Skip to main content

Make Fine Art Prints: Sharpen Image

Lesson 36 from: The Professional Photographer’s Digital Workflow

Michael Clark

Make Fine Art Prints: Sharpen Image

Lesson 36 from: The Professional Photographer’s Digital Workflow

Michael Clark

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

36. Make Fine Art Prints: Sharpen Image


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Shooting Workflow: Set-up The Camera


Shooting Workflow: Histograms and Exposure


Shooting Workflow: Sensor Cleaning


Overview of Color Management


Color Management: Monitor


Color Management: Workspace


Color Management: Monitor Calibration


Color Management: Do I Need This?


Introduction to Lightroom®


Download & Import Images With Lightroom®


Lightroom® Preferences


Six Ways to Speed-up Lightroom®


To DNG or Not to DNG?


A Logical Editing Process in Lightroom®


File & Folder Naming in Lightroom®


Batch Renaming in Lightroom®


Entering Metadata in Lightroom®


Managing Images in Lightroom®


Introduction to the Develop Module in Lightroom®


Lightroom® Develop Module


Sharpening, Chromatic Aberration & Vignetting in Lightroom®


Graduated Filters & Spot Tool in Lightroom®


Converting images to Black & White in Lightroom®


Creating Panoramas in Lightroom


Creating HDR Images in Lightroom®


Lightroom® to Photoshop® Workflow


Export Images to Photoshop®


Finalizing Images in Photoshop®: Basic Adjustments


Finalizing Images in Photoshop®: Retouching


Finalizing Images in Photoshop®: Saving Master Files


Make Fine Art Prints: The Cost


Make Fine Art Prints: Ink Jet Printers


Make Fine Art Prints: Ink Jet Papers


Make Fine Art Prints: Understand ICC Profiles


Make Fine Art Prints: Sharpen Image


Printing From Photoshop®


Printing From Lightroom®


Compare Monitor to Physical Prints


Printing Black & White Image


Extended Workflow: Back Up Images


Extended Workflow: Storage Options


Extended Workflow: Archiving Images


Submitting images to Clients


Prepping Images for Social Media


Alternative Workflows


Final Q&A


Lesson Info

Make Fine Art Prints: Sharpen Image

So we're gonna be sharpening now. Let's go ahead and jump into my computer, and hopefully you can see me through the notch here. Lemme turn back on the Wacom here. So I'm just gonna take this image here, let's see what else we got. Let's do a portrait, it'll be a little bit easier. I'm gonna flatten this layer, as I would for printing. And I'm just gonna leave it in the ProPhoto color space for right now. Typically what I do with sharpening is I just duplicate the layer. And I'll do my sharpening on a separate layer from the original. That way I can see the difference really easily, while in Photoshop. And so here, I definitely wanna go to 100 percent. This was shot with a Nikon D810. So you can see there's some grain here, not too worried. Depending on the type of paper I'm using, I might sharpen more or less. If I'm sharpening for glossy paper, or something, you know, not a matte paper, I'm gonna apply less sharpening than if I'm sharpening for a matte paper. And this just comes down...

to ink spread. Like, how much is the ink spreading out on the paper, making it look softer just because, the process of printing. So. In terms of sharpening, and this is something, you know, it's hard to say exactly how to sharpen. Well first, let's change the size of the image. Let's size up the image here. So, 300, so depending on your printer, the resolution you want to print at, the ideal resolution is gonna be different. For Epsons, the ideal printing resolution is 360. For Canon, it's 300. And that has to do with how many dots per inch it's actually printing on the paper. And it's usually translating every pixel here into four, eight, twelve, twenty four dots. And so they've done the math. We don't have time to go through the math. We could, but, just trust me. 360 or 300 is the best way to go. And it will translate it one way or the other, to the printer, so even if you put it at 284, it's still going to give you a print, it's just these are ideal numbers. And oftentimes, if I'm making a giant print of this image, and I'm running out of resolution, I'll drop it to 180, or maybe even 150, because that's such a big print, that sounds like a really low resolution, but you're not meant to stand like, two inches from that print and see it. So at 180 for my big prints on my Epson, they look phenomenal. Even though they're not at 360. It just keeps you from having to up-res the image so much. So we're down-res'ing here, so we could do bicubic sharper, but typically I just leave it at bicubic whenever I'm lowering the resolution of the image, and we're printing on 13 by 19 paper, so maybe I wanna go 10 inches by 15, Or, 13, eh, let's do 15, so there's some border around that paper. And I would just hit OK, to resize that. Let's go back, lemme undo that. If we're going upwards, image size, I would definitely choose bicubic smoother for enlargement, as it says there in parentheses. And then, you know, there's, I don't know how many piece of software these days there are to up-res your images. I did testing years ago with about five or six of them, and pretty much in the end, figured out that maybe you can see small differences, but in the end it pretty much is all the same. And there used to be in older versions of Photoshop, all these tricks where you'd upload it, or up-res it 10 percent at a time, and then it would produce a better result at the end. But they've figured it out now, that if you just up-res it to whatever you want, you're gonna, it's gonna be fine. You might just increase the amount of sharpening you use, the bigger you up-res it, because when you up-res, things are getting a little fuzzier. Because you're adding pixels that weren't there. So if I'm doing like a 40 by 60-inch print, that's gonna be giant, and I might drop this down to 180. Typically, the rule of thumb I think for up-res'ing images is you can probably go 200 to 250 percent bigger than your original image. 250 percent might be pushing it a little bit, if you're gonna stand really close to that print. It just depends on your tastes. If you're gonna print on canvas, like somebody asked earlier, go for it, 400 percent. Because that's such a non-sharp surface, you can go much bigger than you think. So it depends on what you're printing on. If you're printing on glossy paper, you're not gonna be able to up-res as much and hold detail in that print, than you would if you're printing on a matte paper. Because the surface itself is hiding sharpness to some degree. So, just so you'd see that. Let's cancel that, and I'm gonna change the size. So the trick is you need to resize the image before you sharpen. That's what I'm trying to get across. We talked about a sharpening workflow earlier in the class. And you know, definitely we did a little tiny kiss of sharpening in the RAW processing stage. Maybe we added a little bit of creative sharpening, quote unquote, to a certain part of the image, like maybe I just sharpened up the eyes a little bit. And then at this point, this is called output sharpening, which we're doing sharpening after we've resized the image, for whatever output we're doing. Michael, can you run through how you determine the actual size of your image to your print size? Yeah, so here, I'm just, you know. I know I have 13 by 19-inch paper, and I wanted like an inch and a half border around the sides. So I'm just saying 10 by 15 is fine for this. Was that your question? No, as for image size coming out of your camera, I mean how do you do the translation? Let me go back here. So image size, we didn't really cover the image size dialogue, but if you haven't changed the size of the image that you've worked up, when you open up this image size dialogue, this is the size of your image. So at 300 pixels per inch, it's approximately 16.3 by 24.5 inch prints. And I can change that by changing the resolution. So that's as big as it's gonna go without up-res'ing it. So if I wanna make a 24 by 36-inch print, I'm gonna have to up-res it approximately 30 percent. If I wanna make a 40 by 60, that's a pretty massive up-res, but I'm gonna do it at 180 pixels for my Epson. And then I hit resample here, and click it on and off, at 180 pixels per inch, I can make a 27 by 40-inch print. So to get to 40 by 60 from there, is only like a 50 percent increase over what the size of the file is already. Does that make sense? Yeah, and that's a great question, because that's pretty critical to know. But for Canon, you know, 150 would be the minimum I would say you ever use for print resolution. And that's a little iffy. I might even, on a Canon, choose 180 instead of 150, and see how that went. But, let's go back to 300 here. And by clicking this resample on and off, it re-jiggers the numbers so you can see what's actually happening. So what is it, 10, I'm gonna make it just for kicks there, and you know, if you wanted it perfectly 10 by 15, you would have to use the crop tool to actually crop it til it's an exact two-thirds, two to three ratio for your aspect ratio. That's another thing too, is a lot of these papers don't come in sizes that are perfect for 35mm mirrorless and DSLR cameras, they come in like old four by five, or medium format 645 aspect ratios, and so. You can crop your image, but you know, all of us don't like to crop our images. So anyway, back to sharpening. All of that to talk about sharpening. Let me get back to the eyes since that's part of what's going on here. So filter, and you know, for an image like this, what I might do, and there's 17, well there's not 17, but there's at least four or five different ways of sharpening. So if I don't happen to use the way you sharpen, don't take that as like, this is the only way to do it. You can use high pass sharpening, you can use unsharp mask, you can use smart sharpening. There's many ways to achieve sharpening. For this image, since it's already got some textures to it, I might actually come in here and apply some unsharp mask, which most people are like, oh geez, unsharp mask, that's really a blunt sledgehammer. And it's looking pretty rugged right now because I have that thing I did earlier. So I usually use like, 0.3 to 0.5, somewhere in there, and then vary this, and I'm at 100 percent so I can see what's happening, and you may or may not be able to see this at home, depending on the resolution of your monitor you're looking at. So this might be a little, but you can see, here I'll just close this off and on so you can see a massive amount of sharpening was applied here, and also there's all kinds of stuff going on in there. So I'm definitely not, you know, maybe apply at this point 100, somewhere in there. And I'm gonna turn this on and off. Yeah, apply a little bit more. But often, with images like this, I'll do a two-step sharpening process, where I do some unsharp mask, and then I do some smart sharpening. And this is a little more fine-tuned, smart sharpening is basically applying edges and high contrast parts of the image. It's not applying sharpening to skies, or perfectly white backgrounds in this case. It's the same type deal, you can actually apply more sharpening to the shadows, or less sharpening to a certain region of tones, if you wanna really get into it. But for here, I'm just gonna pull this guy out. I might choose a little bit larger radius. And you can see the effect pretty massively here If I turn this on and off. And so what I'm gonna do there is apply maybe a little bit more than I want, that's a lot more actually than I probably want. I'm gonna click OK. And if you go back here, you can see I've added a fair bit of sharpening. And if you drop down to 50 percent view on a normal monitor, not a retina screen and not a 4k monitor, what you see at 50 percent is gonna be about what you see on the paper, in my experience. And if you're looking at this, I mean this image is being twisted and turned through the video stream that we're live, sending this out to the world, so take that with a grain of salt, what you're seeing on your monitor in terms of sharpness for this image. So that's the trick, and in Photoshop, if you're doing your sharpening in Photoshop, there are no guidelines. I mean you have to play around with different settings, and make prints and see what it looks like. And then there's also a wide range of tastes in sharpening, you know? If you like your images to look ultra, ultra tack sharp, you're gonna apply more sharpening than somebody who is kinda like, oh no, I want this to be a little more soft and silky and sharpish, but not too crazy. So I'm not here to say which one's better or worse, I would just say if you've got an image, let me just find an image real quick, This is a good one to look at, that's already sharp, but if you apply too much sharpening, you can create halos above and beyond your image that are gonna show up massively in that print. This is also, we're applying pretty strong amounts of sharpening, so if you didn't take out the chromatic aberration of your image, that purple fringing might show up big as day in your print, because you just sharpened it like crazy. So things to think about. You know, this image at 100 percent, parts of it are really sharp, parts are not, but if I go in here and apply some crazy amount of smart sharpening, let's see, where are we at in the image? I guess the preview hasn't been created yet. I'm just gonna do something radically crazy. And say okay, and then we can look at, oh that's why it's not showing it, cause we're not on that level. Let me back up here. Going a little too fast for my own good. Let me flatten that layer, cause I was applying sharpening to a dodge and burn layer. So now, I'm just gonna, and it's gonna happen whether in smart sharpen, or if you're in, so now, well that's obviously really funky. But even if I apply this huge amount of sharpening, you're starting to see all kinds of digital artifacts that come into the image. Let me cancel out of that and do an unsharp mask, and just go kinda crazy here. And you'll start to see this, if you zoom in where it's what, we're at 100 percent here, let me go around the image a little bit. This one's not doing too badly, you can see on the edge of the boat here, there are, if I pull up the radius, there is a halo building, well that went way too far, but there is a halo building over here, and this is an extreme example that I'm forcing this to do it so that you can see it at home, those watching, because it's actually softening the image through this image chain that we got going on. All that is to say it's a little touchy with sharpening. If we switch to Lightroom, and I will say this, you know, if you've got issues with sharpening and you don't know how much to sharpen your images, print out out Lightroom. Because they have a very simplified sharpening options here. So, print sharpening, this is, so we're in the print module of Lightroom, we're at the bottom part of the right-hand panel where all the action happens. And they've simplified it. Well, do you want low, standard, or high? That depends on how much sharpening you wanna apply. Standard's pretty nice. Are you on glossy or matte paper? They've massively simplified it. What's happening that you don't realize, is when you go over here to the print settings, and the page setup, and you select your size of paper, and how big you want the image to appear on the paper, you know, you're setting up your print, it's automatically up-res'ing or down-res'ing the image. And so in the background, beyond just these simplified settings, they're doing the math as to how big the image is gonna be, how much is upsampled or downsampled, figuring out how much sharpening needs to be applied for that adjustment of the image. And they've gotten this from Seth Resnick and the Adobe gurus who've worked with Adobe from a long time, and they had this entire separate print sharpening tool that you could use within Photoshop for years, that's now been put here into Lightroom. And if you just choose standard and whatever paper you have, glossy or matte, it's pretty phenomenally good sharpening, actually. And it only sharpens edges, it does not sharpen skies and stuff like that. So if in doubt, print in Lightroom. You don't have quite as much control over the sharpening as you do in Photoshop, but if you're just starting out, that might be a little bit easier. And it's all the same stuff, it's all the same print dialogues. So, let's make some prints. Sir, just one last quick question. Okay. Using Lightroom to print, if I'm sending it to a commercial printer, I would still go into the print module before I send the image to that print house? You can actually output images as PDFs, or as a JPEG, you don't have to print to the printer. You can print to a JPEG file, and you can basically output a sharpened JPEG file that you could then send to a printer. (crosstalk) Especially larger prints in TIFF format. Exactly, so I wouldn't do that, if I'm gonna send out a print to a third party printer, and it's a big print, well, A, if they're that good, I would let them apply the sharpening, if they seem to know, if I've had good experiences with them in that. If not, I'll ask them. This would be part of the dialogue, it's like, A, what's your SVG profile, should I apply sharpening to the image and resize it for you and everything, and if they say yes, then I'll go do it, you know? They're engaging me as well, to see if I know what I'm doing, because they want to please the customer. They're like, well do you know how to apply sharpening, and if I ask them about ICC profiles, they probably know I'm a little bit more advanced, than you know, whoever walks through the door wanting to get their family pictures made. So, it's a conversation that you have with them. But you know, it's not like rocket science to figure out sharpening in Photoshop, either. If you've got your own printer, and you just start printing and play around with sharpening, you're gonna find out real quick how much sharpening you need. And also, as we were experimenting earlier, if you've got a super high resolution picture and you're downsizing that picture, it's got an inherent amount of sharpness built into the image already, because there's no anti-aliasing filter in these new D850s, D810s, these Sony cameras that are 42 megapixels or 46 megapixels. You've got an inherent amount of sharpness that's gonna be quite a bit sharper than you think it will be on the paper. You know, we're staring at these prints like, zoomed into his eyeball. You're seeing noise, and stuff, and it doesn't look that sharp. But that is a giant image, so that when we print that image, you're not gonna see all those fine, minute things unless you pull out a loop and really get on top of that image and zoom in. So, it may or may not be as big a deal. It depends on your tastes in sharpening, too, you know?

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Workflow Outline

Bonus Materials with RSVP

The Professional Photographers Digital Workflow Ebook Sample

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

Michael is a true professional and readily explains all of the nitty gritty issues of a photographer's digital workflow, including important things like Color Management, Lightroom workflows, Printing, and more. He is eager to answer your questions and has a thorough knowledge (after all, he worked with the original engineers at Adobe and wrote a book on it) and passion that he loves to share. He can get way deep into the subject, which I found fascinating. You can tell Michael has great experience in teaching and also likes to learn from his students. He is very authentic, honest, and direct. I highly recommend this class, and look forward to another one of Michael's courses in the future!

a Creativelive Student

This is an excellent course. It reinforced what I already knew and enhanced my spotty skills with new knowledge. I really like Michael's explanation of saving the document for print and web and the importance of doing these differently. Using the histogram to show this was terrific. Each session there is some valuable gem.

Elizabeth Harrigan

This class is fantastic and is just what I was looking for! The teacher knows the subject WELL and he makes it understandable and easy to follow along. In each segment, he gets right to the point explaining just enough content to make it understandable. He doesn't waste your time. I highly recommend this class. It's the best tech class I have watched on Creative Live.

Student Work