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Sharpen Images Using the High Pass Filter

by | Feb 27, 2017 | Articles, Photoshop, Tutorials | 2 comments

Using the High Pass Filter

There are many different ways to sharpen an image in Photoshop. Whether you sharpen an image with the sharpen filters, such as Unsharp Mask or Smart Sharpen, you can increase the amount of definition and detail in your images. Sometimes, you want a little more control over where and how the sharpening takes place. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to sharpen images using the High Pass Filter in Photoshop.

High Pass Filter: before

First, let’s take a basic image that looks good already, but could use some improvement. This sample image can be downloaded for free from here, if you’d like to follow along and try this for yourself. This image is already good, but one area where it could use more definition is the water. The water detail seems to be a little blurry.

High Pass Filter: Overlay

The next thing you’ll want to do, as you can see from the image above is to duplicate your background layer. Hit Command/Ctrl + J to duplicate the layer. Then, in the Layers Panel, change the blend mode to Overlay.

High Pass Filter: Settings

Next, with the duplicate layer still selected, go to the top menu and choose Filter> Other> High Pass. A dialog box will come up, where you can choose the amount of High Pass you want to apply to this layer. 10 is a bit much, so I reduced the amount to 3 or 4 pixels. My image is 72ppi. Keep this in mind with your image. If you are working with a high resolution image, you may need to increase the amount to 6-8 pixels. When you are done, click OK.

High Pass Filter: Applied

You can see from the image above that there are areas which are too sharp. You can tell from the white halo areas around the bushes. That’s okay, because we can lower the opacity of the entire layer, giving us complete control over how much sharpening is applied. We can do this without having to adjust the filter settings over and over again. We just change the opacity of the layer.

High Pass Filter: Results

Above is the final result, Which I masked and split, so you can see the difference. Notice how the water on the right is more crisp and has more detail. It is more defined overall. If there are any areas that don’t need sharpening, you can always use a layer mask and paint with a soft edge black brush to mask of lessen the effect.

Conclusion: The High Pass Filter & Sharpening Images

The High Pass Filter can be a great way to sharpen your images, giving you a lot of control over the outcome. Adding this method to the filters already provided for sharpening images in Photoshop, and you’ll be able to sharpen any image. If one method doesn’t work well, you’ll have others at your disposal. You’d be surprised at how some methods won’t work for a certain image, but another one will do the trick in seconds.

Do you have any tips for sharpening images in Photoshop? If so, please leave your tips in the comments section below.


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