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Old Sep 2, 2010, 4:58 PM   #1
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Default Image sharpening/USM- How much to apply for prints

Hi Guys

I had a few pics that looked just right on screen in terms of detail and sharpness recently printed out but have been surprised how soft they actually look when printed out onto 8 x10. So my question is how much USM should you apply to a pic thats going to be printed depending on whether its fashion, portraits or landscape ?


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Old Sep 3, 2010, 5:31 AM   #2
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Hi Harj,

I think you're question is a tough one to answer in broad terms. I don't do any fashion photography. So, I can't speak to that.

As for landscape, I'm all over the place as far as how much I adjust the USM slider in Photoshop. Up until yesterday, I used Photoshop elements 8. The steps I would take to PP an image was to prior to sharpening, I first tried to eliminate noise, if any, using Neat Image. Having done that, I then used to USM in Elements 8 to evaluate the sharpness and adjust to what I felt looked good. That typically has been a value adjustment of between 25 to 75 using the slider.

I've read Scott Kelby's recommendations on the use of the USM and he routinely will go as high as 112.

I just received the new Photoshop CS5 yesterday and am going to play with it this weekend. That may totally change my post processing steps.

You may want to download a free trial of the Topaz Raw sharpener plug-in. It has the capability of sharpening the files depending on the type of printer is going to be used to print the image. It's a pretty slick software package.


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Last edited by zig-123; Sep 3, 2010 at 5:34 AM.
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Old Sep 3, 2010, 9:31 AM   #3
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well it really depends on the image. but for printing at 300dpi.

good starting ranges are like 150-250%, .3-.7 radius, 1-4 lvls
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Old Sep 3, 2010, 10:12 AM   #4
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This is one of those "how long is a piece of string" questions!

-It depends on the original sharpness of the image (different camera, different output...esp. if you use in-camera sharpening to begin with)
-It depends on the subject of the image (some subjects you want dead sharp, others you prefer softer).
-It depends on the printer you are using (different printers print differently).
-It depends on the software you are using (different software has different settings).
-It depends on the phase of the moon (just wanted to throw that one in to see if you're paying attention).
-It depends on what YOU want in the image (think that goes without saying, then why am I saying it?)

There's no one answer that's right...how long is a piece of string? Depends on how long you need it!

(added later)
-It depends on how large you're going to print, what media you're printing on, and the viewing distance of the print.

Last edited by Mikefellh; Sep 3, 2010 at 11:40 AM.
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Old Sep 3, 2010, 10:15 AM   #5
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I am confused on this issue too. Kelby sharpens the RAW image using USM and as far as I can tell, he's finished. Others say the sharpening should be done in stages with the final amount of sharpening dependent on final size and display media. I tend not to do any sharpening until I have completed everything else including resize. It's always made sense to me that a 5X7 print would require less sharpening than an 11X14 and also less for web display than for prints. I do like Kelby's use of masks during sharpening and it's easy to do in ACR. The masking technique can also be applied in Photoshop in conjunction with both denoise and sharpening
Paul G.

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Old Sep 3, 2010, 10:34 AM   #6
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I sharpen in Camera RAW. When I click on "open file" in ACR and the image converts and opens up in Photoshop, all I do is "save as" and I am done. I have not sharpened in Photoshop with USM, smart sharpen or any other way in a very long time.

In the sharpen window of camera RAW I adjust the amount and detail sliders, leaving the radius set pretty much to 1 all the time and I also use the masking tool to reduce or completely eliminate sharpening where needed so it would be hard to give any type of standard numbers because I don't have any! I then go down to the noise sliders and apply a base amount depending on the ISO shot at and see if I need to go higher or even reduce it.
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Old Sep 3, 2010, 10:49 AM   #7
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For me if I'm going for 300dpi I will use about 100-120%, 0.7 and 0 in PS, I did the same when I was a Paintshop Pro user and have been happy with the results.
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Old Sep 5, 2010, 7:32 AM   #8
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Hi Harj, to offer you a different perspective, I print exclusively with Q Image studio edition, I have been using Q Image for years and nothing short of $2500 R.I.P. software comes close to the final image quality. Q Image was originally designed as a printing program but has advanced to include some editing features over the years. It is like a super charger for your printer in that it takes full control of the print driver & printer and creates the best prints possible almost seamlessly. With my epson printers it prints at 760 DPI ,and the default print sharpening, this is a different part of the program, produces amazing prints. It also has a unsharp mask filter, but I find I have to rarely use it as the print sharpening feature is extremely intelligent being able to reconize what needs sharpened in the print & what does not need sharpened. One of the many problems of photoshop is that it is an editing program & not a printing program, so it lets your operating system have control of the prints which to me is never a good thing cause the operating system has even less ability to tell what a good print is than "photo-chop".
They just released a new version of Q Image that is geared toward professional studios (Q image ultimate) but I find studio is meeting my needs for the time being. They have free trials on their website so you can try them out.

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Old Sep 5, 2010, 2:43 PM   #9
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Hi Guys

Firstly, thanks for all of the replies esp as Mike put it, its a "how long is a piece of string" question but it had begun to bug quiet a bit.

My own work flow is very similar to Greg's - I just apply 40% sharpening, @ 1 rad and adjust the masking in LR to taste (portraits 70-80%, landscapes from 0 to 40%). Now for on screen that seems to be just fine and if I've had to retouch a fashion shoot then, I might have to apply more USM depending on how much retouching was required. I don't have my own printer so I've never really noticed it until recently when I had a few fashion shoot pics printed out at the local Walmart/Asda photolab and the portrait shots were just really unsharp. I had read something last year where it was recommended to leave the sharpening in the CS/PS and the reasoning for doing that seemed very logical at the time!

I'll have a go at using some of the settings suggested by everyone and see if there's an improvement. Q-image would be really interesting and good to know that there is software that can handle this but until I have my own printer that's going to have to be on my wish list.



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