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VIDEO: Advanced Sharpening and Noise Reduction in Photoshop

This VIDEO will show you how to get the most dynamic and sharpest images in your printed marketing material. This is a two-step Photoshop sharpening technique that will show you how to create the sharpest images without creating noise in smooth midtone areas of your photographs.

This is one of my favorite Photoshop sharpening tips in reproducing beautiful photography on press. All images are not as sharp as they can be when converted from raw files. These days there is a lot of post image processing that needs to be done with digital images. One of the key things that is overlooked is how sharp the image is. We now work with incredibly sharp LCD displays and images seem to jump off the screen. Unfortunately, when an image goes through the RIP (raster image processor) process in prepress, the image is naturally softened in the screening process.

Remember, your photography is only as good as the printer you choose!

Let me know what you think. Please leave your comments below…

[learn_more caption=”Transcript of Video” state=”open”] Hi. This is Rick Rys from

Today, we’re going to talk about one of the greatest Photoshop sharpening techniques to take your photographs from a good photograph to a great photograph.

[0:13] Notice the transition there. This will demonstrate how to take a great photo and make it into a true high definition color print when it’s printed on press.

[0:25] All right, let’s get started here.

[0:27] As you can see, I am working in the LAB color space right now. You can work in RGB and get the same results. I prefer using LAB. Just keep in mind you want to convert to CMYK at the very last moment so always work in RGB or LAB.

[0:43] First things started, we’re going to do a Select All and we’re going to copy and create a new Alpha channel here and paste our document or image into our new Alpha channel.

[1:03] We select that and we’re going to Filter, Stylize and click the Find Edges. Now what Find Edges will do is look at all the sharp contrasting points in the image and basically highlight those and create a line drawing for you.

[1:21] From here, we’re going to go on to our curves, which is our Command M and we’re going to alter this channel.

[1:30] First thing you want to do… In a nutshell, what’s happening here… We’re going to sharpen the darkened areas. The white areas will not be sharpened so we’re going to maintain our smooth, crystal clear, creamy midtones and not create any noise in there from excessive sharpening.

[1:49] First thing, you’d want to grab our shadow end of our curve and bring this over all the way up to 50%. At the same time, you’d want to take our highlight end of our curve and bring this up to about 20% or so.

[2:09] You can see right now we’ve created a much higher contrast now in this line drawing. And again just to make another adjustment here, we want to make our black areas a little wider as possible so we’re going to add some more density to that black and kick it up. You can see they’re almost intersecting each other.

[2:29] At this point, we’re going to click OK and we’re going to go into Filter and create a Gaussian Blur on this image. The blur will spread the black areas to create a subtle transition between these smooth areas and the sharpened areas.

[2:50] So, select Gaussian Blur and use anything… I prefer to use two and a half pixels. That seems to work fast for me. So, select 2.5 pixels and click OK.

[3:04] Now back to curves again. You could see we softened up the image.

[3:07] Now we go back to curves and harden up that edge a little more. So we’re going to bring our shadow end of our curve all the way up to 50% again. You could see how much darker we made that so we’ll get more sharpening in the areas. There is no information in our white areas here so those areas will not be affected by the Photoshop sharpening filter. Click OK.

[3:32] At this point, we’re going back to our full color image and go to Select and Load Selection. Notice we’re going to select our Alpha channel that we’ve created and click OK. Now that selection is brought to place. We’re simply going to hide the selection just to save on our eyeballs there.

[3:57] And now we’re going to do our sharpening. The selection is going to just isolate the areas that we want to sharpen. Go to Filter, Sharpen and I’m a huge fan of Unsharp Mask. It goes back to the old days of running the old color drum scanner. At this point, I’m going to play around with the amount.

[4:21] Now the amount is how much the adjoining pixels are affected. I like to go real high on this number, anywhere between 150 and 200. For this tutorial, I’m going to select 200 and it’s a high number but keep in mind we’re only affecting those images in the selection itself.

[4:41] You’d want to keep the radius anywhere between half a pixel to one to one and a half. If you go any thicker, you’ll create a severe halo effect around your images. If you’re looking for an artistic point of view, you may want to do that but I would not ever recommend doing that. So we’re going to stick to one pixel.

[5:06] Our threshold determines which pixels are sharpened and which are not. A higher threshold value means that there’s a huge contrast difference between pixels that are affected. Since we have our selection, it’s a moot point so it really doesn’t matter. So I’m going to stick with a threshold of zero.

[5:26] You can see as I move through the image and click on and off, you’ll notice that there is a great deal of sharpening happening in the contrasting areas but look at the midtone areas. They’re perfectly clean and not affected at all. Just an incredible cool little tool to utilize to create dynamic looking photographs. So click OK and we are done.

[5:53] At this point, we’ll go ahead and save our image and just to show you up close, we’ll zoom in here and you can see the difference between the two. Turn on… And turn it back off again… And turn it back on. Just an awesome looking sharpening job.

[6:15] OK, thanks for tuning in. Look back for more tutorials in the future. Take care. [/learn_more]




Blog Printing Video

VIDEO: Ink is a Printer’s Best Friend


This has to be one of the best videos I’ve ever seen. Please take a few minutes out of your day and watch this video. It’s great to see the passion people take with their jobs to produce the best color possible.

Our business truly is a craft run by passionate people who genuinely care about their work.

If you have an appreciation for Art, you will truly enjoy this video.

What could be more important to producing great color on press than ink?


Tip: View this at ‘1080’ full screen for best results. Press pause, let it spool up and enjoy…


Blog Coating

UV Soft Touch Coating and Spot Gloss UV Coating

Soft Touch aqueous has been a huge hit in the Design community, but wait till you feel UV Soft Touch coating! By applying Soft Touch coating and curing with UV (ultraviolet) energy, a more durable Soft Touch sensory effect is achieved. The result from curing Soft Touch coating with UV energy is no streaking, higher scuff resistance and a more velvet sensation. UV Soft Touch coating is a great way to create that special experience to your design initiative and make your design more innovative. Fabrics, fruit, product simulations and flooring designs are perfect for UV Soft Touch.

Spot Gloss UV coating is a perfect way to demonstrate very high contrasts differences in your design. Spot Gloss UV coating is applied similar to varnish only that the coating is ‘cured’ by UV (ultraviolet) energy. UV energy is a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is not visible to the human eye. We really don’t need to get into that conversation, we just know it looks really cool when it’s applied to great color!!

Applying UV Soft Touch coating can be challenging for a commercial printer. UV Soft Touch coating is a two part mixture. A commercial printer will have issues running UV Soft Touch coating on an irregular schedule basis. Between filling up the minimum amount in the coating unit (usually 5 gallons) and keeping the two part mixture agitated consistently, the coating will streak and cause other quality concerns. These issues are why commercial printers will have to schedule Soft Touch coating runs  spread out over many days and charging the client for ordering minimum amounts to fill the coating unit.

Get your ideas rolling now on how you can take advantage of these new coating techniques and create the sensation of feel to your design….

UV Soft Touch coating is a great alternative to printing on expensive touché paper stocks that are in high demand, but not too many can fit into their printing budgets.

Have you felt UV soft touch or spot gloss UV before? Please leave your comments below…


Blog File Prep Video

VIDEO: Creating Perfect PDF Files for Press

This VIDEO tutorial will show you settings that will ensure print-ready PDF files for faster turnaround times and no output errors in prepress. Compression settings will ensure quick upload times to

This PDF workflow will also eliminate the need to convert any of your images to CMYK. No worries, these PDF settings for press will work just fine with images already converted to CMYK.

Did you find this tip helpful? Please leave a comment below…

[learn_more caption=”Read Transcript of Video” state=”open”]

Hi. This is Rick Rys from

00:04 Today’s tutorial never convert to CMYK is a cool little export option out of indesign CS5 that will eliminate the need to ever convert to CMYK.

00:15 This cool little RGB workflow will eliminate a lot of disk space and save you a lot of time along with a lot of confusion regarding having two files of the same image.

00:27 You can see we have an image here that’s created in indesign CS5 it consists of an RGB bitmap image, you can see the color space is RGB, and it is tagged with the Adobe RGB color profile.

00:42 We also have a CMYK Adobe Illustrator image which is a vector graphic.

00:50 It’s important to note that the image is created with different values of gray. This is important because these color values of gray are built with black only and we want to make sure we do not re-separate this into a four color gray.

1:06 We also have a series of color swatches that are placed as pantone colors. Also, take note that we are using the LAB values of these colors.

1:21 So, once we are ready to go to press, we’re going to do a simple
export option out of indesign CS5.

1:30 We’re going to utilize the Adobe PDF X-4 standard. Once we select PDF X-4, we’re going to save our file and we’ll go into the export Adobe PDF presets and select X-4; change the compatibility to PDF 1.7 standard; select our page and then go through the individual tabs here.

2:00 Under compression, we want to keep these values the same. Where we’re going to downsample to 300 pixels per inch when our image is greater than 450 pixels per inch. This will allow for a much faster upload to the color server at

2:18 Under marks and bleeds, two things – select our crop marks and change our bleed to .125″ top and bottom, inside and outside

2:29 The output tab is the most critical. This is where color conversion is going to take place and convert our images from RGB to CMYK.

2:39 We want to focus on the color conversion pull-down menu. We want to select “convert to destination” and “preserve numbers”. The preserve numbers will maintain any native CMYK data within the document.

2:53 This is important for our placed Adobe Illustrator image where we want to maintain our gray values with just black ink only. Select preserve numbers and our destination this is where we’re going to convert to CMYK.

3:08 We want to make sure that we select coated GRAcOL 2006 color profile. The GRAcOL profile is the largest CMYK color gamut for sheetfed printing.

3:21 Under profile inclusion policy we want to make sure we include the destination profile in case we have to repurpose this or convert this to another press.

3:33 Under ink manager you’ll notice that we have our CMYK information here and also all of our placed Pantone color swatches. What we want to do to make sure is that we check the all spots to process. You’ll notice that it converted these into CMYK and more importantly, make sure that we select the use standard LAB values for spots.

4:00 This is important because this will use the LAB color data value for each
of those pantone colors for a much more accurate conversion into CMYK.

4:13 Once we select OK, then we simply export the file. Once we export our file, we’re going to open it up into Acrobat and you’ll notice that our file is here and we’re going to do a quick little preflight. We’re going to go into the advanced tab, print production and select output preview.

4:40 You’ll notice a little output preview window will open up. Notice that all are images have now been converted to CMYK! So we could simply go through the process and deselect our individual color and build our document: black, yellow, magenta, cyan for our CMYK values.

4:59 As we mouse over, you’ll notice that we are now in the CMYK color space and so have all of our pantone colors been converted to CMYK. More importantly, when we get down to our placed illustrator graphic, you’ll notice here that the gray is made up of black ink only. You’ll notice that up here, once I thumbed over the sixty percent screen of black, this was maintained by using the preserve numbers value for the convert to destination. This did not re-separate it into four colors.

5:33 The important part about this it saves a lot of time as far as balancing color on press and also eliminating any registration issues on press having to line up four colors for just one color gray.

5:47 Well, I hope you enjoyed this tutorial look back for more tutorials in the future

Have a good day!


Blog Printing

Why Color Looks so Good – FM Screens Explained

FM, AM, XM, Hybrid, Staccatto, Segundo, stochastic, conventional, 200 lpi, 175 lpi, 20 micron, 10 micron, first order, second order…What does this all mean?

NOTE: Screening is the process after rasterizing PDF files in the RIP (raster image processor) during prepress. Halftone screening is done through software and creates very small dots, or cells, that are imaged onto a printing plate. The tiny dots create the illusion of continuous tone photographs when printed on press.

FM Screening comparison to AM screening - stochastic versus conventional screening
Top: 200 lpi conventional (AM) halftone screen magnified 200x.
Bottom: 20 micron (FM) stochastic screen magnified 200x.
Image: Gordon Pritchard

Advantages to printing with FM screening versus AM screening:

  • Continuous tone photograph reproduction
  • Produces a larger CMYK color gamut on press
  • Renders greater detail
  • Eliminates moire patterns
  • Reduces ink consumption by as much as 10% – notice the ‘pooling’ of ink in conventional dot
  • Produces smoother gradients
  • More consistency in color throughout pressrun
  • Faster ink drying

Conventional screening (150 lpi, 175 lpi, 200 lpi) refers to AM screens, or amplitude modulation. This refers to halftone dots that are fixed on a grid, angled in 30 degree increments (except yellow: 15 degrees) and grow in size based on tonal value.

LPI = lines per inch

Stochastic screening (Staccato) refers to FM screens, or frequency modulation. This refers to micro-dots (20 micron, 10 micron) that are FIXED in size and tone values increase by adding more dots. The dots are rendered in a psuedo-random algorithm making them ideal for high definition details in photography and artwork. The micro-dots are rendered in a ‘weave’ to create very smooth tonal transitions.

Micron =1/1,000,000 of a meter

It’s important to note that FM screens produce a larger CMYK color gamut than AM screens. This occurs because light reflecting off the paper is filtered more efficiently, resulting in less ‘whiteness’ from the paper reflecting into the eye.

Also, reprints are less likely because of the stability in controlling color on press. FM screens are much less likely to be impacted by ink density variations on press. The ink film on press is much thinner and less likely to be affected. Notice in the enlargement photo above the ‘pooling’ of ink in the conventional halftone dots. This causes the press to use more ink than is necessary. utilizes 20 micron Staccato screening for all color printing.

Have you ever seen printing with FM/stochastic screening? Please leave your comments below…


Blog Color Management Featured Article Profile

VIDEO: What Color Profile Should I Assign in Photoshop?

Assigning an RGB color profile in Photoshop will have a great effect to how your images are displayed and printed.

There is a big difference between sRGB and Adobe RGB color gamuts. Adobe RGB has a larger color gamut than sRGB and will produce more saturated color. However, it’s not meant for all RGB images.

This VIDEO tutorial will step through the confusion of which RGB color profile to use with your images in Adobe Photoshop CS.

Most digital cameras save images with sRGB color profile. sRGB color gamut is smaller than Adobe RGB. While the RGB color values stay the same, the resulting color that is displayed is significantly different. For higher color saturation, choose Adobe RGB color profile. While not for every image, Adobe RGB is a preferred color profile to assign to your images.

All RGB profiles are not the same and will produce different color when printed even though the RGB values are the same.

In conclusion, I prefer to use Adobe RGB on most everything except portrait photography. Try both and see which one works best for you.

Have you had profile challenges before? Please leave a comment below…

Image: LM Studios