Sharpen Images In Photoshop
To sharpen images in Photoshop, high pass filter is used. Most of the Photoshop users make use of either of the two main sharpening filters, “Unsharp Mask” or “Smart Sharpen” to Sharpen an image. It was not aware that high pass filter can be used for sharpening images. Also, it can result in good or even better images than the actual original image. Technically, it wasn’t used as a sharpening filter. At the same time, it was much easier to use than the Photoshop’s actual sharpening filter.
Sharpening the edges around objects and leaving the remaining without sharpening. This results in Good Image Sharpening. The High Pass filter is an extremely powerful tool for sharpening images. Because it’s able to detect those edges while ignoring any areas that are not an edge. We can combine the edge-detection results from the High Pass filter with one of Photoshop’s blend modes to easily sharpen the edges and leaving the rest of the image untouched.
Photoshop CS6 is used in this tutorial but it is also fully compatible with Photoshop CC. If you’re using CS5 or earlier, you can still follow along. Or else you can check out the original version of this.
I’m using the below image to sharpen in Photoshop
Step 1: Convert The Background Layer Into A Smart Object
In the Layers panel, the image sitting on the Background layer is seen with the newly-opened in Photoshop. Currently, the only layer in the document is :
First, convert the layer into a Smart Object. Then we’ll be able to apply the High Pass filter as an “Editable Smart Filter”. This will allow us to keep our sharpening effect separate from the image itself. It also avoids making permanent changes to the original image.
Now, convert the background layer into a Smart Object. For that, tap on the small menu icon in the top right corner of the Layers panel.
Then select “Convert to Smart Object” from the drop-down menu.
It seems like nothing has changed in the image. But, in the Layers panel, we can now see a Smart Object icon in the bottom right corner of the layer’s preview thumbnail. By this, we can know that the layer has been, in fact, converted to a Smart Object.
Step 2: Apply The High Pass Filter
Now, apply the High Pass filter. Go up to the Filter menu in the Menu Bar on the top of the screen. Click on Other, and then select High Pass.
Step 3: Change The High Pass Filter’s Blend Mode To “Overlay”
Until now we’ve highlighted our edges. Now we need a way to blend the result of the High Pass filter with the original image. We also want to use the highlights we created with the High Pass filter to increase the edge contrast. Both of these things can be simply obtained by choosing the right blend mode for the High Pass filter.
In the Layers panel, it is clear that the High Pass filter is listed as a Smart Filter. To change the filter’s blend mode, double-click on the Blending Options icon to the right of the filter’s name.
Then the Blending Options dialog box appears. You’ll find the Mode option (short for “Blend Mode”) at the very top. The blend mode is set to Normal by default. To use the edge highlighting to boost contrast along the edges, we need to use one of Photoshop’s contrast-boosting blend modes. There are a few of them to choose from, but the one that usually works best for image sharpening is Overlay.
The Overlay blend mode ignores any areas of neutral grey. So all those non-edge neutral grey areas created by the High Pass filter instantly disappears from view. It uses the lighter highlights to further lighten the light sides of the edges. And the darker highlights to darken the dark sides of the edges even further. It also boosts the contrast of the edges and creating the illusion of a sharper image.
Below is a comparison to help to see the sharpening effect easier. On the left, it’s the original image before applying any sharpening. On the right, the result using the High Pass filter and the Overlay blend mode.
The “Soft Light” And “Hard Light” Blend Modes :
If the sharpening effect from the Overlay blend mode is too strong, try the Soft Light blend mode instead. It works exactly the same as Overlay but the results are more subtle.
Or, if the Overlay sharpening effect isn’t strong enough, try the Hard Light blend mode. It will give you the most intense sharpening of the three.
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the High Pass filter set to all three blend modes. Soft Light on the left, Overlay in the centre and Hard Light on the right. Generally, the Overlay blend mode is used the most.
Step 4: Lower The Opacity, If Needed
Irrespective of the blend mode, you can fine-tune the sharpening amount even further in the Blending Options dialog box. It is simple! Just adjust the opacity of the High Pass filter. You’ll find the Opacity option directly below the Mode option. The more you reduce the opacity from its default value of 100%, the more the original, unsharpened image will show through:
Now you’ve chosen the blend mode that gives you the right amount of sharpening for your image and adjusts the High Pass filter’s opacity if needed. Then, click OK to come out of the Blending Options dialog box.
And to see the before applying sharpening image, click on the High Pass filter’s visibility icon (the eyeball icon) to the left of its name in the Layers panel.
With the High Pass filter turned off, you’ll see your original, unsharpened image:
Again click the visibility icon (the empty spot where the icon appeared) to turn the High Pass filter back on a view of the sharpened version. This is the result using the Overlay blend mode.
This’s how to easily sharpen images and get professional quality results using only the High Pass filter and the Overlay, Soft Light or Hard Light blend modes in Photoshop.
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