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Photoshop CS4: The Missing Manual by Lesa Snider

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Chapter 11. The Art of Sharpening

You know the saying “Last but not least”? Well, that definitely applies to sharpening—a digital attempt to improve your image’s focus—since it’s generally the last thing you do before sending your precious images off to the printer. Sharpening is muy importante: It brings out details and makes your image really pop. But it’s also one of the least understood processes in Photoshop. In addition to teaching you how to sharpen, this chapter also gives you some guidelines about when and how much sharpening to apply, so you’re not just guessing.

In case you’re wondering which of your photos need sharpening, the answer is pretty much all of ‘em. If your image came from a digital camera or a scanner, it needs sharpening. But why? In his comprehensive book on sharpening, Real World Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop CS2 (Peachpit Press, 2006), the late Bruce Fraser explains that images get softened (their pixels lose their hard edges) when cameras and scanners capture light and turn it into pixels. Then, those images get softened even more when they’re printed. Even if you create an image from scratch in Photoshop, the same deterioration occurs if you shrink it. To combat all these problems, you need to spend a little quality sharpening time with your images.

While Photoshop is pretty darned good at sharpening, it’s not magic—it can’t take an out-of-focus image and make it tack sharp (photographer slang for super-duper sharp, derived from the phrase “sharp ...

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