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#95 Sharpening Selectively

In my opinion, learning how to selectively sharpen an image is one of the most essential skills for any Photoshop user regardless of his or her experience. Why? Because this technique is based on a core photographic truth: Viewers are attracted to sharpness in an image. Therefore, it is not always best to sharpen everything; sharpening just the key aspects of an image will have more impact. And that’s exactly what you’ll learn how to do in this how-to. Selective sharpening is a technique that is easy to apply and master.

To apply selective sharpening:

  1. Duplicate the Background layer by selecting it and then choosing Layer > Duplicate.
  2. Name the duplicate layer Sharpening (Figure 95a).
  3. Apply sharpening using one of the techniques presented in this chapter.
  4. Alt-click (Windows) Option-click (Mac) the Add a Layer Mask icon to add a layer mask filled with black to the Sharpening layer. The layer mask thus created will hide all the sharpening (Figure 95b). (For more on masking, see Chapter 10, “Masking.”)
  5. Choose the Brush tool and select a soft brush.
  6. Choose white as the foreground color.
  7. Paint on the parts of the image you want to sharpen. White will be added to the layer mask, revealing the Sharpening layer below (Figure 95c).
  8. If needed, change the layer opacity setting to decrease the sharpening amount.
  9. Click the Eye icon on the Sharpening layer to show or hide the sharpening to determine the quality of the sharpening.
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