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Photoshop CS6: 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 an image’s focus. Because it’s such a destructive process, it’s generally the last thing you do before sending images off to the printer. Sharpening is muy importante because it brings out details and makes images 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 to sharpen, so you’re not just guessing.

In case you’re wondering which of your photos need sharpening, the answer is all of ’em. If your image came from a digital camera or a scanner, it needs sharpening. Why? In their comprehensive book on sharpening, Real World Image Sharpening, Second Edition (Peachpit Press, 2009), Jeff Schewe and the late Bruce Fraser explain 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.)

While Photoshop is pretty darned good at this sharpening business, 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 as a tack”). (One of the few ways you can produce well-focused photos is to shoot ...

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