If you are new to Photodoto start here: Start

Why is it called “unsharp mask” when it sharpens?

A brief history lesson about an image sharpening method called “unsharp mask.” Photoshop and other image manipulation software all have a feature with this name that will sharpen an image. So, why is it called unsharp mask?

The name comes from the original photographic procedure used to increase the apparent sharpness of a photograph on film. First the original negative was copied and turned into a positive (In a negative, black is white and white is black. In a positive, it’s the other way around.). During the copy, the positive was intentionally blurred. This is where “unsharp” comes from. Then the positive and negative were put in contact and exposed to light again. The blurry portion of the positive cancelled out (masked) the blurry portion of the negative.

Despite working with bits instead of film, digital unsharp mask works similarly by comparing the source image to a slightly blurred version and subtracting one from the other.

Source: Wikipedia

John Watson

John is the original founder of Photodoto, but after running it for 4 years he had to focus on different things. If you're interested in what John has been up to recently, you can check is personal blog or browse his photo blog.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

  • Stew

    Thanks for tracking this down and posting it. It seemed strange to me too but I never made the effort to look it up.

  • It all finally makes sense now!

Google+