Last updated on July 13, 2022
Light | Dark

The Sharpener Pro 3 module is composed of two separate modules that are used at two different stages of the image processing workflow: RAW Presharpener, for preliminary sharpening; and Output Sharpener, for output sharpening.

RAW Presharpener

RAW Presharpener
Image: Gilles Theophile

The RAW Presharpener module, as its name suggests, is intended for the preliminary sharpening of RAW files, which are generally softer due to several possible factors, including the presence of a low-pass filter in front of the sensor; in-camera processing; and processing applied to a file upon its import into RAW development software.

To take full advantage of RAW Presharpener, we recommend that you disable any in-camera sharpening and sharpening in the host RAW file processing software.

Output Sharpener

Output Sharpener

The second module, Output Sharpener, is intended for sharpening after the image development and processing phase, depending on the destination and the output medium (electronic distribution or printing, which require very different settings).

Settings and help

In the RAW Presharpener and Output Sharpener settings, you can make interface adjustments, choose output sharpening options, and access the online user guide.

Filter settings

This tab applies to both RAW Presharpener and Output Sharpener, the latter having an additional tab (see below). After launching one of the two modules, click on the Settings button in the lower left corner. In the floating window, you can make the following settings:

* Changes take effect when you open the plugin the next time.

*For each of the default display options, if you select Use last setting, the setting from the previous session will be automatically applied.

If you want the program to transmit usage statistics, check the appropriate box. These statistics, which remain anonymous, allow DxO Labs developers to evaluate how users use the program, with the aim of developing and improving the product. There is a link below the checkbox that you can click to find out more about the improvement program (internet connection required).

To save your choices, click OK, otherwise click Cancel. To reset all options to the default configuration, click Reset.

Output Sharpener settings (Output Sharpener only)

Output Sharperner lets you configure the sharpening tools and calibrate the output file sharpening settings:

To save your choices, click OK, otherwise click Cancel.

Help

To access the online help links, you can go to the Help menu or click on the Help button at the bottom left (Internet connection required):

Interface and keyboard shortcuts

You will find the following topics on this page:

You can find information and details about the Open and Last Modified menus on the Standalone mode page in the Workflow chapter.

RAW Presharpener interface

Generally speaking, all the components of the Nik Collection suite share the same interface, except for a few details and elements. RAW Presharpener is composed of 4 distinct elements:

  1. The upper toolbar
  2. The image display area
  3. The right panel
  4. The lower toolbar
The four elements of the RAW Presharpener interface.

The upper toolbar

The top toolbar contains the tools and commands for the display.

  1. Single image display: Normal image display without separation and comparison.
  2. Split preview: Divides the image in two with a vertical red line that you can move left or right, or toggle to horizontal mode by clicking the arrow at the top of the line, with the option of also moving the red line up and down. The left half (or upper half) represents the image as it was opened in the plugin, the right half (or lower half) represents the processed and corrected image. You can also move around and zoom in and out of the image.
  3. Side-by-side preview: The version before processing is displayed on the left, the version after processing is displayed on the right. You can also display the two versions of the image one above the other by clicking on the button in between. You can also zoom and move synchronously in the two images, either with the Browser or with the Hand tool, by pressing the spacebar.
  4. Preview: by checking/unchecking this box, you alternate the display of the image with and without the noise corrections. The preview works with all the display modes described below.
  5. Modes: RAW Presharpener provides display modes for easy viewing of sharpening enhancements:
    • Sharpened Image: Normal image display with sharpening settings.
    • <strong>Effect Overlay</strong> displays a red/orange color mask when placing a control point or working with color ranges. This mask allows you to visualize the stacking of corrections: the more stacks, the denser the color mask becomes.
    • Effect Mask shows the effect of highlighting with control points or color ranges. White indicates a 100% application of sharpness enhancement, black indicates no sharpness enhancement, and intermediate gray values indicate more or less sharpness enhancement.
  6. Select lets you make a rectangular selection within the image—for example, to link together several control points or noise measurement rectangles.
  7. Zoom +/Zoom – lets you enlarge the image up to 300% (100% by default) where the magnifying glass contains a “+”. To zoom out, press the Alt (PC)/Option (Mac) key and the magnifying glass will show a “-“. The magnification value is displayed in the upper right corner of the image.
  8. Pan (or Hand) tool lets you navigate and move around in the image after zooming.
  9. Change background color: Click the button successively to change the background from medium gray to white, black, and back to medium gray. This lets you adapt the screen to the brightness of the image displayed (for example, you can darken the background to avoid too strong a contrast between a dark image and the interface).

The image display area

This is where the image is displayed, on a medium gray background (which you can change by clicking the Change Background Color button in the top toolbar).

At the bottom right, below the image, you will find the following information:

  1. File name and extension
  2. Size in megapixels
  3. ISO sensitivity
  4. Camera used

The right panel

The right panel displays the Global and Selective accentuation* tools, as well as the combined magnification Loupe and Navigator. You can open or close the Selective Sharpening section by clicking on the arrow or in the title bar. A checkbox allows you to quickly compare the image with and without locally-applied sharpening.

  1. Loupe: Active when the image is displayed normally:
    • The red line separates the preview before correction (left) and after correction (right).
    • You can move around in the preview by holding down the mouse button.
    • You can lock the magnifying glass at any point on the image by activating the pin and placing it on the image (with repositioning still possible).
  1. Navigator: When you zoom in, the Navigator replaces the magnifying glass, and displays the entire image. You can move around the image using the red rectangle.

* For more information about global and selective sharpening tools, refer to RAW Presharpener – Initial Sharpening section in this chapter.

The lower toolbar

The lower toolbar includes access to help, plugin settings, and save functions.

  1. Help* takes you to the online user guide.
  2. Settings* opens the plugin options window.
  3. Previous/Next lets you switch between images if you have opened more than one in the same session, and indicates the number of images.
  4. Save & resume editing**: activates reversible workflow. The ? button opens a page with information about this workflow (internet connection required).
  5. Cancel: Cancels the current processing and corrections and closes the plugin. The image in the host application is not modified.
  6. Save/Save All: lets you save the processing and corrections and closes the plugin. The image in the host application is modified. The Save All command appears when you have opened several images opened in the plugin.

* For more information, see the Settings and Help page for Sharpener Pro 3.
** Click on the link for more information about reversible non-destructive workflow (since Nik Collection 3).

Output Sharpener interface

Generally speaking, all the components of the Nik Collection suite share the same interface, except for a few details and elements. Output Sharpener is composed of four distinct elements:

  1. The upper toolbar (Output Sharpener)
  2. The image display area (Output Sharpener)
  3. The right panel (Output Sharpener)
  4. The lower toolbar (Output Sharpener)
The four elements of the Output Sharpener interface.

The upper toolbar (Output Sharpener)

The top toolbar contains the tools and commands related to the display of the image and side panels.

  1. Single image view: Normal image display without separation and comparison.
  2. Split preview: Divides the image in two with a vertical red line that you can move left or right, or toggle to horizontal mode by clicking the arrow at the top of the line, with the option of also moving the red line up and down. The left half (or upper half) represents the image as it was opened in the plugin, the right half (or lower half) represents the processed and corrected image. You can also move around and zoom in and out of the image.
  3. Side-by-side preview: The version before processing is displayed on the left, the version after processing is displayed on the right. You can also display the two versions of the image one above the other by clicking on the button in between. You can also zoom and move synchronously in the two images, either with the Browser or with the Hand tool, by pressing the spacebar.
  4. Preview: by checking/unchecking this box, you alternate the display of the image with and without the corrections. The preview works with all the display modes described below.
  5. Modes: Output Sharpener provides display modes for easy viewing of sharpening enhancements:
    • Sharpened Image: Normal image display with sharpening settings.
    • Sharpening Software Proof: Shows a preview of sharpening based on the output options and the physical size of the image. A scale is embedded in the lower left corner of the image to help judge the sharpness according to the size of the image. In short, it is an on-screen way of proofing sharpness.
    • <strong>Effect Overlay</strong> displays a red/orange color mask when placing a control point or working with color ranges. This mask allows you to visualize the stacking of corrections: the more stacks, the denser the color mask becomes.
    • Effect Mask shows the effect of highlighting with control points or color ranges. White indicates a 100% application of sharpness enhancement, black indicates no sharpness enhancement, and intermediate gray values indicate more or less sharpness enhancement.
  6. Select lets you make a rectangular selection within the image—for example, to link together several control points or noise measurement rectangles.
  7. Zoom +/Zoom – lets you enlarge the image up to 300% (100% by default) where the magnifying glass contains a “+”. To zoom out, press the Alt (PC)/Option (Mac) key and the magnifying glass will show a “-“. The magnification value is displayed in the upper right corner of the image.
  8. Pan (or Hand) tool lets you navigate and move around in the image after zooming.
  9. Change background color: Click the button successively to change the background from medium gray to white, black, and back to medium gray. This lets you adapt the screen to the brightness of the image displayed (for example, you can darken the background to avoid too strong a contrast between a dark image and the interface).

The image display area (Output Sharpener)

This is where the image is displayed, on a medium gray background (which you can change by clicking the Change Background Color button in the top toolbar).

At the bottom right, below the image, you will find the following information:

  1. File name and extension
  2. Size in megapixels
  3. ISO sensitivity
  4. Camera used

The right panel (Output Sharpener)

The right panel displays the Global and Selective accentuation* tools, as well as the combined magnification Loupe and Navigator. You can open or close tool sections by clicking on their arrow or in the title bar. A checkbox in the title bar of the Selective sharpening section lets you quickly compare the image with and without locally-applied sharpening.

  1. Loupe: Active when the image is displayed normally:
    • The red line separates the preview before correction (left) and after correction (right).
    • You can move around in the preview by holding down the mouse button.
    • You can lock the magnifying glass at any point on the image by activating the pin and placing it on the image (with repositioning still possible).
  1. Navigator: When you zoom in, the Navigator replaces the magnifying glass, and displays the entire image. You can move around the image using the red rectangle.

* For more information about global and selective sharpening tools, refer to theOutput <strong>Sharpener —creative output enhancement</strong> section in this chapter.

The lower toolbar (Output Sharpener)

The lower toolbar includes access to help, plugin settings, and save functions.

  1. Help* takes you to the online user guide.
  2. Settings* opens the plugin options window.
  3. Previous/Next lets you switch between images if you have opened more than one in the same session, and indicates the number of images.
  4. Save & resume editing**: activates reversible workflow. The ? button opens a page with information about this workflow (internet connection required).
  5. Cancel: Cancels the current processing and corrections and closes the plugin. The image in the host application is not modified.
  6. Save/Save All: lets you save the processing and corrections and closes the plugin. The image in the host application is modified. The Save All command appears when you have opened several images opened in the plugin.

* For more information, see the Settings and Help page for Sharpener Pro 3.
** For more information about reversible non-destructive workflow (available from Nik Collection 3 onwards), see the chapter on non-destructive workflow.

Keyboard shortcuts

ActionWindowsMacintosh
Select ToolAA
Zoom ToolZZ
Zoom outSelect Zoom Tool, hold Alt and click on the imageSelect Zoom Tool, hold Option and click on the image
Zoom outCtrl + “-“Cmd + “-“
Zoom inCtrl + “+”Cmd + “+”
FitCtrl + 0Cmd + 0
Zoom to 100 %Ctrl + Alt + 0Cmd + Alt + 0
Pan ToolH or SpacebarH or Spacebar
Apply FilterEnterEnter
Cancel FilterEscEsc
Delete Selected ItemBackspaceDel
Add a Control PointCtrl + Shift + ACmd + Shift + A
Duplicate Control PointCtrl + D, or Alt + dragCmd + D, or Option + drag
Show Control Point MaskCtrl + dragCmd + drag

RAW Presharpener — initial sharpening

The RAW Presharpener module is designed to compensate for the loss of sharpness in your image during capture, due to the presence of a low-pass filter in front of the camera sensor, but it can also be used in a complete sharpening workflow, from capture to creative processing to output (the latter two being provided by Output Sharpener), when you want to keep full control over this important phase of the workflow. In this case, and regardless of the original format of the file to be processed, we advise you to disable any sharpening, both in the camera and in the host application, especially if the latter is a RAW file converter and processor.

Enhancing overall sharpness

Once your image is open in RAW Presharpener, you can use a simple method which is suitable for the majority of images, and which consists of enhancing the overall sharpness with adaptive tools that you will find in the right pane:

  1. Adaptive Sharpening: Set by default to 50%, this slider strengthens (to the right) or attenuates (to the left) sharpness based on algorithms capable of taking into account the presence of elements in the image such as outlines, details, and flat areas. The rule here is to sharpen the image decisively but without exaggeration. You can control this by unchecking the Preview* box in the top bar to compare the image after and before sharpening (feel free to zoom in at 100% or compare using the magnifying glass*).
  2. Sharpen Areas/Sharpen Edges: Set by default in the center, this slider lets you give more importance to the areas and details of the image within the contours and/or to flat areas by moving it to the left; move it towards the right to emphasize the contours or edges instead. In general, however, we advise leaving the cursor as it is, and, if you need to emphasize something within the contours, use the selective methods discussed below instead.
  3. <strong>Image Quality</strong>: With this function set to <strong>Normal</strong> by default, the <strong>High ISO</strong> option (click to activate) lets you adapt the sharpening algorithms to images shot at high sensitivity and therefore with perceptible noise, which may be amplified by sharpening.
  4. Apply to entire image: This slider works best in conjunction with the control points. As long as you are satisfied with overall sharpening, this slider is set to 100%, but you can also use it to modulate the sharpening.
Overall sharpness enhancement

When sharpening, you can  compare the image before and after correction by zooming in on the image, or by using the magnification Loupe, the Preview button, or the different display modes available in the top bar. For more information about these tools, see the <a hqid=”2781365″ href=”#”>Interface and keyboard shortcuts</a> page.

Enhancing sharpness with control points

Applying and using control points

Control points allow you to precisely enhance the sharpness of parts of the image rather than as a whole. For example, in a portrait, you may want to sharpen the eyes and mouth but not the skin; and in a landscape, you may want to sharpen the ground, but not the sky  (especially a blue sky where noise could quickly appear). In the Selective sharpening section on the right, a menu allows you to choose between two methods, Control Points, discussed here, and Color Ranges, discussed further below.

  1. From the drop-down menu, choose Control Points.
  2. Click on the “+” button.
  3. In the image, click on the control point you want to deal with.
  4. The Apply to entire image slider automatically changes from 100% to 0%.
  5. Adjust the radius of action of the control point with the first slider.
  6. Accentuate the sharpness with the Adaptive Sharpening and/or Sharpen Areas/Sharpen Edges sliders, located in the top right corner of the panel (see previous paragraph).
  7. Adjust the sharpness to your taste using the control point’s Opacity slider (set to 100% by default).

Using and grouping several control points

To correct a large area of the image, set additional control points and repeat the above steps. You can also link the control points by activating the Select tool (A key), then dragging a rectangle over multiple control points. In this case, you can simply move one slider to make the emphasis apply equally to all the others.

Protecting using a negative control point

Left: blue sky unprotected from accentuation (100% opacity) / Right: protected blue sky (0% opacity)

You can also protect part of the image from sharpening with a negative control point (you can also put several negative control points together and link them):

  1. In the Selective sharpening section, click the “-” (minus sign) button.
  2. Click in the image to place the protection control point.
  3. Adjust the radius to encompass the area to be protected.
  4. The Opacity slider is set at 0 by default (no accentuation).

Here is another example showing the accuracy of a control point accentuation in the case of a portrait. Control points were placed on the eyes [1] and at different points of the mouth [2] to make them sharper, while negative control points [3] were placed to protect the skin from any sharpening:

The sharpness mask display mode shows the sharpened areas in white and the protected areas in black.
Sharper mouth and eyes, protected facial skin
Image: Scott Stulberg

Duplicate Control Point

There are two ways to duplicate a control point:

  1. Click on the control point you want to duplicate in the list then click on Duplicate.
  2. Move the mouse over the control point you want duplicate in the image while pressing the Alt/Option key. The mouse pointer will change to a “+” sign: click and hold on the Control Point, then drag the duplicate to where you want it.

Delete Control Point

To delete one or more Control Points:

  1. In the list, click on a control point to select it. To select the entire list or contiguous control points, click on the first control point and then click on the last control point with the Shift key. To select several control points that are not adjacent to each other, click on them while holding down the Ctrl/Cmd key. Then click the Delete button.
  2. Click on the Control Point you want to delete in the image, then delete it with the Delete or Backspace key on your keyboard.
  3. To delete several Control Points, activate the Select tool (A key) then drag a rectangle over the control points you want to delete. Click on Delete or on the Backspace key, then confirm your choice in the pop-up dialog box (you can deactivate this by checking Do not show again).

Enhancing sharpness with color ranges

Another method of noise reduction is color-dependent, and requires selecting <strong>Color Ranges</strong> from the Method menu. By default, RAW Presharpener offers you three ranges: red, orange, blue, represented by tiles accompanied by an eyedropper, which will allow you to select colors directly in the image.

  1. Click on an eyedropper to activate it.
  2. Place it in the image, then click.
  3. The corresponding color is sampled and indicated in the small tile.
  4. Accentuate the sharpness with the Adaptive Sharpening and/or Sharpen Areas/Sharpen Edges sliders.
  5. Adjust the sharpness with the Opacity slider below each color range (default setting is 100%).
  6. For another color, click on another eyedropper and repeat the previous steps.

To add a color range, click on the “+” button below the list, to display a tile (in pale violet), the eyedropper, and the associated sliders. You can add as many ranges as you wish, and you can remove them individually by clicking on their “-” (minus sign) button.

Note that protection control points can be combined with color range sharpening.

Output Sharpener — creative output enhancement

The Output Sharpener plugin allows you to prepare and sharpen your image in a creative way, depending on its destination (electronic publishing, printing, circulation) and on its size and resolution. This last stage of sharpness work comes after the following steps:

Output Sharpening and Creative Sharpening are closely related. Firstly, you use the Output Sharpening tools in response to the type of media you are going to put your image on, and then use the Creative Sharpening tools to enhance the final output. On this page you will find instructions for:

When working on the sharpness of your images, remember to use the comparison and verification display modes, as well as the magnification Loupe and Zoom functions, the latter being essential for checking the sharpness and the possible appearance of artifacts and sharpening halos along the edges. You will find all the essential information on the Interface and keyboard shortcuts page.

Output sharpening

In this section, you will determine the output media for your image, between on-screen display, which is the default choice, and a number of methods for printing on paper. This is the first step before moving on to creative sharpening, since for the latter you will not use the same settings for a screen and an inkjet printer. To choose the output media, click to scroll down the list (the options depend on the output type, although all types may share some settings in common):

  1. Display: Sharpens the image for display on a computer screen (electronic publishing, web gallery, etc.).
    • Adaptive Sharpening: Set to 50% by default, enhances or reduces overall sharpness (it works similarly to the same slider in RAW Presharpener).
  1. Inkjet: Enhances the sharpness of an image printed on an inkjet photo printer.

3. Continuous Tone: Sharpens prints in the photo lab (unless your lab also uses inkjet).

4. Halftone: Enhances the sharpness of images for print media (newspapers, magazines, etc.).

5. Hybrid Device: You can apply this option if you do not know whether your images will be broadcast (screen) or published (print).

* For more details, refer to the function description in section 2, Inkjet, above. Inkjet.

Creative Sharpening

Once you have established how to adjust the sharpness of your images because of their destination and output media, it is time to move on to the creative part of the sharpening process, either globally, or with selective tools (control points and color ranges), discussed in the next paragraph, which use the same sliders and algorithms.

The Creative Sharpness section in the right panel offers the following tools:

  1. Output Sharpening Strength: This overall sharpness slider allows you to modulate all other settings. The default value is 100%; you can de-emphasize the sharpness to the left, and amplify it to the right.
  2. Structure enhances or attenuates textures, without affecting the sharpness of the edges.
  3. Local Contrast: By acting on the micro-contrast of details, this slider lets you give your image more impact (towards the right) or, on the contrary, diminish the details (towards the left).
  4. Focus allows you to restore sharpness to elements of the image that are slightly out of focus by moving the slider to the right. By adjusting the slider to the left, you introduce a blur effect, as if the lens focus had been shifted.
Example of screen output sharpening with local intensity and contrast enhancement

Selective Sharpening

Output Sharpener’s Selective Sharpening uses two methods that you can combine: with control points and/or with color ranges.

Enhancing sharpness with control points

Control points allow you to enhance the sharpness in a very precise way on elements of the image rather than its entirety. In the Selective sharpening section on the right, a menu allows you to choose between two methods, Control Points, discussed here, and Color Ranges, discussed further below.

  1. From the drop-down menu, choose Control Points.
  2. Click the Add Control Point button.
  3. In the image, click on the control point you want to deal with.
  4. Adjust the radius of action of the control point with the first slider.
  5. Apply one of the 4 available corrections (click on the small triangle to reveal all the sliders):
    • Output sharpening intensity*
    • Structure (S)*.
    • Local Contrast (LC)*
    • Focus (F)*

* These sliders are the same as the ones in the Creative Sharpness section. See the paragraph concerned to learn more about these tools.

Grouping control points

To correct a large area of the image, set additional control points and repeat the above steps. You can also link the control points by activating the Select tool (A key), then dragging a rectangle over multiple control points. In this case, you can simply move one slider to make the emphasis apply equally to all the others.

Top: protection control points placed in the sky (as well as in the roof of the bridge), all sliders at 0.
Middle: Global accentuation applied; the bridge is sharper, the sky remains intact (no increase in grain/noise).
Bottom: The effect mask, where white shows enhanced areas, and black shows protected areas.

You can also protect part of the image from sharpening with a negative control point (you can also put several negative control points together and link them):

  1. Click the Add Control Point button.
  2. Adjust the radius to encompass the area to be protected.
  3. Set the sliders to 0 (no sharpening) to protect that part of the image from sharpening.

Managing control points

The Control Points list lets you:

  1. Temporarily deactivate a control point: click on the checkbox on the left.
  2. The value in % indicates the size of the control point’s radius of action (adjusted with the Size slider for each control point).
  3. Show/hide selection for all Control Points: You can display the monochrome mask of all control points at the same time by clicking the square button in the header of the control point list, or individually by checking the checkbox(es) in the same column. Note that the mask displays white (areas affected by 100% corrections), black (areas not affected by corrections), and shades of gray, depending on the density of the correction.
  4. Reset the Control Point sliders: The curved arrow on the far right resets the slider settings for the selected Control Point to 0%.

Duplicate Control Point

There are two ways to duplicate a control point:

  1. Click on the Control Point you want to duplicate in the list then click on Duplicate (5).
  2. Move the mouse over the control point you want duplicate in the image while pressing the Alt/Option key. The mouse pointer will change to a “+” sign: click and hold on the Control Point, then drag the duplicate to where you want it.

Delete Control Point

To delete one or more Control Points:

  1. In the list, click on a control point to select it. To select the entire list or contiguous control points, click on the first control point and then click on the last control point with the Shift key. To select several control points that are not adjacent to each other, click on them while holding down the Ctrl/Cmd key. Then click the Delete button (6).
  2. Click on the Control Point you want to delete in the image, then delete it with the Delete or Backspace key on your keyboard.
  3. To delete several Control Points, activate the Select tool (A key) then drag a rectangle over the control points you want to delete. Click on Delete or on the Backspace key, then confirm your choice in the pop-up dialog box (you can deactivate this by checking Do not show again).

Enhancing sharpness with color ranges

Choose Color Ranges from the Method menu. By default, Output Sharpener offers you three ranges: red, orange, blue, represented by tiles accompanied by an eyedropper, which will allow you to select colors directly in the image:

  1. Click on an eyedropper to activate it.
  2. Place it in the image, then click.
  3. The corresponding color is sampled and indicated in the small tile.
  4. Locally accentuate or reduce the output sharpness using the Output Sharpening intensity slider, which will alter the adjustments you do in the Creative Sharpening section. For another color, click on another eyedropper and repeat the previous steps.
  5. To add a color range, click on the “+” button below the list. This will display the tile (in green), the eyedropper, and the associated sliders. You can add as many ranges as you wish, and you can remove them individually by clicking on their “-” (minus sign) button.

Note that protection control points can be combined with color range sharpening.

Presets

If you have developed a sharpening method and want to use it later on future images, you do not need to redo all the settings every time you start a work session. At the top of the right panel is a section for managing presets:

  1. Make your adjustments in Output Sharpener.
  2. In the presets section, click Add New Preset.
  3. A dialog box will prompt you to enter the name of your preset.
  4. Confirm by clicking OK.
  5. Your preset appears in the section. When working on a new image, click on the preset to apply it.

You can create as many presets as you want, and manage them with the following commands:

  1. To update your preset with new settings, hover over the preset, then click the Update button on the right.
  2. To delete a preset, hover over it, then click the X button on the left.

Was this page helpful?