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Free Sharpening Photoshop Action and Tutorial: Edge Sharpening

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What is edge sharpening? How can you get a free photoshop action that sharpens just the edges of your subject, and not noise and artifacts?

One of the things that I think often gets overlooked in processing is the right amount and method of sharpening. I have seen beautiful images destroyed by too much sharpening. I have also seen images that could be WOW, but they look kind of dull because they just need that extra sharpening punch. We are going to fix all that with this tutorial.

Sharpening for web is so important. Especially for your website where potential customers will be viewing your work. My favorite method of sharpening that I use for EVERY image is Edge Sharpening. I love this method because it looks so crisp and clean. Since it only sharpens the edges, it is great for high noise images because it won’t sharpen the grain. It will also leave skin nice and smooth. Too much sharpening can really make skin look rough. Here is another great thing about edge sharpening. When you use USM on your entire picture, it will blow out whites since it adds contrast. Using USM with edge sharpening will not blow out whites since it only sharpens the edges.

To get this amazing FREE “Edge Sharpening Action” by Jodi at MCP Actions, click here.

Here is how it works. First, open your image and make sure it is cropped and resized for web first. Now, play the MCP Edge Sharpening action. I am going to use a high noise image to show you how AWESOME edge sharpening is.

The first thing the action will do is make a mask on your image. You want the black to be really black and the white to be solid white with no areas of gray in it. When the levels box pops up, play around with the numbers until it looks right. I usually use shadows 150, mid tones 1.00 and highlights anywhere from 155 to 200, but do what works best for you. Whatever is solid white will NOT be sharpened, and whatever is outlined in black WILL be sharpened. This is what the mask looks like.

edgesharpening1-thumb Free Sharpening Photoshop Action and Tutorial: Edge Sharpening Free Actions Photoshop Actions Photoshop Tips & Tutorials

Next, comes the sharpening part. When the USM box pops up, enter your sharpening amounts. I always use amount 200, radius .5 and threshold 0. Now you see the marching ants showing you exactly what will be sharpened.

edgesharpening2-thumb Free Sharpening Photoshop Action and Tutorial: Edge Sharpening Free Actions Photoshop Actions Photoshop Tips & Tutorials

Sometimes that sharpening amount is too much, so just decrease the opacity of the sharpening layer.  There is also a built in mask if you want black to hide sharpening somewhere.

Now I want to show you what the image would look like if I applied the same USM settings to the entire picture. Do you see all the grain in the shadows behind him, the grain on his face and how crispy his hair looks in the global sharpened image?

img-872-thumb Free Sharpening Photoshop Action and Tutorial: Edge Sharpening Free Actions Photoshop Actions Photoshop Tips & Tutorials img-8721-thumb Free Sharpening Photoshop Action and Tutorial: Edge Sharpening Free Actions Photoshop Actions Photoshop Tips & Tutorials

Here is another example. Do you see how smooth her skin and hair looks in the edge sharpened image and how rough they both look in the global sharpened image?

img-5118-thumb Free Sharpening Photoshop Action and Tutorial: Edge Sharpening Free Actions Photoshop Actions Photoshop Tips & Tutorials img-51181-thumb Free Sharpening Photoshop Action and Tutorial: Edge Sharpening Free Actions Photoshop Actions Photoshop Tips & Tutorials

Now, go forth and EDGE SHARPEN!!!!!

Thank you to Elisabeth Ross of Elisabeth Ross Photography for writing this tutorial to accompany my FREE Edge Sharpening Action. Elisabeth is both a portrait photographer and a mentor at ClickinMoms .

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No Comments

  1. heather on July 15, 2009 at 9:05 am

    thanks so much for this – you are awesome!

  2. Shelly on July 15, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Does this only work for web sized images, or will it also work for full res images also? It looks fabulous!

  3. Gina Fensterer on July 15, 2009 at 9:29 am

    Awesome! Thanks!

  4. Norine Piet on July 15, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Thanks for providing the action and the tutorial.

  5. Kim Kruppenbacher on July 15, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Awesome..thank you! I was wonder if this works for print size full res photos as well?

  6. Kelly S on July 15, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Thanks for another great share & tutorial!

  7. Kathy on July 15, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Fabulous & Fantastic! Thank you Jodi!

  8. Elisabeth Ross on July 15, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    I am glad you guys like the tutorial. I do use this method for web and print. It works great for both!

  9. Meghan Justice on July 15, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Thanks SO much for this! I usually use the high definition sharpening action from Jodi, but I always have to go into the shadows, certain areas of the skin, and hair to hide the sharpening because it is too much. This is going to save me so much time and is going to work very well! Thanks to both of you!!

  10. Ashley Larsen on July 15, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Thanks. I really needed this. I posted a pic on my blog the other day and immediately pulled it down because the hair and skin looked crispy and grainy. The freebie has made my day… now off to use it. Thank you.

  11. Rebecca M. on July 15, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    This is awesome…thanks so much!

  12. Britt Anderson on July 15, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    This is great! Thanks Jodi!

  13. Amy Hoogstad on July 15, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Thank you SO much! This is fabulous!!!

  14. Silvina on July 15, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Thank you so much! This is an awesome tutorial and freebie!!

  15. JoAnne Bacon on July 15, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Thank You Elizabeth! I’m wondering, I use Jodi’s color bursst action often, should I delete the sharpening layer in her action and use this instead?

  16. Sarah on July 15, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Thanks so much! What a great tutorial and free tool!

  17. Kathy E. Mller on July 15, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Thanks for the action and tutorial!

  18. Crystal on July 15, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Thank you so much for this. I have an action I use to sharpen for the web that I really like, but I just tried this on a couple shots taken at ISO 1600 and it worked great! This is my go to web sharpening for high ISO shots! YOU GIRLS ROCK!

  19. Alisha Shaw on July 15, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Love it! Love it! Love it!! Thanks so much!!

  20. Staci Brock on July 15, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    Great tutorial, thank you!!!! Nice share too.

  21. catherine k smith on July 15, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    this is fab-u-lous! thanks for sharing your knowledge & free action — off to play!

  22. Kristi on July 15, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    You both absolutely ROCK! Thanks so much.

  23. Jack Sugrue on July 17, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    Wow! I just ran it on a picture that I “thought” was perfect. When I look at it after running the action, the result is remarkably better. Thanks for the action!!!

  24. AnaD on July 19, 2009 at 2:46 am

    Thank You! This action is great to improve the photos taken with my phone.

  25. RevaSeems on July 23, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    It’s better to leave Windows XP and just upgrade your laptop. It’s much better. Besides, Windows XP is way better then Windows Me. Windows Me is obsolete and many programs that can run with XP, can’t run with Me.——————-

  26. Juli on July 28, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Thank you so much! Wonderful tutorial. I’m in much need of a good sharpening action. 🙂

  27. Teri V. on May 29, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    I needed to hear this. I was struggling with the unsharp mask sharpening everything, instead of just where it was needed (the edges). Now I can correct that! Can’t wait to try the action. Thanks!

  28. Debbie on October 4, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    I didnt see a png file so Im guessing this is loaded to the local workpanel in guided module?

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