Friday, 15 February 2008

Further sharpening techniques

Following my posts on reducing the need for sharpening and sharpening techniques in general, then read George Barr's post on a similar topic. An intersting point was made in the comments about applying 2 Sharpening layers to separately control the lightening and darkening effects of sharpening. What a great idea, why didn't I think of that before?

So I had a go and the results look promising in Lightzone. One problem I generally have with Lightzone sharpening is that is creates a lot of bright artefacts. This new technique can help cure that (especially when coupled with my previous techniques).

In Lightzone this is relatively easy to do: 2 Sharpening tools, one with blend mode set to Lighten, the other set to Darken. A bit of experimenting is needs but I'm finding that the darken tool can be applied a bit more aggressively and the Lighten needs less plus a reduction in the opacity.

Here is the same example as I used before (click for 100% views):

No sharpening applied

Standard sharpening

New lighten-darken technique

These are 100% plots, therefore a lot larger than an actual print. The unsharpened produces a decent print, not unlike film. The 2 sharpening techniques produce very different results. Even though I've backed off the settings (Lightzone settings generally need to be higher than Photoshop USM) in the regular Sharpen version it is still producing a much more aggressive result especially the stippling in the fields. The new method uses fairly high numbers and zero threshold yet produces a more "natural" look to the sharpening.

I've also tried this method on a few other prints and the results are very good. The effects can be fine tuned quite a lot by having a layer for both the lightening and the darkening. It's proving useful for images with lots of fine detail. I won't say it is a panacea but it is another very useful technique to have in the tool kit.

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