Image © Robyn Aber

To obtain a crisp and clear photo, image sharpening in Topaz Detail is an applicable solution as it can emphasize texture, bring out details and add depth to your image. However, image sharpening shouldn’t always be applied globally or to the overall photo. Common areas to be cautious of sharpening include:

  • Skies
  • Water
  • Human Skin
  • An out of focus background (bokeh)
  • Areas with evident high ISO noise
  • Areas of constant/flat color

Masking is a valuable tool as it allows you to pinpoint exactly where you want the sharpening adjustments to be applied. For instance, emphasizing a model’s eyes without sharpening the fine lines in her skin would involve masking.

How to brush out sharpening with Detail’s Effect Mask

  1. Open Topaz Detail from whichever host editor you are using (see here for compatibility).
  2. Expand the Effect Mask module where you will see a white mask with several settings: Selective image sharpening with Topaz Detail's Effect Mask
    • Strength – determines the tone value of the mask brush from 0 (black) to 1 (white).
    • Brush Size – controls size of brush.
    • Hardness –  controls the edge hardness of the brush. A value of 0 is 100% hard, while a value of 1.00 is 100% soft.
    • Flow – the Flow controls the rate of the brush value being applied. At 1, the flow is 100% and will apply at the full strength setting of the brush. At lower values it will only apply a percentage of the strength each time the mouse button is pushed, however it cannot exceed the overall strength value.
    • Edge Aware – controls how aware the brush is of edges. Higher values indicate an increase in awareness, which is good for precise selections. Lower values indicate less awareness, allowing for a more natural brush stroke and transition.
    • Overall Opacity – controls how heavily your collective adjustments are applied to your image. Decreasing this value will increase transparency.
  3. In the left side of the interface, pick a preset from one of the Collections. Or you can manually adjust the sliders from the parameters on the right side of the screen.
  4. After you’ve done that, to selectively brush out the effect, go to your Effect Mask and move the Strength slider to 0.
  5. Brush over the areas of your image that you do not want to be affected. If you make a mistake, use the Eraser tool to brush back in the effect.

As you’re doing this, you’ll see that parts of the Effect Mask become black. This indicates that you have removed the effect previously applied in step 1.

Selective image sharpening with Topaz Detail's Effect Mask

How to brush in sharpening with Detail’s Effect Mask

Now that you know how to brush out an effect, brushing in an effect is just as easy. To do this:

  1. Under the Effect Mask, press Reset.
  2. Select ‘Invert’ (adjacent to Reset) which will turn the white mask to black.
  3. Move the brush Strength slider to 1.
  4. Brush in the effect accordingly.

Just remember, white = keep (effect applied) and black = remove (no effect applied).

Check out more resources on image sharpening here:


A special thanks to Robyn Aber who provided the photo for this tutorial. 

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