Efficient Expert Tips to Make Anti-Aliasing Your Bitch in Photoshop

Photoshop’s anti-aliasing works in the most cases very well. There are however, some occasions when you want to get more crisp edges. This article addresses this issue and introduces efficient ways of controlling the anti-aliasing in Adobe Photoshop.

To get some background for this article, just read these few lines that explain what anti-aliasing is all about:

In digital signal processing, spatial anti-aliasing is the technique of minimizing the distortion artifacts known as aliasing when representing a high-resolution image at a lower resolution. Anti-aliasing is used in digital photography, computer graphics, digital audio, and many other applications.

So what does this mean for us Photoshop users then?

When adding graphics using any of the vector tools, Photoshop will give you an option to anti-alias the raster that will be rendered. This only occurs when you have the option “Fill Pixels” selected and it is crucial that you know that it exist.

Anti-aliasing can either be turned on or turned off while filling pixels using any of the vector tools.

No Anti-Aliasing vs. Anti-Aliasing in Photoshop

Anti-aliasing gives us the benefit of having nice and smooth curves by adding pixels of lower opacity outside the actual drawing. This works well for large and medium-sized vectors. But when it comes down to the  really small details you may want to control the anti-aliasing a bit more to make the graphics look crisp.

Take this example.

Anti-aliasing vs. Fine-tuned Anti-aliasing

Here we are working with smaller graphics, hence the default anti-aliasing will make the anti-aliased pixels go into each other – resulting in a bold and blurry symbol.

Understanding the issue

What happens is this: pixels that are the results of the anti-aliasing will mix and create blobs of pixels. The resulting pixels of the anti-aliasing will always be of lower opacity than the original drawing – this gives us a golden ticket to control these pixels.

The Solution

Control the pixels that are the result of the anti-aliasing process.

Anti-aliasing with various levels of mid-tones

Here the mid-tones are controlled by a simple Levels Adjustment Layer. The effect is applied with gradually increasing values so that you can see the effect.

Illustrator and Smart Objects

When working with Illustrator and Photoshop in parallel, you often end up with a Smart Object (or a raster of a Smart Object) in Photoshop. When you import the vector graphics into Photoshop you will get the option whether to use anti-aliasing or not. For logos as well as other vectors that are suppose to have crisp edges, this is option is often not flexible enough.

Here we use the same technique with Levels to control the mid-tones of the right hand logo. On the left side you see the default anti-aliased vector object.

Smart Objects anti-aliased vs. Fine-tuned Anti-aliasing

Conclusions

Anti-alias is great. Without it, everything on the computer-screen would appear edgy. Sometimes you are better off without anti-aliasing and sometimes it does wounder if you use it. The knowledge of controlling the anti-aliasing in Photoshop is very valuable, as it will make your graphics look even better if done right.

Not many people thinks about this or even care about it. But now at least you know about it — and hopefully, you will also try to improve the anti-aliasing where applicable :)

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About the Author

Mickel is a web creative that is constantly looking for new challenges and ventures.

He is the founder of PixelTango, as well as a interactive web design agency. He also likes to DJ and produce music under the name Allic.

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