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Photoshop for Beginners: Essential Training

Lesson 30 of 49

Smart Sharpen

Mark Wallace

Photoshop for Beginners: Essential Training

Mark Wallace

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Lesson Info

30. Smart Sharpen
A good way to make your images “pop” off the screen or print is to sharpen them before final output. Mark explains how to use the Smart Sharpen filter to quickly sharpen an image.


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Introducing Photoshop


The Class Materials


How To Open Files


Using The Home Screen


Exploring The Interface


Getting Additional Help


Understanding Workspaces


Lesson Info

Smart Sharpen

let's talk about sharpening. What is it? Well, sharpening is a technique that's used in photography um to make sure that images pop off the screen or off a print. And what it's doing is it's looking in the image and the very, very small details at a pixel level. And it looks for boundaries where we have some contrast maybe where hair hits the background. So we have a dark area and a white area or maybe where the eye hits the skin that border. So any border where there's some contrast, what it does is it takes the darks that makes them darker. It makes the lights lighter. And so it appears to our eye that the image is sharper. So how do we do this in practical terms? Well, let's hop into Photoshop and then what we're gonna do is click on open, we're gonna go to our class materials, we're gonna go down here and choose sandy dot jpeg and open this file. Now this file has all kinds of issues with contrast and color and all kinds of things and we can fix that in a later episode. But what we...

want to do now is we want to sharpen this image. So the first thing we want to do is go to the background layer, click on the lock to convert that to a normal layer. Now the other thing we want to do when we're sharpening things. Normally we do that at the very last the very last thing you do to an image because you want to make sure you get all of the details and the resolution, everything set first. Sharpening is generally done at the very last. We also want to do sharpening at 100% zoom in so we can see exactly what's happening. You can't really see this if you're not at 100%. So the very first thing I'm gonna do is I'm going to click on my magnifying glass and say 100%. I want to see this at 100%. And then I want to go in here and I want to look at Sandy's eyes and her eyelashes and so make sure you do this on your own computer because these fine details generally don't translate very well to video. So you might not see what I'm doing in the video that you're watching right now. Do this on your own computer on your own screen at home and you'll see how this really pops and the difference that this makes. Okay, so now that we have this image at 100%, what we're going to do is we're going to go to filter sharpen and you can see that there's all kinds of different sharpens here. So smart sharpen is fantastic because it's generally the best of these sharpens to use and so on. Sharp mask used to be the favorite but smart sharpen is the newest. So we're going to click on that and then this is going to bring up a new dialogue box. Now notice this dialog box has a preview window and it by default opens at 100% we want that because we want to be able to see what's going on in our image at 100%. So I'm gonna put her eye in this window so you can see the eye right here. If I unclipped preview, what's going to happen is I will see in this window what's happening? But I won't see in the big window, what's happening? I'd like to see what's happening in the big window. And so I'm gonna click free view now. What you can do here is you can go in and choose a preset. So that is something that has been created by you to be used for later. And so I haven't saved any presets, I haven't done any of these because generally I like to do this per image so I'm gonna keep this at custom. The first little slider you see here is the amount. How much sharpening do you want. So how much contrast you want to put between those little pixels there. So let me over sharpened. So I'm gonna do this way over here at 500%. And what you'll see is on your screen, you'll see that you start getting some halos and things around areas you don't want that, you don't want to see this to be too sharp and so you'll get all kinds of weirdness if you over sharpen something and we can really see that if we change the radius the radius. Remember we're changing the contrast. We're taking the dark areas, making them darker, making the light areas, making it a little bit lighter. But how far out from that boundary should we go? That's the radius. And so if I take this radius from one pixel, so we're just taking just this pixel in this pixel, we're changing them. If I take that to let's say 20 pixels, wow. Now you're really seeing some nastiness. And so you can see here when we look at the eyebrows and the stuff that the eyebrows are very very dark and then everything around the eyebrows are very very light because we increased the radius. That's too much. This makes her look like she's got some very bad skin damage from the sun. So we can take this radius down to maybe 0.9 pixels. Generally speaking, you're gonna be working in the range of 1 to 2 or maybe three pixels even at 2.3 pixels. See how her skin looks all shiny, it looks like she's got a bright light. That's too much. You need to take that down. We need to take it down a little bit more, take it down a little bit more. Let's take it down to maybe one pixel. That's a good area and then the amount we can take that down to something that's more reasonable. Maybe 100% or 70%, something like that until you see this really popping but not to a point where you see noticeable effects of that contrast change. That's how you decide Are you seeing those halos? Are you seeing those big shadows and things popping up? If so take the radius down or take the percentage down. You need to play with this based on the image that you're working on Depending on the resolution of the image, you're gonna add more or less sharpening and the radius is gonna be a little bit more or a little bit less. And so you have to have this at 100% on your computer screen. Take a good look at it and be very discerning must be really picky about that and see exactly if it's exactly what you want. You can turn that preview on and off to see the changes so that after on my screen it's really noticeable. You might not see that on the video, do this at home and you'll see for yourself that this sharpening is really, really awesome. Now, smart sharpening is a great way to sharpen images. It's something that we use all the time. Historically. It's the best way to do it. But there are better ways to do sharpening using adobe camera raw but we're gonna learn all about adobe camera raw and the way that you can sharpen images in that tool a little bit later on in our class

Class Description


  • Navigate and customize the Photoshop interface.
  • Edit images using non-destructive techniques.
  • Use layers and layer masks to create composite images.
  • Retouch portraits using advanced retouching techniques.
  • Develop scenic photos using tonal and color correction techniques.


The perfect workshop series for Adobe Photoshop beginners. This class assumes that you are new to Photoshop and want to learn how to retouch and adjust your images.

This workshop is a comprehensive overview ofAdobe Photoshop. By the end of this workshop you’ll have the skills you need to edit your images using Photoshop.

These sessions are jam packed with hands-on activities which allow you to learn by doing. Sample files are included with the workshop so you can follow along with hands-on exercises.

The sessions begin with a solid foundation and add new techniques and principles until you have mastered your post-production workflow.

By the end of this workshop you’ll have a clear understanding of the Adobe Photoshop interface, and the most commonly used tools. You’ll be able to edit scenic and portrait photos. You’ll have a solid understanding of color correction and skin retouching.

This workshop has everything you need to master Adobe Photoshop.


  • Photographers with little or no experience with Photoshop.
  • Photographers with limited or no experience with Lightroom or other post-production software.
  • Portrait photographers who want to know how to do basic skin retouching.
  • Scenic photographers who want to know how to do basic color and tonal corrections.
  • Photographers who want to know how to do basic compositing.


Adobe Photoshop 2021
Adobe Bridge 2021
Adobe Creative Cloud (all apps)


Mark Wallace is a photographer based in the United States. Best known for his web-based video series Digital Photography One on One and Exploring Photography sponsored by Adorama.

Millions of people have watched Mark’s videos on YouTube, and the numbers continue to grow. Mark has a strong social media following on Facebook and Twitter, where he spends time interacting with viewers and workshop attendees.

In 2014, Mark left the United States to embark on a 2-year worldwide adventure. He visited 28 countries and captured thousands of unique photographs across the globe.

In 2016 Mark decided to give up planes, trains, and automobiles and is now exploring the world on his motorcycle.

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Class Materials

Ratings and Reviews

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Mark did a great job at explaining things and going over them multiple times throughout the lessons. My only issue was that sometimes it went a little faster than I could keep up and I needed to rewind it a bit and start again. But from someone who has never worked in photoshop before I 100% recommend this class to anyone trying to learn.