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Learn Photography

Photoshop Elements >

Sharpening >

3 - Selective Unsharp Mask Sharpening

Sharpening a photograph may enhance parts, and degrade other parts.

Many photographs benefit from the selective application of different amounts of sharpening.

Example

Levels 1

Andy Warhol

Old car

Background copy

Background

Be sure to check off as you go along.

Preparation

1) Make two composite layers.

A composite layer contains all of the layers of your photograph.

 

Do the following.

a) Deselect the eye icons on the layers you don't want to merge.

b) Make sure the top layer is active (highlighted).

c) Go to Select > All.

d) Go to Edit > Copy Merged.

e) Go to Edit > Paste.

f) Press Ctrl + j to copy the composite layer.

If you haven't already done so, go to Composite Layer.

Layer 2

Layer 1

Levels 1

Andy Warhol

Old car

Background copy

Background

Rename the Layers

2) Rename one of the composite layers as Low, and the other, as High.

The High layer must be above the Low layer.

High

Low

Levels 1

Andy Warhol

Old car

Background copy

Background

Sharpen the Low & High Layers

3) Select the High layer (highlighted), go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask, and set a large amount of sharpening.

4) Hide the High layer by deselecting its eye icon.

5) Select the Low layer (highlighted), go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask, and set a small amount of sharpening.

6) Make the High layer visible by selecting its eye icon.

Create a Clipping Mask

7) Make sure the Low layer is active (highlighted).

High

Low

Levels 1

Andy Warhol

Old car

Background copy

Background

8) Create a blank layer.

High

Layer 1

Low

Levels 1

Andy Warhol

Old car

Background copy

Background

9) Label Layer 1 as Brush here to make High appear.

High

Brush here to make High appear

Low

Levels 1

Andy Warhol

Old car

Background copy

Background

10) Make sure the High layer is active (highlighted).

High

Brush here to make High appear

Low

Levels 1

Andy Warhol

Old car

Background copy

Background

11) Press Ctrl + g (PSE 15: Ctrl + Alt + g) to group the High layer with the Brush-here-to-make-High-appear layer.

If you haven't already done so, go to How to Group.

↓ High

Brush here to make High appear

Low

Levels 1

Andy Warhol

Old car

Background copy

Background

You've created a clipping mask.

Get Ready to Add the High Layer Sharpening

By Painting

12) Make sure the Brush-here-to-make-High-appear layer is active (highlighted).

↓ High

Brush here to make High appear

Low

Levels 1

Andy Warhol

Old car

Background copy

Background

13) Select the Brush tool.

Most often, use a feathered brush.

If you haven't already done so, go to Feathered Brush.

14) Make sure the foreground color is black.

If you haven't already, go to Foreground & Background Colors.

Note

At this point, you're only seeing the sharpening done by the Low layer.

The High layer is hidden by the Brush-here-to-make-High-appear layer.

Paint the Brush-here-to-make-High-appear Layer

15) Paint where more sharpening is needed.

Where you paint:

• The sharpening on the High layer becomes visible.

• The sharpening on the Low layer becomes hidden.

If you brush an area by mistake, click Undo or erase the mistake with the Eraser tool.

Next

Why does Unsharp Masking Sharpening have unsharp in its name?