Sharpening without Color Noise

After sharpening the image with this technique, flatten the image (Layer > Flatten Image) if you want to save disk space

Original image.

I any photographers switch off in-camera sharpening because they prefer the control that they get from sharpening in Photoshop. The Unsharp Mask is a very popular sharpening tool, but a downside is that it can introduce visible color noise and halos. Here's a quick sharpening recipe that uses the Luminosity and Color blending modes to eliminate these problems.

Basic technique

After sharpening the image with this technique, flatten the image (Layer > Flatten Image) if you want to save disk space

Original image.

1 In the Layers palette, duplicate the original image layer by dragging the background layer onto the "Create a new layer" icon, or use Ctrl/ Cmd-J

2 Using the pull-down blending mode menu in the Layers palette or the shortcut Alt/Opt-Shift-Y, change the duplicate layer's blending mode to Luminosity and rename it "Luminosity"

3 Apply some Gaussian Blur to the Luminosity layer Set an amount of 200—250% with a radius of r and threshold of 0

4 In the Layers palette, use Ctrl/Cmd-J to make another duplicate of the original image layer and drag the new layer to the top of the layer stack

5 Change the duplicate layer's blending mode to Color using the pull-down menu or shortcut Alt/ Opt-Shift-C and rename it "Color."

6 Blur the Color layer using Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur Set a small amount—3 or 4 should be enough to take out the halos and color noise around the details

Layers

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Working with layer groups

Magnified to 200%, the original image's lack of sharpness is very obvious.

Applying the Unsharp Mask sharpens the picture, but notice how it introduces color noise—green is especially obvious in the boat's wake.

The blurred Color layer eliminates the color shift, but retains the sharpening.

I like to put the pair of sharpening layers into a layer group This way you can toggle both layers' visibility with a single click and it's easier to check your work One way to create a layer group is to choose Layer > New > Layer Group to bring up the New Layer Group dialog box Give the set a suitable name, and when you return to the Layers palette, you'll see a new folder icon with your chosen name You can then drag any existing or newly created layers in or out of the folder

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