Web Sharp Panel Tutorials

This page provides a comprehensive tutorial to using the free Web Sharpening Panel from Greg Benz. This panel is designed to allow you to quickly and easily create high-quality versions of your images for sharing online.

If you do not already have it, you can download here. If you are interested in more free Photoshop software and tutorials, please join my newsletter (look for links in the footer of any of the newsletters for software and other downloads).

Key topics on this page include:

Overview

This free web sharpening panel offers:

  • New: A panel interface within Photoshop for easy access to sharpen at any time (also includes quick access to tutorials).
  • Extremely high-quality sharpening so that your images look their best.
  • New: Interactive cropping overlay templates to help you get the perfect crop.
  • New: Save custom preset sizes for Facebook, Instagram, etc (via the cropping overlays).
  • New: Output multiple sizes (or color conversions) of the image at once.
  • New: Add copyright metadata to images.
  • Remove sensitive metadata (GPS location, etc).
  • Automatic color space conversion to sRGB (or optionally to P3 on macOS).
  • Add film grain for a dreamy, nostalgic quality.
  • Multiple compression options to control the balance between file size and quality.

 

The main panel includes 4 buttons (and a flyout menu at top-right):

  • Sharpen (or Save): Click this to immediately output the current image with your preferred settings (this includes all the above benefits, not just sharpening). If you have opted to leave an image open to refine the sharpening or film grain, this button will adapt to "Save for Web" to allow you to easily save the image with your preferred balance of quality and file size. ***
  • Options: This gives you full control over the settings used when "sharpening". See below for details on all the options.
  • Overlays: Click this to add or remove cropping templates to your image. This allows you to pick the perfect crop, automatically output the final image with preset dimensions, and allows you to choose multiple sizes to be output at the same time. See below for details.
  • Tutorials: Links to this page for easy access to training and support information.

*** If you have chosen the preference to leave open or are otherwise working on a file already sharpened by this panel, this button will instead show as "Save" This allows you to quickly save the file with the output folder and quality specified in options after making local changes for sharpness and grain.

These buttons is described in detail below. Additionally, there is a Utilities menu option (via the three-bars menu icon at top-right of the panel). This allows you to reset options and popup notifications.

Sharpen

This button will immediately start sharpening the current image using the settings specified under options (see below). It will also use any visible crop overlays (see below). This provides a quick and simple way to create your output. If you wish to process multiple source images, just click this button while viewing each image. You may also initiate sharpening via the "Options" button, which may be preferable if you are frequently changing settings from one image to the next.

The "sharpening" process takes numerous steps that go well beyond just sharpening, including: cropping (interactively or via overlay template) to ensure proper display, conversion to sRGB (or P3) colorspace for best color, adding film grain for a nostalgic/dreamy feel, adding copyright metadata, removing other sensitive metadata, annotating key settings int the filename, and control over the tradeoffs between quality and file size in the final JPG.

Crop Overlay

This button is used to create (or remove) crop overlays. The overlays allow you to interactively pick the perfect crop, as well as automatically set the output dimensions for specific uses (such as uploading a landscape image to Instagram).

Using the overlays:

  • Click "Overlay" to add overlays to your image (these will be pulled from the template, which may be customized per the options below).
  • Resize (<ctrl/cmd>-T) and position any crop you wish to use. The only thing that affects the crop are the outer dimensions of the overlay, any interior details just serve as a visual guide.
  • Make the crops you wish to use are visible (click the eyeball icon for the layer) and then click "Sharpen". All visible crops will be used to create a new output. If multiple crops are visible, multiple versions of the sharpened image will be created. Hidden crops will be ignored.
  • When you are done sharpening: You may leave the crops in your image by hiding the group, delete the group to avoid adding to the size of your master file. (<alt/option>-click Overlay to quickly delete), or manually delete specific crop layers you no longer wish to use. Leaving the crop closed and hidden is a convenient way to save your preferred crops for later use.

Note: If you have used anything other than 0% for "dim cropped areas" setting, the cropping overlay group will include a sub-group which helps make it easier to visualize the crop. You should generally leave this alone, but may change its opacity to affect the amount of dimming quickly. Do not otherwise edit that group or its contents.

Settings

The settings dialog includes tabs for both Sharpening and Crop Overlays.

Sharpening options:

  • Use dimensions from overlay: If there is a visible crop overlay in the image and it is properly labeled with dimensions, checking this box will cause the dimensions specified in the overlay's name to be used instead of the width and height in this dialog. This allows you to save a range of preset sizes, and to ensure the output perfectly matches the aspect ratio of the cropping overlay. The overlay dimensions are established in its layer name by typing ###w and ###h, where ### represents the numeric pixel value. The "w" value is the width and the "h" value is the height.
  • Width & Height: The final image dimensions in pixels. These will be ignored if "use dimensions from overlay" is checked when there is a visible overlay with valid dimensions in its layer name.
  • Quality: Controls the balance of file size vs quality. This is important if you are hosting your own images and wish to keep file sizes down for quick downloading on the internet. If you are uploading to a service like Facebook, just leave this at the default "Ultimate". If you are hosting your image images, "good" and "high" offer nearly indistinguishable results at a much smaller file size. You may also choose "Save for Web" to be prompted with interactive options on every image (note that "Save for Web" will ignore your folder preference and just default to the last folder used in this interface).
  • Colorspace (macOS only): Allows you to choose whether the output is in the sRGB color space, P3, or both.
  • Grain Amount: Controls the amount of grain applied overall. 7-15% is typically ideal. Set to 0% to disable grain.
  • 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).
  • Grain 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).
  • Select Output Folder: Determines where saved images will be placed. This is ignored if you have checked "leave open". Note that you will need to set this at least once per Photoshop session (due to technical limitations in the initial release of UXP, panels are unable to save user folder permissions at this time).
  • Add settings to filename: Adds shorthand information to the final filename for dimensions, quality, and P3 color space if used.
  • Leave open: Just create a new image and leave it open without saving. This gives you a layered file that allows you to refine the local sharpening and grain.
  • Remove metadata: This removes all existing metadata from the file, such as GPS location, shutter speed, aperture, and other information you may not wish to share.
  • Add copyright metadata: Check this to have your copyright information added to all processed images. You will be prompted with additional options when you check this box. When enabled, this information is always added to the file, even if you have chosen the option to remove other metadata.
  • Sharpen: Starts the process just like the button in the main panel. It is included here for easy access in case you are changing settings from one image to the next.
  • Save and close: Remember the current settings for the future.
  • Overlay options: See below for information on the Overlay menu.
  • Cancel: Close the dialog without doing anything or saving any changes to settings.

Crop Overlay options:

The Overlay options may be accessed from within the Options dialog or by <ctrl/cmd>-clicking the Overlay button. It includes the following choices:

  • Dim cropped areas (%): This helps visualize your crop by hiding areas of the image outside the crop. Drag the slider all the way to 100% to completely dim cropped areas. Using 50-75% is a good way to cropped areas slightly to make small changes in the size or positioning of your crop. This has no effect on the results and is just intended to help better visualize the crop.
  • Overlay color: Enabling this will cause your overlays to be re-colored, which may make them easier to see for various images. For best results, your overlay template should use white at various levels of opacity. This has no effect on the results and is just intended to help better visualize the crop.
  • Use overlays when: This determines which crop overlays to use when sharpening an image, to give you more flexibility. This is especially helpful for saving crops with your image (so that you can easily use them, but not see them in the saved master image). "Only when visible" uses only overlays which are fully visible. "Visible in group" will use overlays which are visible in the group, even if the group is hidden. "All" will use any cropping overlay, no matter whether it is visible.
  • Edit template: Opens the current template so that you may make changes to it. See the "customizing the overlay template" section below for more details.
  • Import template from file: Allows you to import an overlay which you may have created previously or are sharing between computers. This will replace your current template, including any customizations you have made.*
  • Reset template to default: This is intended to help you recover if you make unwanted changes to your template. This will replace your current template, including any customizations you have made.*

* If you first wish to save a copy of your template, you may click the "Edit template" button and use File / Save As to create a copy.

Customizing the overlay template:

  • The panel comes with its own set of cropping templates which you may use, edit, or replace with your own. It saves a single template file internally to be used with all your images.
  • When the template is used to create overlays, only visible layers in the template are used to create overlays. Hidden layers are ignored. Making layers hidden in the template is a good way to stop using a cropping template, while preserving it for later (instead of deleting it permanently).
  • The exterior dimensions of the layer determine the crop. It is the aspect ratio which is important. The size does not matter (the crop will be resized to fit the height or width of the image when it is used). A proper template will have a rectangle as its outer edge.
  • You may place interior guides inside the outer cropping rectangle. This may include warnings for areas which may be hidden in some uses (such as the far edges of a landscape image shown as a square in Instagram's grid view). You may also use it to create overlay guides, such as the golden ratio overlays in the default templates. For such advanced templates, it is recommended to create the template as a Smart Object in order to build it from multiple layers (double-click the layers in the template file to see examples of this).
  • If the layer name includes ###w and ###h (it must include numbers with the letters "w" and "h"), these will be used to set the output dimensions when you click "Sharp" if you have enabled the "use dimensions from overlay" option. This allows you to save preset sizes for a variety of outputs. If you fail to specify a height and width here that match the aspect ratio of the crop template, the height and width will take priority and some additional cropping of the image will occur.
  • The crop layers may be normal pixel layers, Smart Objects, shape layers, or groups of layers. Adjustment layers provide no size information and are invalid (they will be ignored when using the overlay on an image).

More demos

The Web Sharpen panel was originally released as a script. While the interface has changed and the capabilities have expanded, the following videos are still great resources to learn more how to make the most of it. Settings for sharpening and grain have the same impact now in the panel as they did in the script.

Overview and comparison to other methods of sharpening

Adding grain for a dreamy, nostalgic feel

Troubleshooting Issues

If you run into any problems or warning messages, here are some tips...

Warning: The crop dimensions are inconsistent with the final dimensions...

This message is shown when using a cropping overlay who's aspect ratio does not match the output ratio. Common reasons for this and solutions include:

  • The crop overlay was not resized proportionally. Be careful to ensure that when you resize a crop overlay that you hold <shift> if the lock icon is off in the toolbar or turn on the lock icon. Be careful that <shift> toggles the lock, so whether it is good or bad to hold <shift> critically depends on that toolbar setting.
  • The template has dimensions in its layer name that do not match the aspect ratio of the layer => Make sure the template is properly designed, check the outermost edges, check the height and width in the template layer name are valid, watch out for anything that extends outside your intended cropping rectangle in the template.
  • The output size is being specified via the panel settings rather than from the overlay template. This may occur because the settings checkbox to use the height and width from the template is unchecked, or because the layer name for the template is incorrect.

Note that the panel is designed so that the image is always resized proportionally. So even if there is a mistake here, it will not cause stretching. Instead, it will cause the final crop to be different (even if only slightly) from the preview.

Warning: Crop extends beyond the edge of the image

This warning is shown when any portion of the crop overlay is beyond the edge of the image canvas, even if by 1 pixel. Check that the crop overlay is properly aligned when resizing or moving at the edges of the document. Photoshop's snapping feature may sometimes be off by a pixel or two when moving while zoomed out, so be sure to zoom in and inspect closely.

You should also check that the template does not have any stray pixels outside your intended cropping rectangle, such as parts of guides, text or other information you may have put into the overlay template.

I cannot see the panel:

Look under the Plugins menu at the top of Photoshop. If it is not there, it is not installed or has been disabled. If disabled, go to Plugins / Manage Plugins in Photoshop to to find the plugin and click the "Enable" button.

How do I uninstall the panel:

You may simply right-click the panel's name tab to close it if you do not wish to fully uninstall. Otherwise, open the Adobe Creative Cloud installer application via Plugins / Manage Plugins in Photoshop and click then click the ... icon next to the panel you wish to uninstall.