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How to Sharpen Your Digital Photo in Image-Editing Software

Use your image-editing program’s Sharpen tool, if it has one, to “paint” sharpness in only those places in your digital photo where you want things to look clearer or crisper. To use a Sharpen tool in your image-editing software:

1

Turn on the Sharpen tool by selecting it from your image editor’s toolbox or menu.

This figure shows the Sharpen tool selected in Photoshop Elements.

2

Set your brush size, as shown in this figure.

The size you pick controls how big an area is sharpened with each click or drag of the mouse.

3

Set the strength for your sharpening effect.

A good default value is 50%, but you can raise or lower that level as needed by dragging the slider or other control, as this figure shows.

4

Click or drag over the area that you want to sharpen.

Clicking sharpens an area the size of your brush tip, and dragging allows you to sharpen in a freeform area, following an edge or working within a desired region of the image (like in this figure).

To keep the sharpening results as subtle as possible, avoid using a very small brush size (10 pixels or fewer) if you’re sharpening an area that’s more than 20 pixels wide and/or tall. Otherwise, you see your brush strokes where you applied the sharpening. Too much sharpening can also result in bizarre-looking bright pixels that end up hiding details because the individual pixels stand out too much. Sharpening can also increase your file size.

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