Nik Gets Rid of the Guess Work in Sharpening

by Kevin Slimp, February 2003

Nik Gets Rid of the Guess Work in Sharpening

Nik Sharpener Pro! makes sharp looking photos a breeze.
After testing RedEye Pro by Andromeda Software, I turned my attention to the latest version of Nik Multimedia’s Nik Sharpener Pro! Nik Sharpener Pro! sharpens an image in any color mode (RGB, CMYK, Lab, & Grayscale) and focuses on sharpening an image specifically for the intended output process. Using a proprietary process, Sharpener Pro optimizes sharpening for the various print processes, including settings that work well with the newspaper press or other printing methods.

Nik Sharpener Pro! utilizes a unique feature that enables the program to automatically sharpen an image based on its individual characteristics. The “autoscan” process automatically analyzes the image to optimally sharpen the image considering its colors, detail, resolution (dpi), and quality. By utilizing this unique feature, the program is able to apply the right amount of sharpness in a selective fashion to optimally sharpen each image while maintaining its photographic qualities.

Nik Sharpener Pro’s “real resolution clarity index” is another feature that not only aids in its ability to sharpen, but also provides valuable information for users that need to assess an image’s quality. This index provides a rating of the image’s overall quality, considering internal variables, including detail, clarity, focus, color, and dpi to provide a consistent basis for image analysis. The index provides a rating between 1 and 600 for each image. A rating between 100 and 250 generally indicates the image will print well using the designated method (I tested images designated for offset printing).

This is how the plug-in works: I opened an image in Photoshop that, like most, needed sharpening. Normally, I would use the Unsharp Mask filter to “eyeball” just the right amount of sharpening for the photo. Instead, I selected Sharpener Pro! from Photoshop’s Filters menu. Using an image source slider, I indicated the desired width of the image, the line screen of the printer (normally 85 to 100 lpi for newsprint), print quality, and eye distance of the printed piece. I found this most interesting. The “book” setting provided sharpening for an object that would be held in the viewer’s hands, such as a newspaper, magazine or catalog. Other settings included small box, large box, small poster and large poster. Next, I clicked on the “OK” button and Sharpener Pro! went to work.

Sharpening, like most other Photoshop capabilities, is largely a matter of personal taste. Like many others who have used Sharpener Pro!, I found the results to be better than I typically get using Unsharp Mask. At $329 US ($489 CAN / $539 AUD), newspapers might not be rushing to place orders for Nik Sharpener Pro, but designers who use Photoshop extensively will find it well worth a look. Available for both Mac and Windows, a free demo can be downloaded from http://www.nikmultimedia.com/ .