IMAGE CLEANING AND SHARPENING TUTORIAL
As promised, here is tutorial number one. It is a bit crude but gets the point across. The image I am using is part of a low-resolution photo I took at the Venetian Hotel in beautiful downtown Las Vegas. It is suffering from horrible jpg compression and I need to clean it up so that it is usable.
While searching the web for images to use in your box art, you may have trouble locating high quality imagery. Having a great layout and color scheme/theme is extremely important, but if you really want to wow your viewers, this is the tutorial for you. In today’s lesson, we will discuss how to sharpen a blurry and/or noisy image while maintaining its overall integrity.
This will be a good lesson for beginners as well as seasoned veterans. Although this is primarily a Photoshop tutorial, many of the functions discussed are available in tools such as Gimp.
Low Resolution Original
1. Import your image into Photoshop. Make the flattened image into a layer. Rename the layer to Base.
2. Next, duplicate your base layer and rename it to Adjust. This is the layer that will be "adjusted" for clarity and accuracy.
Note: If your image is only slightly blurred and no artifacts abound, you can skip steps 3 through 6 of this tutorial.
3. Choose a small diameter soft smudge brush to start with. Set the mode to Normal and the strength to about 20% (you may want to test this first to see if you need to offset this a bit, but 20% should be a good place to start). Next, zoom in on your image until it is about 200% in viewing size. You may need to go to 300 percent in some cases. This will help you to better see the areas of concern.
4. Go to your Brush Presets tab and adjust your settings to tick on the Shape Dynamics and Smoothing options. Leave these settings at default, unless your are a very experienced Photoshop user.
5. Start softly smudging to correct for jpg compression errors and other graphic anomalies. Be careful to not smudge the edges of objects and persons too much. Also, do not be afraid to over-smudge consistent areas; you can sharpen this later. Adjust the brush size and strength as necessary. Do not be afraid to experiment, because you have the original layer intact (Base). You may even find that you want to use other brushes to help smooth out imperfections in clothing and other materials, but make sure you stay with the direction of the material's design if you are going for accuracy.
6. Next, take your cleaned up layer and turn if off for a moment to see how you have progressed. Here is a rough view of the smudged up parts versus the original compressed version.
7. Once you have completed your smudge work, duplicate the Adjust layer and name it Sharpen. Or, if you skipped steps 3-6, rename your Adjust layer to Sharpen. Change the layer blend mode to Hard Light and the Opacity and Fill to 50%.
8. Select the Filter called High Pass from the “Other” group of filters. This filter can be tricky. Big images with lots of changing colors and edges may dictate a lower setting; smaller images with less color and edges may allow for a higher setting. After the filter process is complete, you may want to adjust the layer Fill and Opacity to get the right amount of sharpening adjust. The 50% I suggested in step 7 is a general rule but not a strict one.
9. Merge the Sharpen and Adjust layers together, and then rename the new layer to BurnDodge.
10. The cleaning done in steps 3,4 and 5 may have left some of the image's color lighting/shading a bit off the mark from the original. Using the dodge tool set to about 33% on midtones and the same soft brush you used earlier, dodge in the areas of darker lighting and coloring to give the image back some of its original luster and fill to enhance definition. You may need to use the Burn too as well. This is where you can make you image really stand out after cleaning it. Adjust the brush size and strength as necessary. If you are feeling frisky or feel you need it, you can burn and dodge shadows and highlights but this generally not needed unless the image was really bad to begin with.
11. You may need to adjust the overall brightness a bit, as necessary; making the image brighter while leaving the contrast alone will generally do the trick (unless your image is supposed to be subdued or dark).
12. Flatten your file and save it as a PSD if you plan to use it in a box later. You may also save the file as a bitmap or tiff, both of which are lossless. If you do save as a jpg, use the highest quality settings.
Low Resolution Original
Thanks for reviewing this tutorial and we hope to see you next time, where we discuss the ups and downs of image scaling.