There seems to be a lot of debate about the best sharpening method in Photoshop. Some say it’s “unsharp mask,” while others swear by “smart sharpen,” and a few have developed complex multi-step workflows for sharpening their photos.
I’ve tried a few of these techniques, but the one I like best is High-Pass sharpening. It’s my favorite method for two reasons:
- It barely adds any noise to your photo
- It’s a short and quick process
So, here’s how you do it:
1.) You’ll need to have a flat image for this, so if you have multiple layers, merge them together by selecting “Flatten Image” from the “Layer” menu.
2.) Create a duplicate layer of your flat image by selecting “Duplicate Layer…” from the “Layer” menu:
3.) Go to the “Filter” menu, and go all the way to the bottom until you get to the submenu labeled “Other,” and then click on “High Pass…”
4.) You should now see a window that looks like this:
5.) The goal here is to select a pixel radius large enough so it outlines the edges of your photograph and shows a little bit of color (make sure the “preview” box is checked!). Usually values between 4 and 10 work very well. Here are a few examples of radius values that are too small, too big, and perfect:
6.) Click “OK” to apply the filter
7.) In the “Layers” window, click on the blending mode listbox, and select “Overlay”
8.) Your photo should now look like it’s too sharp. But, don’t worry, the next step is to fix that! Right next to the blending mode listbox, there’s an “Opacity” slider. Click on that and lower the opacity until your photo looks sharp, but not too sharp. I usually set it between 30-45%.
You should now have a super sharp photo! Here’s an example before/after:
Click here to open a side-by-side comparison. It’s a lot easier to see the difference if you do an undo/redo in Photoshop.