Home » Focus stacking in Photoshop & GIMP – consistently sharp images

Focus stacking in Photoshop & GIMP – consistently sharp images

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Focus stacking in Photoshop & GIMP – consistently sharp images

If you have a series of images of a subject with different areas of sharpness, you can combine them in Photoshop or GIMP to create one image with consistent sharpness. We explain how this works here.


Languages ​​German


License: Demo

Plattformen:Windows 7, Windows 8, Mac OS X, Windows, Windows 10

Was ist Focus-Stacking?

Focus stacking is a technique in which you create images with different areas of focus to create an image that is sharp in all areas. This involves using images that show the same subject, but with different focus settings. Typically you use a tripod or some other type of stabilization to create the images. The focus areas of the individual images can be staggered vertically, horizontally or at certain points. In our example we are working with a photo series that consists of three images, with the foreground, the middle and the background in focus.

On the left is the foreground, in the middle is the center, and on the right the background is in focus. (Image source: GIGA)

Focus-Stacking in Photoshop

In Photoshop, focus stacking works largely automatically. You just need to execute a few commands.

1st step:

Image source: GIGA

If you have already imported your images into Lightroom, select the images there and click “Photo“ > „Edit in“ > „Open as layers in Photoshop…“. If you don’t use Lightroom, open your photo series as individual layers in a single Photoshop file. Now your three images are on top of each other as layers with different sharpness areas in a Photoshop file. First select everyone in the Photoshop window. Then click in the menu “Edit” on “Automatically align layers“. Leave the option “Auto“ selected and confirmed with the button “OK“ to automatically align the images on top of each other.

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2nd step:

Image source: GIGA

Afterwards, all layers should still be selected in Photoshop. Click on the menu againEdit“ and then click “Automatically blend layers“. In the small window, select the option “Images stack“ and check the box next to “Seamless tones and colors“. Removes the check mark from “Content-aware fill for transparent areas“. Confirmed with “OK“.

3rd step:

Image source: GIGA

Photoshop will now automatically create a layer mask for each layer, leaving the sharpest areas visible. The final image now looks sharp in all areas. You can now save or export this. The following YouTube video shows the procedure again:

Focus-Stacking in GIMP

There is currently no function in GIMP that automatically creates focus stacking. But you can do it manually by making the sharp areas of all images visible in one image using layer masks.

1st step:

Image source: GIGA

In GIMP, click on the menu item “ at the topfile“ > „Open as layers(Key combination: Ctrl + Alt + O) and mark all your pictures that belong to the motif series. These will then be in GIMP in the same window open.

2nd step:

Image source: GIGA

Now look at the focus areas of the individual layers. It may make sense to swap the order of the levels. In our example, we arrange the layers so that the focus area is at the top in the top layer, in the middle in the middle layer and at the bottom in the lowest layer. Then click on the top level and on the menu item “level“ > „mask“ > „Add layer mask…“. Select the setting “White – full opacityand click on “Add“.

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3rd step:

Image source: GIGA

Select the brush (key: P) and set black as the color at the top. Below you set the brush to an appropriate size in the tool settings and set the hardness to 0 or at least reduce it significantly. Then select the white mask of the first layer in the layers window and paint with the brush over the middle area of ​​the image. The sharp areas of the second layer are now displayed there. You are now essentially painting sharpness into the picture.

4th step:

Image source: GIGA

Now repeat steps 2 and 3 for the second layer: So select the second layer, add a layer mask and paint it with black in the lower area to show the sharpness of the third layer in the image.

Depending on how exactly you need it and what motif you have in the picture, you can now zoom into individual areas in order to carry out fine work with the brush. Select the appropriate layer mask and paints with blackto reveal the underlying layer or paints with whitein case you have “mistaken” yourself and the original condition want to restore. Afterwards our image will look as shown above. Now you can view your image using the menu “file“ > „Export to…“ Save as a JPG file or via “file“ > „Save as …” as an XCF file, which is roughly comparable to Photoshop’s PSD file format.

The YouTube channel “Living Image” explains the procedure in this video:

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