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Sharpening using Photoshop (Something Different)

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  • Sharpening using Photoshop (Something Different)

    There are several ways in Photoshop to sharpen an image, the most commonly used is Unsharp-Mask. I will show you two of my favorite ways of sharpening an image; one of them is another way of using the Unsharp-Mask and the other using the High-Pass filter.

    First off, you copy your first layer, creating a sharpening layer (I name mine sharpen 1). Go to Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask, your settings are as follows: Amount 200, Radius 8, and Threshold 4. This should over sharpen and make your image look rather hideous, but stay with me. Next duplicate this layer creating a second layer (called sharpen 2). Set the blending mode for this layer to LIGHTEN, now on sharpen layer 1 set the layer mode to darken. Using the Opacity levels adjust these two layers for the right effect. By adjusting these two layers you will sharpen the image and do away with the edge effect caused by the overuse of the Unsharp Mask filter. Play with it; you’ll see what I mean. It doesn’t work with every image, but 80% of the time it does.

    Second method I use for sharpening, which is my favorite, is the High-Pass filter. To me this is the best filter in the whole lot, you can do a lot more than just sharpen with it, but I won’t get into that here.

    We start off by creating a copy of the first layer (which I name High Pass Sharpen). (By the way I always start off any project by duplicating the original layer. It’s a good habit to get into.) Next I go to Filter>Other>High Pass, now the following settings are not set in stone, you can play with them for different results, but for this we’ll use the following. Let’s try a radius of 10. Then set your blending mode for this layer to overlay. Using the Opacity, adjust accordingly. Sometimes I will create a couple of layer like above, but different adjustments. By turning each layer off & on you see which one gives you the best results for this particular image. I also will adjust for a certain area, say the eyes; and will mask out the rest and delete, which will give you sharp eyes, yet a soft look to the rest of the image. Again using the Opacity adjustment for just the right look. That’s it; I hope it helps.

    Steve A.K.A Trimoon
    Last edited by Trimoon; 09-10-2002, 08:41 PM.

  • #2
    Sounds like good tips Steve. I'll have to try them. Thanks.



    • #3
      The high pass method is one of my favorites for added control. Great tips Steve. Thanks


      • #4
        Good tips, thanks I have tried the high pass technique, with a slight alteration to yours (setting of about 60-70 and blend mode to soft light) - the great thing as you know is that the effect can be better controlled by using the opacity slider.

        I can see having you round here will provide a wealth of knowledge


        • #5
          Hi Steve - thanks for the topic wakeup.

          I too like split light/dark halos for my USM - sometimes you want the light halo a lot lighter than the darker one (50-75% opacity for light and 100% for dark often works well). This split halo approach is common on scanner software but not Photoshop - but as you have noted, it can be done. The blend if sliders can also be used to do the same thing with only one layer, but I prefer the two layer approach too. As for the specific USM settings this will obviously vary on image content and resolution - but oversharpening and then backing off via layer opacity can work well in some cases.

          A direct link to the above trick:

          (3mb Apple QuickTime movie)

          I really like high pass filtering, and as suggested it is good for many things - not just sharpening.

          Some further tricks with the high pass sharpening (HPS) can be to try some of the new layer blend modes of Photoshop 7, in addition to the standard soft light/overlay/hardlight methods and opacity. A despeckle with an optional fade to reduce the affect can also be used to help reduce sharpening grain without softening the sharpen too much. Another trick when HPS in RGB is to use the desaturate command on the HP filtered layer or things can get deeper with luminosity blends and split light/dark halos etc.

          More on High Pass filtering can be found here:

          If anyone is interested, follow this link to more links on sharpening:


          Stephen Marsh.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Mike Needham
            Good tips, thanks I have tried the high pass technique, with a slight alteration to yours (setting of about 60-70 and blend mode to soft light) - the great thing as you know is that the effect can be better controlled by using the opacity slider.

            I can see having you round here will provide a wealth of knowledge
            I think this method is great. I worked with USM as long as I can remember but this is one step better. The question is whether there is a way to make an action for High-Pass filter that will work with most of the pictures you take or do you have to make this manually with every photo.
            I know that some pictures will need special "attention" with High-Pass and that a portrait photo and a landscape photo need different settings.

            I made a High-Pass Filter action with 10% radius and then 50% opacity. But will this work for the majority of my images? And maybe do 2-3 actions, one for outdoors and landscapes, one for portraits and people and one for contrasty images like flowers and animals. What do you guys think?

            (My very first post in this forum)




            • #7
              Hi Dennis, welcome to RP. Thanks for bringing my attention to this thread, it's one I've missed. The high pass method I already knew, (I've usually used it with Hard Light blend), but the split halo effect is new to me.
              As for an answer to your question, the best way to find out if it works, is to use the action you have made, and see for yourself. Modify the action with the experience you get, and try again. I'm sure you'll soon find what works for you. After all, your opinion on what's acceptable as a sharp image will differ to what others find acceptable.


              • #8
                Glenn Mitchell posted a fine tutorial on sharpening resently [as well as an accompaning action for a bunch of methods] that is well worth the time to study.


                Hope someone else is helped by this as much as me.

                Robert Collins


                • #9
                  This method of using the high pass filter is something that I used a year or so ago and no longer recommend this method except for certain special effects when doing artistic renderings. Below is a link to the method that I now use, which uses the custom filter. I think you will find it a much better way of doing things. I teaches to apply a slight blur to the image before sharpening. After a while, you get to where you are so good at it that you do it intuitively.

                  Better Than USM