Sharpening your images

The other day I came across an article on the internet about sharpening your image in a safer way in stat of using Unsharp Mak.

One reason for this is that the Unsharp mask operates on the actual image pixels and it makes changes to those pixels. This sharpening process that makes use of the High Pass filter doesn’t operate on the original image so it does not destroy the image pixels.

This is how it works:

1. Open an image and duplicate the background layer of the image. If your image has multiple layers, add a new layer at the top of the layer stack, click it to select it and press Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E (Command + Option + Shift + E on the Mac) to fill the top layer with a flattened version of the image – without affecting the other layers.

2. In the Layers palette set the blend mode of the new top layer to Overlay. This will let you see the sharpening results in place on the image in the next step.

3. With the topmost layer still selected, choose Filter > Other > High Pass. This filter has one slider to adjust the Radius value. Drag the slider until you see a pretty much gray image in the preview window with the only detail being around the edges of objects in the image. If you can see color in the preview image then the radius is set too high. Typically a Radius value of well under 10 pixels should be sufficient – we used 2. Click Ok.

4. The image is now sharpened – check the original against the sharpened version by clicking the Layer Visibility Icon for the top layer on and off to compare the result.

To finish the effect, adjust the Opacity of the top layer to 0 and then move it back up stopping when you have a good sharpening result. The ideal Opacity will depend on your personal preference.

If desired you can use blend modes other than Overlay, for example Soft Light and Hard Light can be equally as effective depending on the result that you are looking for.

If you are using Photoshop CS3 or CS4, before you apply the High Pass filter to the top layer of the image, convert it to a Smart Object by selecting the layer and choose Filter > Convert for Smart Filters. Then apply the High Pass filter to the new smart object in the same way as I have outlined above. When you apply a filter to a Smart Object you can return later on to edit it – simply double click the filter name in the layer palette and the filter dialog opens allowing you to change the Radius value.

My source of this knowledge is:

I hope you found this useful.

Photo credits: Antoinettew.

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December 18, 2009


Very useful tip! Thanks. You can also apply this way of sharpening - although it is easier and faster, I think it is professional as well as this one. click here for the article

December 18, 2009


thanks for the great info.

December 09, 2009


You are right, Davulcu. It depends on the image. See the reaction of Adeliepenquin. It is al a matter of comparising what gives the best result.

December 08, 2009


Great tip , I tested it and it works. However unsharp mask can be also very usefull if you set the values to correct limits.

Thank you very much

December 04, 2009


Thanks for your reaction. First of all: NOT to have your immage sharpened is of course the best but sometimes you will have to. And as there are many ways to sharpen your immage you can try out which way is the best. For me this was a new method and I wanted it to share with you.
Gr. Antoinette

December 03, 2009


Great info. Thanks for sharing. I have also used high pass sharpening with success. However, on a side note, I find that depending on my image, high pass sharpening might not work as well as other sharpening techniques. I do recommend doing comparisons and figuring out what type of images it seems to work best on:) Also, typically, I find that I use masks or selections, and brushes with different opacities, to vary the sharpening used on different parts of the image.

November 26, 2009


thanks for the tip, it's working pretty good:)

November 26, 2009


Good info:)

November 26, 2009


thanks for the info, will def give it a try :)

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