You just trebled the time I would spend out of Lightroom . The back and forth questions the use of Lightroom at all.
Lightroom by itself offers a decent enough quality for most users. However, if you want better quality, then you'll need to use dedicated tools, when they do a better job than Lightroom.
Could you refer me to a link that would hand hold me through your suggested workflow?
Since the Capture sharpening dialog of Lightroom (and many other Raw converters) does not really help users enough (IMHO) with finding the correct settings, I've created a tool that can assist in getting a grasp on better settings:http://www.luminous-landscape.com/forum/index.php?topic=68089.0
Unfortunately, the up-sampling routines of the current Lightroom (v4.4) are not as good as some of the other offerings. They are not bad, but just not as good as some others. For most significant up-sampling
jobs, it is hard to beat the S-Spline Max algorithm from Benvista's Photozoom Pro, since it actually increases edge resolution. For more modest up-sampling jobs, the routines offered by ImageMagick (in particular with the '-distort Resize' filtering) offer very good up-sampling quality, with fewer artifacts, which allows more sharpening. I've analyzed/compared a few methods here
, based on the Fourier transforms of an up-sampled White noise image that contained all spatial frequencies before up-sampling.
I am quite puzzled as to how to perform, view and measure the three types of sharpening outside of Lightroom. Is this something I could do in gimp? Or is a dedicated app like resize preferred? Then of course I have to do the actual 'darkroom work' - exposure, color, noise adjustments for which photoshop or gimp or Lightroom can be used.
As I said earlier, you can do most of that in Lightroom, but there are some things that can be improved by utilizing specialized tools. The Gimp is getting better, but it really requires a 16-bit/channel workflow to maintain the quality at a high level. The specialized tools will complicate the workflow, but that's unfortunately the toll that apparently has to be paid for additional quality. Not everybody is willing to pay that price, and not everybody has to (unless they demand better quality). One has to repeatedly ask oneself if the diminishing returns are worth the trouble. For those seeking the best, it is.
Excellent results can be achieved with a workflow consisting of a Rawconverter like e.g. RawTherapee (also offers Richardson-Lucy deconvolution sharpening), TopazLabs photoFXlab with specific filter plugins for editing (if one requires Photoshop's adjustment layer capability), ImageMagick for up-sampling, and e.g. Q-image Ultimate (does also offer pretty decent upsampling, and 'DFS' output sharpening) for printing.