The 4 sliders of the Sharpen Filter are: Strength, Width, Smooth, and Gate.
The Strength slider sets the overall intensity of the filter. The filter intensity ranges from 0 - 500.
The Width slider determines how far in every direction, from each pixel, the filter gathers information. The width ranges from 1 - 5. See the advice that follows.
The Smooth slider smooths out the noise produced by the Sharpening process. The value ranges from 0 - 25. See the advice that follows.
The Noise Reduction slider reduces the ISO noise inherent in most photos, especially ones taken in low light situations. This slider can also be used to clean up the noise not smoothed out by the Smooth slider. The slider's value ranges from 0 - 10. See the advice that follows.
Some Advice: Although there is no right or wrong way to use this filter, a few rules of thumb apply. In general, you would want to keep the Width set to 1 or maybe 2 if the detail
of the image is small. Conversely, if the detail is spread out over several pixels, as is the case with most large mb images, or if the image is blurry, or noisy, you would want to set the Width to 3, 4, or 5. Since you probably have no idea what I'm talking about, how about an example?
Width = 1.
Width = 5.
Both the center photo, and the photo on the right, had settings of: Strength: 200, Smooth: 10, and Noise Reduction: 0. Looking at the photos above, its clear that the center photo, with a Width of 1, came out looking better than the photo on the right, which had a width of 5. The reason that a value of 1 works best with this image, is because
the photo has relatively small detail. The woman's face is only about 100 pixels wide, and is fairly sharp to begin with. This means that detail can exist on the scale of a single pixel. Next lets take a look at an example where the opposite is true.
Width = 1.
Width = 5.
In the above example, both the center photo, and the photo on the right, had settings of: Strength: 300, Smooth: 16, and Noise Reduction: 5. The original full sized photo was so big (3456 x 5184 = 18 MP), that this cropping of just her eye, is wider than the whole face in the first example. Usually large photos (several 1000 x several 1000 pixels) tend to be slightly blurry on the scale of a single pixel. This particular photo also had a lot of ISO noise, making it especially difficult to work with. In the center photo, you'll notice that setting the Width to 1 had almost no effect.
However, the image on the right, with the Width set to 5, looks considerably clearer.
Some More Advice: Sharpening an image, with the Width set to 4 of 5, can take considerably longer than with the Width set to a lower number. This is a complex filter, with a LOT of math going on behind the scenes. On a large image, for instance over 10 MP, this can mean literally BILLIONS of calculations carried out by the processor. For this reason, it may be a good idea to not have the Update box checked while making the initial adjustments of the sliders.
The reason being is because everytime you move a slider with the Update box checked, the whole image will be processed, and that could take a decent chunk of time. Therefore it's probably best when Sharpening large images, to make the adjustments looking at the Viewport windows. However, if the Width is set to a lower number, or the image is not huge, then it should be fine either way.
Also you should be aware that Sharpening enhances the noise inherent in most images. CheapSkate's Sharpening filter uses both the Smooth slider, and the Noise Reduction slider to help control the noise. The Smoothing effect uses a sophisticated approach to separate noise from actual image detail, and does a good job of repressing the noise,
without eating away at the important detail. The Noise Reduction slider can be used to both suppress ISO noise, and clean up any noise left behind by the Smooth slider. A Noise Reduction value of 0 = no noise suppression. If an image does not seem too noisy to begin with, or even after sharpening, then the Noise Reduction slider should be left at 0. Using this slider on images that don't need it, can actually degrade the look of the image.
The 2 sliders of the Soften Filter are Blend and Width.
The Blend Slider sets the balance between the original image, and the Softened image.
The Width Slider sets the distance each pixel is blurred.
CheapSkate's Soften Filter, is a dual pass filter that softens the image, first horizontally, then vertically. The Width slider determines how many pixels to blur the image in each direction. The Width can be set to anywhere from 1 to 20 pixels wide. The Blend slider overlays the Softened image on top of the original image. A Blend value of 0 equals no Softening and 100% original, resulting in no change to the image. A value of 100 equals 100% the Softened image. A blend value of 50 results in an image that has equal characteristics of both the original, and the Softened image.
By adjusting the 2 sliders, you can blur the image a little or a lot. Using the Blend slider, you can create an image that's a complete blur, or you can create a sort of dreamy soft focus, similar to what a lot of pro photographers do with portraits, and other photos.
Blend = 50.
Blend = 100.
In the photos above, both the center photo, and the photo on the right had the Width set to 9. The photo on the right had the Blend set to 100, resulting in a photo that was blurred 9 pixels horizontally, and vertically. The center photo, with a Blend setting of 50, has equal characteristics of both the original photo, and the blurred photo.
The resulting mix gives a pleasing sort of soft focus, that's not so blurred as to seem indistinct.
This soft focus effect looks especially good when the subject is partially lit against a darker background, for instance if they are in sunlight. Higher contrast images work best, since softening reduces the contrast. Setting the Width higher would probably work best with larger images. And even though the above image uses a Blend value of 50, of course you can set it higher (resulting in more softening of the original image), or lower (resulting in less softening).