Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Intellisharpen v2.5

In our first look at Fred Miranda's plug-ins, we check out Intellisharpen v2.5. This versatile tool has recently been updated to work with Photoshop CS3. Additions to this version are the ability to "tweak" the results, giving you finer control over the entire effect as well the ability to control halo size - or choose zero halo.

So let's take a look. Start by downloading the correct version of the plug-in. Windows and Macs each get their own version, so make sure to choose the correct one. Follow the instructions and place the plug-in into the Automate sub-folder of the Photoshop plug-ins folder. To launch the app, choose File>Automate>Intellisharpen II ... This might confuse some who are used to finding such help in the Filters menu. You'll get used to it soon enough.

The GUI has been updated as well. Moving from the top to the bottom, the first stop is the Settings list. Settings allows you to save and load your own custom settings. If you have a lot of images from the same source, this will come in handy. Simply get the settings adjusted to suit, then click the Save button and give the new settings a name. Later, they'll be available from the drop down list.

Intellisharpen v2.5 works with many of the common file types we'll come across. The good news for us is that it works with 16 bit files. Under the Image Type box are two buttons, Low and High ISO. Select Low ISO File if your image has low noise. Select High ISO File if your image is noisy or grainy.

The Intellisharpen Level offers 100 levels of intensity. 0 = no effect. 100 = maximum effect. Each image (or set of images) will require a different level of intensity. Experiment with this slider and get a bit of practice with the effect - you'll be comfortable with it in no time. The Sharpen Fine Detail Level slider combines with the intensity slider and (just like the name says) it works on the fine details. It runs a bit slow with 16 bit images and it's disabled when you select High ISO.

Remember that the halo is that separation of edge detail that creates the illusion of sharpness. Most sharpening works to drive these edges apart from each other, making the darks darker and the lights lighter. In this case, the Normal Halo is a good compromise between halo size and detail sharpening. If you need a lower setting, try Low Halo or the 0% Halo option.

The Intensity Tweak works like a Fade Effect adjustment. Click on the Apply button to preview your results. Then, if necessary, vary the intensity of the effect with this slider. If your sharpen level is 60, then a Tweak level of 50 reduces the effect by 50% - giving a resulting sharpening level of 30. It's just another level of control.

Here is a 100% crop of our famous SUV before using the plug in.

And here it is after. The details are much sharper without over sharpening the rest of the image.

On the whole, this plug-in is incredibly flexible and easy to use. Learning how to take advantage of its power takes a little time and effort, but its worth it. There are some small issues as it relates to our workflow. It doesn't work with layers or Smart Objects (it'll give you an error and offer to convert the file for you). As such, you'll need to work this plug-in carefully into your workflow. Screen shots or good documentation will help with recording the settings.

For my photography work, I like it's flexibility. I can do many types of sharpening with this one tool. I am happy that its now available for CS3 and Intel Macs. I think you will be too. Click here to check it out for yourself.

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