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Produce spectacular highlights with the Sharpen tool

Added on Thursday 15th of July 2010 06:14 am EST

Adobe Photoshop CS/CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5
Operating Systems
Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


Unfortunately, many of your color correcting attempts will wreak havoc on your image’s bright highlights. But with the help of the Sharpen tool you can brighten them back up in a snap.


To improve targeted highlights in your image, we’ll:


• Introduce you to the Sharpen tool and explain how to set the options that control it.

• Create a new layer on which to work and use the Sharpen tool to increase the detail.

• Show you how to ensure your highlights aren’t blown out.


After all the time you spend color correcting your images in Photoshop, it may be disheartening to learn that color correction tends to dull bright areas, or highlights, such as reflections commonly found on shiny objects. Take heart, though, because sharpening can return highlights to their original luster. Rather than use one of the Sharpen filters, we’ll show you how to use the Sharpen tool to produce spectacular highlights in just the finely detailed areas.

To follow along with our example, download the file from the URL given at the beginning of this article, extract the file necklace.jpg, launch Photoshop and open the image shown in Figure A. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.)


Honing in


The Sharpen tool is best used to focus in on small areas that reflect light, such as eyes, glass, gems, and so on. You’ll find it nested in a flyout menu with the Blur and Smudge tools in the Tools panel. The easiest way to select this tool is to press [shift]R until it’s the foremost tool. Once it is, the following options appear on the tool options bar:

Brush. Before using the Sharpen tool, you must choose a brush from the Brush panel. It should be about the size of the image area you want to sharpen. Once you choose a brush and close the panel, you can use the bracket keys ([]) to adjust its size. Press the [shift] key in conjunction with either bracket key to change the hardness setting of the brush.

Mode. This option determines how the pixels that come in contact with the Sharpen tool are affected. Mode menu items for this tool include Normal, Darken, Lighten, Hue, Saturation, Color, and Luminosity. The Lighten mode, for example, is less apt to cause halos (dark contrast rings common to sharpening) because it creates less contrast than, say, the Darken blending mode.

Strength. Enter a percentage in the Strength text box or use the pop-up slider to adjust the default. Providing the Brush or Mode option isn’t active, you can also quickly change the Strength (Pressure) value using the number keys (2 = 20%, 3 = 30%, and so on). The higher the setting, the more Photoshop sharpens your image as you drag the Sharpen tool across it.


Use your noggin


Whenever you use a tool to edit an ...


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