Easy sharpening for print

Sharpening has become the most important word in the photographer’s community in the last years and also a big business for many companies selling magic plugins or full suite advertised as the final solution to be able to have a crisp and sharp image from our super cameras!

Some of this programs work well, some less; many of them are just on par sometimes and under often the level we can achieve doing a perfect work on our pictures, a professional level sharpening with the right procedure; could be Hiraloam mixed with unsharp masks, with localized level made by luma masks or just many layers of high pass sharpening, different levels on luma mask on lab channel…etc.

In the end, you must be a very good Photoshop user with a lot of time to spend to be able to enjoy a very effective sharpening for monitor or even better for print.

After many weeks spent testing different software, actions, and plugins I found a way to achieve our common goal (mine was to print, yours? :D) with an easy process, for free and in a very effective way!

Thanks to Giuliana Abbiati and Dan Margulis, at this address there is a plugin , the famous PPW for Photoshop; Inside this plugin we can see many options, one of them is SHARPEN 2018.

All the info needed to be able to use the plugin are inside the link above and you can find so much more there; I’d like to write about my experience using a reference image to show the correct workflow to use this technique for prints.

In the Image above (Canon 6d with Samyang 14 2.8)  I did some basic editing: lens correction and highlights and shadows recovery, the standard I’d say, adding the full removal of any sharpening on Lightroom before importing on Photoshop.
We are talking about sharpening and yes, clicking in the PPW  panel the key “SHARPENING 2018” I see a menu opening in front of my eyes, where I always select “Keep open” to be able to edit some details before the final layer.

This is the list of layers I see after a while:

Editing in a proper way any of this layers adapting the mask or just changing the opacity of the layer is the key of this method:

-Dark and light halos need always big values (80-100%)

-Hiraloam light and darken require a different approach image dependent (15 to 60%)

-Hiraloam color just following our taste (usually not more than 40%)

-Soften shadows is one of the keys to this method, to be able to manage the typical bad effect on shadows of the common sharpening processes ( image dependent 50 to 100%)

-Exclude blues, another key layer, thanks to this we can work easily and fast with image containing big part of sky/clouds avoiding noise and problems (image dependent, on the above I used a small value cause no big empty blue parts) .

After the editing, you have to flatten the image and save, close the new image created by the panel and you’ll have two layers on the first image seen above, the new one and the initial image.

Following you can see the before and after of some 100% crop on Lightroom:

Sharpening finished??


I’d use the fast and effective one using Lightroom.

As you can see:

-360ppi for Epson, 300 for Canon printers.

-print sharpening dependent by your paper; for my experience standard is good enough.

-Color management… another big topic to talk about in a different post!

ENJOY your prints!

(I’m really enjoying mine too!)

G. Torre.