Post Production

Classic Course: Unsharp Mask

This long-favored sharpening tool is based on a darkroom technique that layers negatives

We assume only the true geeks (like us) are watching video training over the holidays, so here’s a particularly geeky subject for our Classic Course series: Unsharp Mask. This is one of the most popular tools in Photoshop to sharpen images, and some used it in After Effects as well despite its slow render speeds. However, its parameters and underlying process are a mystery to many.

Back in 2009, we decided to tackle explaining how it works. We also compared it to the faster, easier, less-sophisticated Sharpen effect in AE, and also shared some power tips on using it. In case you ever wondered how Unsharp Mask really worked, here you go:

The Theory:

Unsharp Mask versus Sharpen in After Effects:

Unsharp Mask Power Tips:


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Chris & Trish Meyer founded Crish Design (formerly known as CyberMotion) in the very earliest days of the desktop motion graphics industry. Their design and animation work has appeared on shows and promos for CBS,…

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