I’d like to work through a short project today to brush up on my skills. I found a great photo of a model that could use a small amount of sharpening around her eyes. In general, if done correctly, sharpening can really bring out someone’s detail and it can make a photo look fantastic. The trick is to apply only the sharpening you need. In order to do that, a few tricks need to be employed.
In today’s post, I’ll be working with a smart object, a filter and some brushes inside of Adobe Photoshop. This isn’t anything I haven’t yet covered on this blog, so if I pass a topic I’ve previously written around, I’ll link to the appropriate post. My goal is to sharpen only the model’s eyes and the areas around them. To target these areas, I’ll be taking advantage of a mask. Read on to see how I go about tackling this photo.
The Demo Photo
I thought I’d post the original photo here. To be honest, you won’t be able to see much of the resulting sharpening after it’s done because the photo on this site will be so small. If you think about it, looking at the result isn’t as important as how I got there. As I’ve said before, learning the “concept” is what you want to do. Once that’s done, you can explore and experiment for the rest of your lives with it in your toolbox and you can apply it to your own projects. Be warned though, what I do below is very common. You’ll definitely want to save this post because you’ll likely want to do something similar over and over again.
You know what? I think I’ll link to any related posts here. When I start writing, I get so caught up in what I’m doing that I’m sure I’ll forget all about the links. So, below are posts that will assist you with learning more about the steps I take during this project.
Creating a Smart Object
Since I’d like to have as much control over this photo as I possibly can, I’ll need to make it “smart.” There are two ways I can do this. Since I’m going to be working with a filter, I can head up to the Filter > Convert For Smart Filters menu item and click. That will turn the selected layer into a Smart Object. Since that’s all it’s going to do, I’ll cut out the middle man and simply right-click on the layer itself (not the thumbnail part) and select Convert to Smart Object from the menu that appears. Both of these steps do exactly the same thing, which is to convert the layer to a Smart Object.
After I convert the layer, a small icon will appear in the lower right corner of the layer thumbnail confirming the change.
Sharpening the Photo
To sharpen this image today, I’ll go up to the Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen menu item and click.
Once the Smart Sharpen dialog box appears, I’ll go through the steps of sharpening things the way I’d like to see them.
To learn more about how Smart Sharpen works and how it can benefit you with your editing in Adobe Photoshop, definitely check out these posts. They’re chock full of great tips.
Working With the Smart Filters Layer
Next, I’ll click OK and the dialog will close. Now, a new layer item will appear in the Layers panel.
Basically, you’re looking at the beauty of Smart Objects and Smart Filters in Adobe Photoshop. If you’ve read through my post about Smart Objects, you know all about their benefits. They’re great and well worth the extra file size they add. That’s a small price to pay for all the advantages they offer.
If you look at the above screenshot, you’ll notice there are a few new items under the original image layer in the Layers panel. We’ve got a white thumbnail in the Smart Filters layer and below that is the actual Smart Sharpen layer.
Think of it this way; instead of having the sharpening filter applied directly and destructively to the image layer, it’s applied to a layer unto itself. And to get to the image layer so it’s visible, that enhancement has to go through something called a Smart Filter. As you can see, the Smart Filter layer is merely a mask. Now, if you remember back to one of my previous posts on masks in Photoshop, you’ll remember that white reveals and black hides. Since we’ve got a white mask in this current case, all of the sharpening filter is being seen. If I wanted to hide any part of it, I could simply turn the mask black.
Okay, let’s get back to this post for a moment. When I first began, I mentioned that I didn’t want to sharpen everything in the photo. All I wanted to affect was the eyes and the area around them. As it stands, the entire image has been sharpened. That’s not good and I’ll need to fix that.
To deal with this issue, I’ve devised a strategy. I’ll double-click on the white mask so the Properties panel for the feature opens up.
Once the panel is open, I’ll click the Invert button. This will quickly turn the white mask black. So, if the white mask was letting the sharpening filter show through, the black mask is completely blocking it. Once I turn the mask black, nothing is showing and it’s like I haven’t applied a filter at all.
I do want to quickly mention one thing here. I used the Invert button to change mask color because it was fast. I could have just as easily use the Paint Bucket Tool or the Brush Tool to apply black over the white. It’s really a matter of choice. Masks are really easy to work with.
Anyway, now that all of the sharpening is blocked, I can reveal some of it in the areas of the eyes. To do this, I’ll select the Brush Tool and choose the appropriate settings for it. I’d like it to be sized similarly to the size of the color of the eye and to have an edge that’s somewhat soft.
Now, all I need to do is change the color of the brush to white, make sure the mask in the Layers panel is selected and paint where I want the sharpening to show through. I’ll do that now.
If you take a close look at the screenshot above, you can see the white areas inside of the black mask. Those areas are now showing the sharpening that was applied earlier. If I wanted a really large look at what I’ve done, I could hold down the Alt key on my keyboard and then click the mask in the Layers panel once. That will superimpose the mask over the entire image.
Here’s a really neat tip for you. If you ever want to see where you’ve altered a mask and select that altered area, all you need to do is to hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard and click on the mask thumbnail in the Layers panel once. That will automatically and beautifully select the revealed areas of the mask. Look at the next screenshot to see the marching ants.
So that’s Alt and click the thumbnail to superimpose the mask over the image and Ctrl and click to select the revealed areas. Those are great tips.
That’s it! That’s all you need to do to easily apply a filter to only specific areas of an image. What I went over today can be applied to many different types of filters, not only the sharpening ones.
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any questions or concerns, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!