in the past, you should now see a noticeable increase in sharpness! Yay!