Master the Photoshop Unsharp Mask tool in 10 minutes or less

Master the Unsharp Mask Tool in 10 Minutes or Less

There are many reasons why you might want to sharpen a photo, but generally it will be to bring soft areas into greater focus. By using built in tools in Photoshop, you can increase the crispness of your images. Both Photoshop Elements and Photoshop CS2 and above come with sharpening tools you can use to enhance your pics. In the quick guide below we’ll show you how the Photoshop Unsharp Mask can give your print-ready photos.


1. Open Unsharp Mask

Open your start image and zoom to 100 per cent. Now select Unsharp Mask by going to Enhance> UnsharpMask in Photoshop Elements or Filter> Sharpen>UnsharpMask in Photoshop CS. Unsharp Mask works by boosting contrast along the edges of an image. The Amount slider is pretty self-explanatory, controlling the amount of sharpening applied.


2. The Radius slider

Increasing the Radius value increases the number of pixels from the edges in your photo that are sharpened. The larger the radius, the more extreme the result. Try a setting of between 0.9 and 1.2 if youre sharpening to improve screen display and between 1.5 and 2.0 if youre sharpening for print.


3. The Threshold slider

When the Threshold slider is at 0 every pixel will be sharpened. Increasing the slider will decrease the number of pixels that are sharpened by telling Photoshop to ignore pixels that are similar in contrast to the edge pixels. Avoid going higher than 20.


4. Smart previewing

Theres a small preview window in the Unsharp Mask window, but its far more sensible to just move the Unsharp Mask window to the side and look at the effect on the photo itself. Check and uncheck the Preview button to monitor the changes you make


5. Balancing act

It can be hard to find the right level of sharpening you dont want to oversharpen in case artefacts (digital noise) or halos (bright lines around the edges of objects) appear, but you dont want a ‘soft photo either. Aim to find the best combination of sliders.


6. Push it up

To find the right level of sharpening try setting a high amount, such as 200 per cent, and then experimenting with the Radius and Threshold sliders until youre happy. You can then decrease the amount of sharpening to a safer level. Click OK to apply.