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How To Do A Smart Sharpening With Layering Technique


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This tutorial is available as a PDF. Click here to view or download it


How To Do A Smart Sharpening With Layering Technique

Introduction :

                 In my first tutorial, apart from showing you how to reduce the noise caused by JPEG artifacts in internet-saved pictures I'm also showing you how to do an edge sharpening without making noise more noticable using Sharpen+ plug-in. In this tutorial, I'll share with you how to do the same type of sharpening- sharpen the picture edges at Luminosity channel without clipping to colour channels- this time by using layering technique called ' Smart Sharpening'. This technique is well-known among experienced Photoshop and GIMP users. They used a channel mask to guard the area apart from the edges, clipping the mask to Luminosity channel layer and do the sharpening exclusively at the same channel before clipping all layers to make a new composite image. Since Paint.Net got different features from both software, can we do this technique in Paint.Net ? This question whirled in my mind since my first day with Paint.Net. I love Paint.Net and preferring smart sharpening technique to other sharpening techniques at the same time, but I can't see the possibilities in Paint.Net. But I keep thinking positive and believing there're will be some way to do it. After following other photo-editing tutorials in Paint.Net forums, especially about solving compose-decompose issues and how to manipulate 'merge down layer' command, the bulb lightened up again. I can see the way to do it and starting to experiment with the plug-ins suggested for composing-decomposing pictures. This tutorial is a result from the experiment I did and also an evidence that Paint.Net also can accomplish what Photoshop and GIMP usually did and doing, but in a slightly different way. This tutorial was adapted from GIMP tutorial by Eric. R. Jeschke. For this tutorial, you'll need three plug-ins installed in your Paint.Net ( with download links for downloading 😞

1. Extract Channel

2. High Pass Filter

3. Alpha Mask


Process 1. Load the image/picture to Paint.Net.



Still remembering this picture ? This picture is the one I used in contrast mask tutorial, with the contrast mask being flattened and saved. 2. Duplicate the layer twice.



And then rename that two layers. The top one as 'Sharpening Mask' .




This layer is for the making of sharpening channel mask -to guard the area but the edges of the picture from sharpening effects. Then, rename the below one as 'Channel-L'.





This layer will going to be our smart sharpening layer, the luminosity channel. And will be clipped/merged with the sharpening 'channel' mask after the final step in the making of channel mask. After renaming both layers, simply extracting the channel for both layers with 'Extract Channel' command.





Choose 'CIELAB-L'.




And look at the changes happened to your editing history board.


Both layers successfully being changed to Luminosity channel. Now, we are ready for the making of sharpening ‘channel’ mask and smart-sharpening layer.

3. Making sharpening ‘channel’ mask.

i) Keep staying in Sharpening Mask channel and then go for edge detection :



This is how the layer looked like after being manipulated :


Use ‘Level’ command to adjust the black and white area, so that you can do your best to exclude noises from being sharpened too.

The black area is the area that being guarded from sharpening effect that happened later on and the opposite area ( the edges ) is the desirable area.

ii) Go for ‘High Pass’ Filter. This filter needed for feathering the edges.


Adjust the setting like this :


Different pictures, different needs so it’s depending on your settings. Make sure Sharping image and Greyscale box being ticked and High Pass Sharpen pane being set before clicking OK.

And then adjusting the black and white area again with Level command.

iii) Set the Sharpening mask as invisible ‘channel’ mask by using alpha mask.

Copy the sharpening mask to the clipboard before going to ‘Alpha Mask ‘


A prompt box will come up and look like this :


Make sure there’s a tick at ‘Paste from Clipboard’ options before clicking OK. Now, the black area disappeared from the sharpening mask layer, and only white area/the edge was left.

We’re done with Sharpening ‘channel’ mask layer, and now a time to clip/anchor the mask with Channel-L layer.

4. Clipping the ‘channel’ mask.

Choose ‘Merge Down’ command at Layers box ( the fourth from lower right /left  ), and the ‘channel’ mask disappears because it was merged with Channel-L layer in the process.


Set the blending mode to Overlay and adjusting the transparency of the layer. This time you can see the layer blending with the background.

( Notes : a) To make sure that the ‘Merge Down’ command is successful in clipping the ‘channel’ mask, the ‘channel’ mask ( Sharpening Mask ) layer should be placed on the top of Channel-L layer. b) If you want to save the image file in .pdn format so that you can edit the image file layers at any time, it’s recommended that you rename the Channel-L layer  to ‘Smart Sharpening’ -especially when your image file is multi-layered. )

5. Apply sharpening effect on the Channel-L/smart-sharpening layer. Choose build-in sharpening effect or unsharp mask to the layer. I’m choosing build-in sharpening effect, with the maximum value settings ( 20 ) for three times.

And now, here's the picture after applying the smart-sharpening layer :



The original image :




The original image after applying Sharpen+ command :





The original image after applying build-in sharpening effect without the smart sharpening layer ( Value set to 20 ) :


































All the best !



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