Ultra Sharpening

Hard Mix is a fascinating blending mode that crudely reduces a picture to one of just eight colors. Apply it to a blend layer, then add some Gaussian Blur and set a low layer opacity. Halos appear around the details, resulting in a sharpening effect. This recipe builds on that idea, applying more blur and producing extreme Hard Mix sharpening. It works on its own, or as the basis for other treatments.

Basic technique

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

2 Invert the new layer with Ctrl/Cmd-I.

3 Using the pull-down blending mode menu in the Layers palette or the shortcut Alt/Opt-Shift-L, change the new layer's blending mode to Hard Mix, and name the layer "Hard Mix."

4. Because Hard Mix has such a powerful effect, it's important to see what we're doing. You might not get an accurate view of the end result if you are not zoomed in to ioo%— certainly, my screen was very misleading. So, zoom in to the image to ioo% and you should have a threshold-like image with very little detail, and extremely harsh colors.

5 With the Hard Mix layer active, use Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur to add some Gaussian Blur—and don't be sparing. Any radius from 20 to ioo can produce interesting effects.

6 At this point the recipe is completed, but consider reducing the Hard Mix layer's opacity if you want to limit its effect.

Enhancing edges

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Original image

The amount of blur can produce wildly different results. Here, the image was bleached by a much higher Gaussian Blur radius.

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To finish this picture, I added a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer with the color set to a suitably military tone.

This is the sort of image that best suits this recipe. Both the Again, in this example the subject has plenty of detail, and subject and the sky contain lots of fine detail. this recipe acts like a powerful Find Edges filter or Threshold

The amount of blur can produce wildly different results. Here, the image was bleached by a much higher Gaussian Blur radius.

Although excellent in its own right, this recipe can also be the basis for many exciting variations.

Creating visual texture

Patterned halos

Psychedelic color effects

• The layer's opacity and the fill opacity have a big effect on

• the results of the Hard Mix. Reduce the layer opacity if you

• want to moderate the effect. But reducing the fill opacity,

• even a little, quickly removes the overwhelming contours

• and the Hard Mix layer produces a more conventional

• sharpening effect.

This recipe makes halos around blurred details. While this can * With a blur radius of just 5, you still get enough of the effect, be attractive, it's less appealing when the image has large, • but in this example, Hard Mix is too brutal on the sky. evenly toned areas, such as the sky around Big Ben.

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