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High Pass Sharpening in Photoshop

Photoshop offers many sharpening options but there is one that often gets overlooked and this is High Pass Sharpening. The High Pass filter does not reside with the other sharpening filters but lives under the Other section in the filter menu. This filter is particularly good for photographs with lots of detail but can be used for portraits too, if used in conjunction with a layer mask.

Open an image and duplicate the image Cmd j (PC Ctrl J)

Now go to the Filter – Other – High Pass.

A dialogue box now appears asking you to select a radius. I find a radius of between 3 and 5 pixels works best for me, however this will vary with the resolution of your image so it is best to have a play around to find what works best for you.

Press OK and the image turns to a sludgy grey colour that looks awful, don’t worry.

 Go to the blend modes in the layers panel and select overlay.

 Voila, a sharpened image! Too sharp? Change the blend mode to Soft Light. Not sharp enough? Change the blend mode to Hard Light. You can also increase the effect by duplicating the High Pass layer. And the effect can be decreased by lowering the layer opacity.

Selective application of the effect can be achieved via a layer mask.

About Richard Hales (35 Articles)
Richard’s first foray into was photography was as an apprentice photographer for Oxford University over 20 years ago. From there Richard went on to study photography at University somehow gaining a BA & MA, he still is rather confused how he managed to do this. After University and an unfinished (and un-started) PhD Richard “retired” from photography for a few years to pursue a career in wine and, oddly, scrap metal before returning to photography and setting up a wedding and portrait photography business in Worcestershire. As well as running his photography business Richard is currently working on a bread & jam making book. He is the average height for a Nut.

3 Comments on High Pass Sharpening in Photoshop

  1. Richard D Pye // 10/05/2010 at 7:35 am //

    I honestly believe that the High Pass filter is one of the best kept secrets in Photoshop. Very few people seem to know that it exists and when they see the results that it can produce, are usually very surprised.

  2. I have used this before but totally forgot how I went about it, thanks for reminder.

    PS, great new look on the site, I love it..


  3. JCatara // 06/07/2010 at 6:33 am //

    When I use the high pass filter I put the radius slider at 0 then move it until come color appears. It usually produces good results. Also its good to knock the opacity down a little to make it look less obvious.

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