Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

May 23, 2008

Image sharpening for Blurb

Filed under: Books, Photography, Projects/Series, SoFoBoMo — Doug Stockdale @ 5:44 am

Right now, this seems like crazy making. I now know that my process of creating images for a Blurb monogram book will result in soft resolution photographs in the book based on my press proof of In Passing. So why am I continuing to work like a madman on a second book that will end up looking like the first? I am spinning my wheels, my friends.

So, I have the concept, basic photographs, introduciton and book layout for my book, Places Amongst Us. But I need to figure out the photogaphic sharpening process for the Blurb books, otherwise it is again, Crap in, Crap out. And I just don’t have the time to knowingly look ahead to doing it right the second time.

Thus, I am now hukering down to work on the photo sharpening process for the Blurb books. I found today that with the Blurb book software, Booksmart, you can get somewhat of a soft proof of the results. The softness of my 300dpi JPEG image in the book was very close to the softproof. What I did determine today is that Booksmart does allow some magnification of the image in the softproof mode, but you can not drill down too far, about half the slidder they provide. It would be really nice if you could get to 100%. 

Yes, I did not do a drill down with the softproof the first time, as I had figured that the conversion from the Photoshop file to a JPEG file was tansparent to the file. Nope. And I had used the Bicubic Shaprner while making the change. Not enough to keep the original sharpness.

And I now recall a statement that Brooks Jensen made while he was preparing my images for LensWork, that he wanted to know how much sharpening my images had so the he did not oversharpen. So he was doing somehting to the digital files in the way of sharpening them for the subseqent offset printing. Ah, the black art of printing.

So now I have to figure out what that formula is for Blurb book printing. I guess the engineer is coming out of me again. I can not settle for ‘good enuf’ for what I intend to represent my work.

I’ll keep you all posted on my results;- )

Best regards, Doug


  1. I guess that is why most articles on the subject suggest you resize first, then do the output sharpening. I usually do this much the same way I do it for web. I edit my images in the original size from the camera, saving it as a psd file containing all the layers (for future tweaking). This version does not contain any output sharpening.

    When I decide to print, I create a copy of the image, flatten the layers, resize and then do the output sharpening. The first steps I do automatically using LR and photoshop droplet. On the sharpening I usually start with the PhotoKit output sharpening, and adjust the opacity of that layer to match the paper I’m using. When I did a LuLu book once, I used the Halftone option in PhotoKit, selecting the variant that best matched the printer LuLu used (I send an email and asked). The result was very good. Could probably do some fine adjustments, but I certainly ended up in the right ballpark.

    It looks like you gonna make it. I’m also determined to make something, but I really have to lower the standards due to lack of time. One month is really short when you got other commitments in life.

    Good luck with the finishing.

    Comment by Kjell Harald — May 23, 2008 @ 7:36 am

  2. I am following the (late) Bruce Fraser process of doing an initial low strength sharpening, then like you, flatten everything for a final output sharpening. Still trying to figure out the Blurb output sharpening, I could not find any help on their site. I’ll try that again today…

    Comment by Doug Stockdale — May 23, 2008 @ 2:39 pm

  3. BF also said that the only way of getting sharpening right on printed material is to print it and have a look. That advice is expensive enough to implement on an inkjet, but for POD books it becomes prohibitive.

    None of the POD services that I’ve looked have said anything useful on the subject. I’m actually waiting on something in the post now where I am getting a version A and a version B print of something which was made possible by a two for the price of one deal. But even so, effort :-(

    Comment by Colin Jago — May 23, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

  4. Colin, I am actually working on a sleuth project, which I guess is now in the open; a Blurb book on sharpening for Blurb. I am going to select one image and then go through a range of sharpening settings to a point of oversharpening, then get this printed and see if I have backed into something that looks good, thus develop the sharpening options for Blurb printing. I have to do it for myself, so why not share the results?

    Comment by Doug Stockdale — May 23, 2008 @ 4:23 pm

  5. On LuLu they used to tell which type of printer they used on the different books. Then I could determine the line pitch by google the printer manufacture. This was later confirmed by the customer support. Once you know the printer spec. You have a much better chance at hitting close to the spot.

    Comment by Kjell Harald — May 23, 2008 @ 10:29 pm

  6. Blurb prints their books on an HP Indigo 5000, a halftone printer, and printing on coated media. The presses are set at 175-lpi and Blurb asks for 300 dpi JPEG files. One option I have heard is to set PKS for “150-lpi coated 300 ppi”, but I am not using PKS, but the PS CS3 Unsharp Mask. hmmmm, what to do?

    Comment by Doug Stockdale — May 23, 2008 @ 11:27 pm

  7. Thank goodness for engineers! I just ordered a book I put together as a gift for a good friend. Now, I am afraid I will be frustrated with my work. I eagerly anticipate seeing the results of your research, since I also depend upon PS Unsharp Mask.

    Comment by Anita Jesse — May 24, 2008 @ 3:07 pm

  8. Haven’t got a clue what you should do with the USM when you can’t evaluate the result. The PKS thing was what I did, and it kind of worked.

    Comment by Kjell Harald — May 27, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

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