Selective Detailing and Sharpening in Photoshop
by Maggie Terlecki
This is a condensed transcript of the above video.
Today I’m going to show you how to bring out some selective detail in an image and how to do some selective sharpening in Photoshop.
To start with it’s important to know that unless you have an image that you want to be soft to
start with, then your image needs to be in focus. If your image is not in focus, forget it. A
sharpened out-of-focus image will be a sharpened out-of-focus image and will not look good.
n.b. If following this tutorial with the video, please watch at it with at least 720 resolution or
more for best quality viewing.
Let’s start by duplicating our image. To do so, right-click your layer and choose duplicate. Call
this layer SCREEN. Press Okay. Go into the blending modes of this layer and bring down the drop-down menu and choose SCREEN.
Now we only want to bring focus to certain areas, so we will add a layer mask. The layer mask is found at the bottom of your layer palette and is a square with a circle in it. What the mask does is that it acts as an eraser that when you use black, it will erase whatever you have done on this layer and show what is underneath and when you use white it will bring back anything you have done on this layer.
So, since we don’t want the entire image to be screened, we will fill our layer mask with black. We can either choose black as our foreground layer and fill the mask with black, or we can click ALT -and the layer mask and it will automatically fill the mask with black. Doing this will make the image look just like the image you imported into photoshop.
Now to bring back the details that we want lightened, we will now set the foreground to white and choose a small soft brush ( I chose a size 12 brush) because I wanted to lighten the iris.
Tip: to exchange the colors of your mask from black and white… pressing X on your keyboard will exchange the foreground and background colors. If you don’t have black and white as your colors, Press CTRL D, which will make them black and white which are considered the Default colors. I use opacity at 100% but a low flow, I paint in a bit on the bottom of the iris and on the highlight. This bit of lightening will make a huge difference to how alive that eye will look.
Now make the brush a bit bigger and bring up the flow a little also, and move over parts that have detail and you also want to show off and areas where there is light that wraps around to help give the image more depth. Go over little details and don’t push it too much. Also for screen, don’t go over areas that you want to keep dark. You want the contrast and not to make everything the same, which defeats the purpose.
Now that we’ve brightened up some areas, we will now do our dark areas.
Go back down to your background image, right-click and choose duplicate layer and drag that layer to the top of the stack. Name this layer – Multiply
In the blending modes drop down for this layer, choose MULTIPLY.
Just like before, we are again going to mask it all out and add the layer mask filled with black.
Everything comes back to where we had the selective screening.
Now with a small soft brush, we want to emphasize the eye area by working on the pupil and the area just under the eyelid. Make sure that you are working on the mask. It is selected when there is a small white border around the thumbnail in the layer you are working on. So, with white, we will darken the pupil a bit, not overboard… always be subtle.
We now will make the brush a tiny bit larger (remember to keep your fill low, you can keep on
brushing if you need more but a few very light strokes is always better than one thick on. Subtlety is your friend. So, now we are going to brush under the eyelid because that area always creates a bit of shadow beneath it.
Now look at areas that could use a bit of emphasis. Lightly go over areas where you want to bring out texture.
Look at areas that are wet, and push the contrast there, as contrast makes things look shiny, and the area in the dog’s ear is wet and we want that to really show.The amount of tweaking is up to you. You can do a little or a lot, depending on the style you want
to finish with. I like to tweak quite a bit, but always very gently so it never looks over-
processed. Tweak, tweak, tweak!
Now onto the sharpening!
Tip: When you sharpen, you need to merge your layers. You may want to keep your separate layers and merging would destroy them. A good practice that I use, is to select the top layer (it must be visible for this to work) and to press ALT and press the little triangle on the right of your tabs on your layer palette that brings a drop down to open up and choose MERGE VISIBLE. This will put a new layer on top of everything that is a merged copy of everything visible beneath it. It will leave all your layers beneath intact.
This selective sharpening is the sharpening you do at the end of your work. You will probably have already done a preliminary sharpening beforehand. The reason we do selective sharpening is that when we look at our image, there are areas that we don’t want to sharpen. When you have nice bokeh, or areas that you want soft, sharpening the entire image defeats the purpose, so doing it selectively, we avoid jaggedies along edges and just push the sharpening in a very precise manner.
We want to sharpen on a merged layer and not on one of the blending modes. So, on the merged layer at the top, we will duplicate this layer and then go into FILTER – OTHER – HIGH PASS FILTER. This will look odd as it will turn the image grey. Notice at the bottom of the filter, there is a RADIUS. Pull the radius up until you see the details that you want. Depending on the size of your image, the radius can go from a small number to a large image would use a higher radius. A little or a lot will be your choice.
We now will set it to a blending mode. You have many choices and each reacts a little differently. I tend to like to sharpen using SOFT LIGHT, but you may try the other options such as hard light or overlay to see if you prefer those. For me, I usually find these options much too harsh. I guess it all depends on what you are sharpening and if you wanted a knife to look dangerous, you would probably choose hard light.. and not soft light as your blending mode. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
Once you have chosen your blending mode, add a layer mask filled with black. Now, using a soft white brush but a good size, pull your flow up very high and go over areas that need to be sharpened. Skip areas that are meant to be blurry or out of focus as there is no advantage in sharpening them. Went over areas you didn’t want to, … simply press X and paint over that area.
Remember the contrast between the blurry and the sharp areas will actually make those sharp areas look even sharper.
Hope you enjoyed this tutorial
Selective detailing & Sharpening by Maggie Terlecki is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.