Skip to main content


Lesson 26 from: Skin. The Complete Course

Lee Varis

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

26. Sharpening

Next Lesson: Compositing

Lesson Info


I thought I would use this opportunity now to address the question about sharpening, uh, and, uh, sharpening is really a very important step in the whole process. Everything whether it's intended for webb or not every kind of output needs some kind of sharpening and, uh, my philosophy is to wait until I know how this is going to be reproduced at what size is it going to print? And then I would size image to that final size and apply the sharpening for that size. Ok? So that's kind of a critical thing, you have to know how big your image is going to finally appear before you can really understand how you're going to sharpen. So we're gonna work with with this shot of bernard here, and I'm going to assume that it's going to print at the size that it's at, so I'm not going to resize it right now. My image size is ten by ten at three hundred pixels prem's, so I was kind of sizing it for an album cover type of aspect ratios of square and this is a bit bigger than an actual cd cover, but we'...

re going to have a plan on having a ten by ten inch size image okay, so, uh, one of the one of the important considerations when doing your sharpening is what size are you judging it on your screen? Uh when I'm looking at this image at this size on screen it's actually bigger uh then ten by ten and I'm really at twenty five percent um so the general rule of thumb has normally been look at your image at one hundred percent uh but my recommendation is instead of doing that to see every single pixel in the image you kind of split the difference between how big the image is going to display and one hundred percent on screen so if we went to a hundred percent on screen uh it's we're really zoomed in very, very, very far and this would be kind of you know, I don't know maybe fifty by fifty inches I mean it's a gigantic at this size so we kind of look going toe back out a little bit make it a little bit smaller my general rule of thumb is I'm goingto make the sharpening look good at fifty percent magnification and you can check your magnification down here in the lower left corner of the screen you'll see this number change as I zoom in and out, you know? So now I'm a twenty five percent concede down here um I zoom in I'm at fifty percent so just this is just for visual judging of how much sharpening apply now as faras overall sharpening sharpening is something that is it's going to be applied to the pixels of the image uh I have multi layered image here I want to preserve my layers so uh I don't want to flatten the image and then sharpen it so what I'd like to do now is actually put emerged version of the effect of all these layers at the tarp at the top of the layers stack and that's going to be the layer that I will sharpen uh so I'm going to do that down in my layers panel here uh hold on the option key here and we're going to select merge visible while I hold down that option key and that puts emerged version of all those layers into one layer right above later that I had selection which is at the top of layer stacks and now it's it's the one that's at the very top and this will be my er mei mei mei sharpened my sharper image um now way have photoshopped has had this new uh sharpened filter called smart sharp it but we're not going to use that because I think smart sharpen is is just is dumb and really slow so I call it dumb slow sharp um it's that it has some application in uh with certain types of of blur if you're going to use it you will have to be in the advanced mode because the basic mode of smart, sharp and acts just like on sharp mass so no point in really going there uh in our advanced mode, you can remove different types of of blur, uh, gaza and blur is sort of just like on sharp mask how it works. Lens blur is some attempt. Tio take into consideration the lens that was used and motion blur. This is probably the most useful thing in smart sharpened is using the motion blur. So if you can tell which direction the motion blur is in closets in one direction, you can figure out the angle that motion blur and remove it. Uh, more effectively is in the smart, sharpened in motion blur. The biggest problem I have with smart, sharp is that there's, no threshold song slider. So the threshold slider is useful to prevent sharpening noise, way find, sometimes noise in the shadows, and I would use the threshold slider to eliminate the sharpening effect off of those regions. There's no way of doing that with the smart, sharpened, filled it's just going to smart it's going to sharpen everything? Um, we can affect shadows and highlight separately and that's a good thing, but I'm going to show you how to achieve that. That same kind of control over highlights and shadows is in the standard on short mask filter, and that also that filter runs a lot faster and it gives because we're going to separate the those sharpening effects in the different layers, it gives us more control. Then we would have using this mark sharpened filter, so we're not using smart, sharp, so cancel and we're goingto work are sharpening using a kn sharp mast, so I'm going to go filter sharpened on sharp mask. Okay, now, in sharp mask, dialogue has been around forever. They haven't really changed it. We still have a fairly small preview window. Um, that's showing you the viewer a one hundred percent. I'm really kind of looking at the sharpening at fifty percent in the larger window. And the my strategy for using this filter is to crank the amount up to five hundred, because really men sharpen it. Five hundred. We're not actually going to use it in five hundred, but, uh, what I'm trying to determine here is of a radius that gives me maximum sharpening effect without seeing, um, bad halos so sharp. Ernie works by putting little halos around edge transitions and you can see here it's really cranking the texture of the skin. Um, as I increase the radius, you start to get more exaggerated sharpening effect, right? And I don't need quite that much I don't want to make alligator skin uh and I'm gonna very often in the kind of range of one and a half to one to one and a half pixels is a good radius that's where the halo wing they just find it kind of close up of oven edge show you really bad halo would be like this really wide see how it's like put an artificial highlight over that that edge transition that that's halo with here at four pixels is giving me this kind of artificial highlight there as I reduce the radius, you see how it kind of disappears and there's a slight radius along that edge but it's being applied everywhere being applied into the texture of the skin very heavily. Ok, so there's where the threshold adjustment can kind of come in, we increase the threshold as we increase the author shal less sharpening his happening over the skin and I'm now looking in the fifty percent view you know here was sharpening everywhere I've got that kind of pimple structure kind of happening all over the face as I increase the threshold it takes that heavy curse off of his skin so skin is is now a little smoother we can afford sharpened skin texture with men more than we can with women so I can I can live with a little bit of extra speculating in the skin and he does have a sort of pronounced skin texture. Anyway, we're gonna solve this issue, uh, in a slightly different way, but a little bit of threshold does take some of the curse off of that, okay? And, uh, I'm going to go ahead and sharpen at five hundred percent, but it's in a layer, so, you know, I can always reduce my sharpened in effect here, uh, by changing the a passing the layer, but I'm not quite done yet. My overall strategy here, uh, is to apply less lightning halos, then I do darkening halos, the lightning halos or what's giving these kind of weird, like, ultra speckle e sparkly, you know, uh, this this feeling, especially up in this area? You can see it here, it's this stuff is what's giving away the sharpening there's little speck. Lee highlights this because right now we've only sharpen this one layer, and we've got light and dark going at the same time, so I'm going. I'm going to show you how to kind of separate those out, separate the light inhalers from the dark and heels, but before I do anything else, I'm going to fade the un sharp mask so fade on sharp mask whenever you run a filter oh, if you don't do anything else, the very next thing it could do is fade, so I'm going to use fade here to change the apply of the filter, so instead of applying it normally, I'm going to apply it in luminosity okay, so I don't know if this is going to be visible here someone a zoom way, way in now you see there's sort of ah little magenta kind of coloration that's kind of blended in with this noise that's extra saturation that's happening from the application of the in sharp mask when I fade to luminosity that extra color that saturation goes away and I'm only getting the brightness values this goes part of the way towards making the sharpening look a little less obvious. Eso it's a step that I automatically do and so always fade to luminosity after replied, your first application of the un sharp mask filled, I'm going to zoom back out to fifty percent here, and even though I've applied it at five hundred percent um it's almost livable this way, you know, he is quite a bit sharper very often when you when you're just working with the images and you haven't sharpen them, you just forget about the fact that they're actually not that sharp because they think it seems like it's sharp first time you see it, it seems fine suze you sharpen it you go no uh yeah, I can't I can't live with it without some sharpening so um so we're gonna work on now trying to minimize the lighter halos we're going toe duplicate this sharpened lair so I'm going to drag it over the new layer icon down here and I have to sharpen layers so I'm going to re label these one of these is going to be lightened and one of these is going to be dark. Okay, I'll turn off that light one sign and I've got this dark and one selected now I'm going to change the apply mode from normal too dark if I could get their dark ok, so I'm not applying any lightning halos at all on ly only the dark edges are being applied and it looks like there's sort of dark like a little dark spots being put on his face and the dark edges are enhancing almost a kind of illustrated like little pencil lines have gone and look look at the how the beard has been emphasized here so we can't get away with just darkening the edges to create the sharp we do have to add some lightning, so I'm going to go back here, select my lightened only and apply light and the combined light and dark and her exactly what we had before so it's the same as having it in one layer I've now just split it into two players and that allows me to treat them uh with different strengths so I'm going to change the capacity of that lighten sharpened and usually somewhere around fifty percent of its full application is enough oh, to kind of blend in with the darkened halos okay, let's, zoom back out to fifty percent ok, so I've got all my life and halos in one layer of the dark inhalers in another layer I select both of those together on I'm now going to make a group a layered group to put all my sharpening into kind of this folder. So I select the, uh, layer options menu here from the parade corner of the layers panel on ice, a new group from layers, so that takes the later the layers that are selected and is going to put them into a group which I'll call her sharp. So I've got lighten and dark and into the sharpened layer as a group, and now that whole thing can be reduced incapacity to where I might think I have just enough sharpening not too much so you know, I'm looking for this this now looks sharp enough to me I tend to be kind of somewhat conservative here because sometimes I've given files to clients and then they use the bigger than my intention so the if you sharpen an image and then to change your mind decided going to use it bigger the sharpen is much more obvious when you scale it up after you sharpened it so you got to be careful about doing that you're gonna just maybe about in there I think it looks pretty good now if we zoom into one hundred percent it looks it's on it's like too much right is this looks like oh, every poor has been sharpened but we're not going to print it that big so that's why I say zoom out fifty percent and it'll seen a lot more subtle at this size and when it's actually prince it's going to be half this size again so uh, you know, you just want to judge it based on fifty percent view rather than one hundred percent of you now this sharpening routine you could make an action to do it. Just change your the things that change from one image in the excerpt the radius of setting that you'd use for your halos for your in your own sharp mask um but it's, this is good for probably ninety percent of general sharpening that you'd ever want to do so questions question from nic great in the chat room who said how do you determine the amount of sharpening you need if the finnish size is big like, say, sixty inches by forty inches uh yeah sixty and you know, the amount of sharpened inserted depends on the image and what what is the characteristic feature of the image? I mean, if if your images of cut glass you know or intricate scroll work and there's a lot of detail in and it's very you know got some very fine edges in it that's going to require different kind of sharpening, you know, to make it look good than puffy white clouds you know, in a landscape so uh it's very image dependent and unfortunately there's no formula that's going to allow you to determine exactly how much to sharpen it really is something that you have to develop a feel for so very helpful when you're learning how to sharpen to be able to make prince so if you have an absent printer or something of that nature and a good ink jet printer you khun practice, sharpen and then printing and then compared to do it a couple different ways and compare the prints and teo, you start to get a feel for how it looks on screen versus how it's coming out of the printer uh and in general uh for for the web very minimal sharpening because just not necessary smaller images perhaps counterintuitively require more sharpening then larger images when you're making a big sixty inch print and you can get it up on a wall and walk up to it if you do too much sharpening, it becomes really, really obvious people will pick it up so you're better off being more conservative as the print size gets bigger so that's one rule of thumb I could say to take more questions questions way have more you have more go okay a question from your name one two three is for your sharpening strategy do you always have the darkened layer stronger and the lower capacity on the lytton side? I'm sorry on the late mayor regardless of skin tone or lightness of darkness of background um I would say probably ninety percent of the time I'm reducing the strength of the light halos those are the things that kind of tend to poke in the eye I uh with most images in in this case especially in this case since is a very low key image it's mostly dark tones, the dark and halos they're going to be really invisible you're not going to notice them nearly as much and it's that whole point of the local contrast kind of thing or I picks up you know that thing that is in contrast with its surrounding tone so most the tones of this image or dark the dark halos kind of go unnoticed the light halos air really going to be, you know, much more noticeable so uh I really suppressed them here I would say it's it's conceivable in a very high key image of a certain type that you might allow the lightning halos to be stronger than the dark and halos but in the in my experience in the vast majority images that I come across it really it seems like those lightened halos need to be knocked back uh almost every time so there you go a question from the studio's co uk and raymond um do you ever use high pass for sharpening and if not you can you tell us your comments on that? Yes, I do use high pass um hi pass sharpening is more of ah I think of it is a kind of sculpting move I use high pass to sharpen yet very wide radius is so that what we've done here is we've used a very narrow radius in the sharpened and applied it even though I ran the filter to five hundred percent I backed off on the opacity and reduce the capacity of the light layer so I'm I'm really not applying it very you know super strong uh but it is it is being applied is seriously being applied I get a five hundred percent and, you know, s o narrow radio said hi intent or high amounts right? The high pass sharpened is a wide radius effect that it gets applied it low amount and what I would do here is we can apply on top of what we've already done weaken show kind of the effect of that on this particular image is not absolutely necessary but just illustrate I will show you how you do that so again we're going to have to put a merge version on top to do our high pass effect on so I will hold down the option key and select merge visible that'll put another copy on top of what I do at this point as I have I d saturated so I'm just going run hugh saturation directly on that layer and de saturated and now I'm going to run the high pass on this layer so I do filter other high pass okay? So at very narrow radius is you could get in effect that's very similar to the un sharp mask but we're going for high radius and you know more like it looks like maybe thirty pixels here so you can see that there's sort of a halo in effect that's happening with high passing syriani the outside edges here this sort of dark halo but it's a very soft halo and it's it's more intense right close to that edge and then it ramps off very, very smoothly so this kind of halo wing what it does is it has a sort of bar relief effect and so I'm looking I'm increasing the radius until I see a sort of uh, shape enhancement going on inside, inside the image. Um, and so right now and this is really just getting a feel for it as well, you know, just trying to see I've got a little highlight over the eyebrow now, you know, the shapes of the features have come through, whereas, you know, back in here is the images, mostly gray, with little tiny edge transitions showing up. So let's, go back, I think we're good at about thirty or so. Um, and I will say, ok, now the feature high pass is has really put into effect when we change the apply mode to overlay whenever you're looking at something that's mostly fifty percent gray like this layer now is mostly fifty percent gray. That almost suggests to me that there may be some value and the overly apply mode because it's, where it deviates from fifty percent gray, that it's gonna have a corresponding effect. So let's, look at how that plays out over the energy I'm gonna change, change, deployment to overlay, and I'm getting kind of interesting contrast e, uh, kind of shape enhancer here, it's, almost like the grunge filter. I've really kind of popped the contrast locally, and it's it's, it's, it's brought a little stronger shaping inside the face it may be a little harsh, but it is sort of a look. Look what it's doing to the hand here it's kind of snapping the contrast and bringing really bringing the shapes out in in the image. Um, and actually, sometimes the rial value here in this effect way have such a low key image I don't I'm I'm darkening and lightning the tonal shapes in this image of the same time with an overlay layer. So, um, what I may want to do is weaken the darkening part part of this right? So it's just kind of a sharpening effect, but it's also it's sort of popping the shapes, bringing him out. So, uh, the one way toe kind of reduce that darkening shading is to go back to our little friend blending options. So I'm taking my layer options here in the, uh, in the layers panel, I've got that overlay layer selected, and I'm going to come in here to blending options on if I want to remove the dark half of the halo I'll have to do is move that. On this layer which represents that that overlay sharpening layer at high pass later I'm going to move this over to the mid point, which is one twenty eight and now I'm not applying the dark and I'm on ly applying the see how dark and part has been removed and it's getting back to the sort of normal shading of the dark skin so I'm really not only popping the highlights and again I don't have to use it at one hundred percent I could just, you know, kind of knock that back a little bit so it's it's putting little highlight edges it's all you know let the rim lighting part is coming in a little stronger kind of snapping the contrast on those highlights a little bit I can also decide you know I don't wanted to strengthen this highlight this is already hot enough so I can put a layer mask there and just paint that off of the that side of his face there so just paint with black bring the tone back into that edge light there you go so let's let's look at where we were before we played any sharpening and it's almost like you can't look at it anymore oh it's so blurry we didn't notice that until we started sharpening it so that's the that's kind of the two pass approach uh this overlay very often I'm using it way, way down. You know, in this case, snape, in those highlights, is kind of also adding a little additional kind of sparkle in the image, which this image is benefiting from that very often. I'm using a pastis way down like this for that affected, just very suddenly. Add a little more shape in the face. I think you know, probably that much kind of helps just a little.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Lee Varis - Skin Day 1 Keynote Slides.pdf
Lee Varis - Skin Day 2 Keynote Slides.pdf
Lee Varis - Skin Day 3 Keynote Slides.pdf

Ratings and Reviews


Skin tones correction and portraits editing are new to me. This course provides a set of tools for me to improve my portraiture work. Lee doesn't just show you how things are done, but also the reasons for the corrections. The delivery is a bit dry because the topic is quite technical. You can have a break between lessons, if it becomes too overbearing for you. I highly recommend to take this course, if you are planning to do portraits, head shots, or even senior pictures.

Student Work