1-9 : Editing images with Blur, Sharpen and Smudge
There are times when you want to make an image a little sharper, or possibly blur some details (wrinkles?). There are ways to adjust the entire images, and those will be dealt with in Level 3. These tools allow you to adjust just the portion of the image you want to. This allows for either subtle or dramatic changes. Working with these will make those 'non-perfect' images a little nicer and can save some photos. These tools are shown in a video at the bottom of the page.
The Blur Tool is on a flyout with the Sharpen and the Smudge tools. Previous versions of Photoshop allowed you to access these tools with a Shift+R, this is no longer available.
Using the Blur Tool is a matter of selecting the brush size and hardness and then deciding if you want to change any options. Below is the Option Bar for the Blur Tool.
So... as usual, you see a droplist for presets, setting for the brush size and hardness, followed by the mode. Next is the strength. This allows you to set how much blur (max=100%) or how little you want to use. Sample all layers means that the tool looks at any all visible layers and makes the adjustment on the current working layer.
To work with the Blur Tool, open up a photo or use this one I took in Santa Fe. You'll see that it has a lot of detail, so you will be able to readily see the effects of this tool. Activate the tool, then select a size of brush about 100 pixels. Left-click on the image and Drag your cursor. You should see a slight to heavy blur appear on the image depending upon the hardness you have set. Try other settings and notice the differences.
The Sharpen Tool is pretty much the opposite of the Blur Tool. Instead of decreasing contrast between pixels, the sharpen tool increases it. Below is an image showing a sharpened area (left), normal area (middle) and blurred area.
The effects were applied at 100% to maximize the difference. If you have the Santa Fe image open, you can use the Sharpen Tool to make the rusted metal area a little sharper. Try this and see how it works.
Over-sharpening is something you want to avoid. This happens when you add so much sharpening that the contrast looks unnatural. Try to find the areas that were over-sharpened in the image below.
This tool is just for sharpening areas, here is another tutorial for working on the entire image or selected parts.
Out of the three tools, the Smudge Tool is generally used the least. The other two have common practical applications in photography post processing. The smudge tool can be used for blending two areas together or creating special effects. You'll see that you have similar options on this tool as with the others. Play around with it and get a feel for what it can do. Try different strength levels.
The smudge tool can also be used to create a painted look from a photograph. The video below shows the Smudge tool in action.
If you look at images from cheap digital cameras, or slightly out of focus photos, you can usually fix them with some sharpening (but be careful not to over-sharpen). Blurring works when there are parts of the image you don't want to have sharp - license plates, or bank account numbers (Select an area with the Marquee tool first). But you'll find that knowing when to use these tools is as important as how to use them. Watch for over-sharpening.