Create beautiful web-sharpened images with grain

I’ve received a lot of great feedback and suggestions since I originally launched my free web sharpening utility. My friend Suhail had an excellent suggestion to add the ability to add some grain to the final output. This can help give the finished image a bit of a dreamy, nostalgic quality that is reminiscent of shooting with film. In this tutorial you’ll learn how you can easily use the new version to add some grain while creating perfectly sharpened images for the web.


Controls for grain include:

  • Amount: Controls the amount of grain applied overall. 7-15% is typically ideal. Set to 0% to disable grain.
  • Size: Controls grain particle size. 25% is the default. Try much higher values to make the grain look softer / less noisy (note that values >25% may slightly blur the image detail).
  • Roughness: Controls the regularity / uniformity of the grain. 50% is default and often ideal. Try higher values if you want a slightly textured look (this may appear blotchy on very smooth areas).

For ultimate control, hold <ctrl/cmd> while clicking “Sharpen” to leave a layered version of the image open. This allows you to control the local sharpening and grain using the following workflow:

  1. Optimize the grain on the sharpened layer by double-clicking the “Camera RAW Filter” on the top layer, heading to “Effects” and adjusting the grain, size, and roughness. This allows you to optimize these sliders visually. It is best to do this first, as the grain affects the apparent sharpness and therefore affects how much you might paint on the masks.
  2. Use a soft brush (and selections as needed) to paint dark gray on the filter mask in areas where you wish to reduce grain. Using dark grey paint (rather than black) helps ensure you retain a minimum amount of grain in all parts of the image.
  3. Use a soft brush (and selections as needed) to paint black on the layer mask in areas where you wish to reduce sharpening (as this will allow the “no sharpening” layer to be visible from below).
  4. You may now wish to apply the same grain values from the sharpened layer to the “no sharpening” layer. Failure to do so may reveal inconsistent results or may look noisy if the underlying area retains grain you just removed.
    • Duplicate the Filter Mask so that the areas that get grain are consistent between the layers. Hold down <alt/option> and then click and drag the top filter mask down over the lower layer. You may continue painting on the Filter Mask if you need to further reduce grain, but that’s generally not necessary. **
    • If you significantly adjusted the values in ACR, you may also wish to apply the same slider values to the lower layer. A quick way to do that is to delete or hide (click the eyeball icon) the existing Camera RAW Filter and then hold <alt/option> to click and drag from the top layer to the bottom to duplicate the filter just like you did with the mask. **

** When duplicating masks or filters in Photoshop, you must hold down <alt/options> BEFORE to click and drag. If you start holding that key after clicking, it will be ignored and you will move the mask/filter instead of duplicating it.


For a more complete demo on the web sharpening utility, please see the original tutorial and demo. This script has received several bug fixes and enhancements since the original launch and you may read more about them in the version history text file in the download.

Greg Benz Photography