Thoughts from the team at Mission Data

Sharpening Screenshots in Photoshop

I often find myself wanting to clean up screenshots for use on our site and in various places after they’ve been resized down to a typical thumbnail size of say 250 pixels wide. Text becomes blurry and details are lost.

There are countless ways to accomplish a cleanup like this in Photoshop including using various settings in the Unsharp Mask Filter, but I always find that I’m tinkering with inconsistent results. I’ve since developed my own method which hasn’t failed me yet.

Full size screenshot that we’ll be resizing

When resizing an image I use the Image Size feature in Photoshop and then chose Bicubic or Bicubic Sharper in the Resampling options:

Resampling options in Image > Image Size

Here are the results:

Here are our images after resizing using the 2 options I use most often

I find the option at the left too blurry and the option on the right overly sharpened yet not very clear. So we’ll stick with straight Bicubic Resampling and sharpen ourselves. First duplicate the resized screenshot and apply Filter > Sharpen to our new layer. Here is our result:

The image is a bit too sharp for my taste still

Now the trick is to keep both layers in place and blend them together using a 60% opacity on the newly sharpened layer and leaving the original blurry layer underneath so we get a mix of the two:

Apply 60% opacity on sharpened layer

You can then merge your layers and here is the final result looking mighty fine:

Original image and final image after our fine-tuning

This all may seem like a lot of work but usually takes about 20 seconds to actually accomplish once you’re familiar with the process and has worked for me for years. And for those looking for a quicker recap of the steps:

  1. Resize image using Image > Image Size and choose Bicubic for resampling.
  2. Duplicate layer
  3. On new layer apply Filter > Sharpen
  4. On new layer drop opacity to 60%
  5. Merge 2 layers

Hopefully this little tip will help you in your Photoshop endeavors. Happy resizing!

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