photoshop creative

Retouch photos with filters

Posted in:
Magazine, by The Photoshop Creative Team
March 14, 2011

Get to grips with the best filters Photoshop has to offer for high-level retouching techniques


When most people think of Photoshop filters they tend to think of some of the more artistic approaches used to magic a photograph into an oil painting, cross-stitch pattern or similar effects.

In fact, the most commonly used Photoshop filters are regular staples of any pro retouching regime, whether the subject is fashion, sport, portraiture, landscape or still life.

Far from being something tucked away in the menus purely for a bit of creative play, the selection of Filters contain powerful commands that no serious Photoshop user should be without. And these are the exact filters that we’re going to highlight here; those that focus more on helping you create an ideal photo rather than the illustrative transformation side of Photoshop.

The first batch of filters to look at are the Sharpening filters. The most advantageous is undoubtedly Unsharp Mask, which can be used to perform a basic sharpening role as well as being put to more creative, edge contrast uses.

The process of digital capture has a natural softening effect on imagery because of the antialiasing filter used to prevent a phenomenon known as ‘jaggies’; sharp jagged edges that make things look pixelated.

Any image captured digitally, therefore, needs some form of sharpening to counteract that softening. If you shoot in JPEG mode, this sharpening will be applied automatically unless you’ve manually switched it off. If you shoot Raw for maximum quality, you’ll need to apply that sharpening afterwards.

It’s better to do it in Photoshop than at the Raw processing stage because Camera Raw sharpening algorithms just don’t look as good as Unsharp Mask. Our Unsharp Mask (or USM) suggested settings shown in the walkthrough overleaf are for Raw images with no or minimal sharpening applied (the default settings are negligible and fine to use). Note too that the process of printing an image softens it once more, so you need to apply a little more sharpening if it is destined for print.

And if the image is going to be reduced signifi cantly in size for the web, there’s a slightly different recipe to make sure the sharpening still shows up after the size reduction (sharpening after size reduction is generally not a good idea).

The full text of this feature can be found in issue 72 of Photoshop Creative. On sale now…

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