ugaldew's blog

Pocket Tricks : Keen Sharpening

posted by ugaldew, May 26, 2006 7:09 AM — 90 comments

Hi SXCers and guests : In today's trick we will learn a matchless sharpening technique using High Pass filter and Hard light blending in Photoshop , And do not worry if you are a PS newbie, this is a 2 step edition that you will easily acomplish with the visual steps of this tutorial ( the edition wont take you more than 2 minutes , So lets get started !

This is the effect we want to achieve at the end of the practice



Sunflower 2 by Kilokilo at SXC

So Lets Get Started !!!

>> Step 1
Open and Duplicate Layer

Open Your image

Screwed up by Matchstick at SXC

duplicate the background layer ( layer/duplicate layer ) or left click in background layer and duplicate

>> Step 2
Apply High Pass Filter

Select the duplicated layer (background copy ) and add “High Pass Filter ” (filter / other / High Pass )

Set the slider to 0 and drag it to the right until you start seeing the edges of your image like in the example below and do not worry too much about this step you can add more high pass at any moment of the process

>> Step 3
Change Blend Mode to Hard Light

Now we have to change our layer's blend mode to Hard Light , to set this , go to the layer's palette , in the top , there is a text box with the label normal , click it and select Hard light in the menu that have just poped

And That was ALL !!!!

The Results should look like this :


More Tests



Winter 1 by Pivo at SXC



Jane by Coudron at SXC

TIP : To get good results use this trick in pictures with determined edges . Soft-edge- pictures such as rainbows clouds etc may not get outstanding effects

I hope you can easily apply this useful trick , and that you have enjoyed as much as I did writing it , please feel free to ask anything in this weblog's comments or write an email to if you have more doubts or comments about this tutorial

Miguel Ugalde Ugaldew

Comments | RSS

1. posted by bdopudja, Jun 3, 2006 7:16 PM


2. posted by designby7, Jul 15, 2006 12:18 PM

I like how it can clean up the photo to give it a finishing touch. I'll use it as one of my photo converting options. Thanks!

3. posted by _mafafa_, Jul 15, 2006 8:37 PM

Super! Thanks a lot!

4. posted by sjardim, Sep 8, 2006 2:52 PM

Easy, quick and very effective. Thanks!

5. posted by fruitful, Jul 5, 2006 10:15 PM

Thank you!!! This is wonderful. I was looking for a better way to sharpen my photos with out the pixeling effect from the photoshop filter. Thank you! Keep it up, please!

6. posted by ugaldew, Jun 5, 2006 10:41 AM

15@ OMG Martin ... you are the wizard !!! this tuts may be only the wand :)

7. posted by magstefan, May 26, 2006 8:06 AM

Wow! This is stunning! A real good way to sharpen your pictures, without changing the original. Very useful. Thank you for this well prepared step-to-step guide for sharper images- wonderful.

8. posted by LotusHead, May 26, 2006 11:26 AM

Like it, simple and effective - thx for sharing!

9. posted by surely, May 26, 2006 12:19 PM

once again very useful tips.thank you very much.I have not tried it yet,but I will ,as soon as I get home,
I am just curious,what about noise,will it cause noise?

thank you again Miguel

10. posted by ugaldew, May 26, 2006 3:11 PM

3@ No in fact it produces very little noise compared with the sharpening tool of PS,
If you add to much high pass filter it little white grain may appear but is way more discreet than the multicolor noise of the Sharpening tool

11. posted by 54m, May 26, 2006 3:13 PM

Thanks for the tutorial. It's great (rating 10). But I don't know wheter it's optimal for a portrait. There are too much details. I prefer a softer skin.

12. posted by ugaldew, May 26, 2006 3:47 PM

@5 Yeah ! definetively !!

But once you have got a clean sharp picture you can apply the professional retouching trick

and Im sure it will look way much better

13. posted by ugaldew, May 26, 2006 3:49 PM

This trick is great for landscapes , architecture , stock objects etc all works ! but I can not help my self working on SXC models !! ;)

14. posted by alitaylor, May 26, 2006 7:42 PM


Works a treat!

Thanks Ugaldew

15. posted by 54m, May 26, 2006 11:18 PM

@ ugaldew: Thanks for the tip!

16. posted by mattosense, May 27, 2006 11:19 AM

Just tried it, great tip! Thanks for sharing.

17. posted by matchstick, May 30, 2006 3:41 PM

Hey, I recognise that photo ;)

Nice tutorial man, I will sure be using this. Ive been using Unsharp mask and tweaking the blending modes, but Im rarely happy with what it produces.

This is my new favourite method! You get my vote!

18. posted by Lucretious, May 30, 2006 11:53 PM

Thank you Miguel. I 'm using it already!!!

19. posted by loginnn, May 31, 2006 6:02 PM


20. posted by matchstick, Jun 5, 2006 1:00 AM

Used a combo of both your methods for sharp / soften and my own manipulation style, and came up with this:

You are truly a star for enlightning me :)

I bow down to your magic :D

21. posted by frenzisor, Jul 6, 2006 11:07 PM

Man this is excelent. I thought i was a photoshop buff but i did not know abou this. It is cool to know photoshop is so comperhensive.

22. posted by fresh-m, Jul 6, 2006 7:57 PM

Produces really cool result! Also this method is an effective way as it can be automated too.. THX!

23. posted by phpIker, Jul 6, 2006 10:59 AM


24. posted by PoorLeno, Jul 6, 2006 11:30 AM

I'm not sure, but isn't this exactly how the unsharp mask (filter > sharpen > unsharp mask) works?

25. posted by marcinmw, Jul 6, 2006 10:40 AM

Simple and effective!

26. posted by moxfx, Jul 6, 2006 4:22 AM

Pretty nifty! Works like a charm

You are the winner!

27. posted by Sacrebleu, Jul 5, 2006 11:25 PM



28. posted by phabinho, Aug 2, 2006 4:47 PM

The best, very cool!!!

29. posted by miaomiao, Aug 2, 2006 5:24 PM

men! you are so smart!

30. posted by onlinenow, Aug 12, 2006 5:36 PM

it's very good!

31. posted by TsuDhoNimh, Aug 16, 2006 9:02 PM

A similar effect in the GIMP uses the "Edge Detect" filter.

32. posted by danmarshal, Aug 23, 2006 1:47 PM

Here's another technique that I was taught in my imaging class which you could also try on images which need only certain areas like eyes, hair and jewelry, leaving skin looking smooth.

What you do is to create a snapshot of your intial image (tonal correction should be applied first). Next go to the unsharp filter and apply with a threshold of 0 to compeltely sharpen the entire image with a very strong intensity (I usually use around "amount "set to 130% for pictures of faces). Don't be afraid to bump up your pixel radius either, though still be careful with this one. Overdoing it will ruin your image, and remember you can use fractional numbers for pixel functions in many photoshop filters... Now create another snapshot of your image and go back to your first one, selecting the snapshot you've just made as the source for your history brush.

Now select "Lighten" under mode, and choose a soft brush with as small a radius as is practical. Now start going over dark areas that need to be sharpened . Next do the same with the "Darken" filter over the light bits that need sharpening.

The same process can be applied to images which need a little defocussing in certain areas, but using Guassian blur instead of Unsharp.

One more thing... Working in the lightness (L) channel of Lab colour as opposed to RGB or CMYK is highly recommended here.

Try globally sharpening the lightness channel in an image converted from RGB to Lab, then back to RGB (you won't loose any colour information since Lab's gamut is wider than RGB), and compare that to a traditionally sharpened image to see the difference!

By the way, how do I post tutorials? I'd like to do a series on professional imaging techniques eg. scanning, gamma correction, grey balance, setting up colour settings in Photoshop for print etc...

Hope this was useful.


33. posted by ultraman56, Sep 1, 2006 9:46 AM

just incredible!!!!

34. posted by flitcroft, Sep 8, 2006 7:31 PM

^ Oh, this method takes about 15 seconds when you get used to it. With experience you'll immediately get a feel for what the "right" settings are for the results you want. Photoshop even saves your settings so you can do multiple layes or images and just hit CRTL+F to repeat your sharpening. Unless you oversharpen, there should be no artifacts (and if you see jaggies, add a layer mask and un-sharpen that area).

35. posted by flitcroft, Sep 8, 2006 7:29 PM

Try this method as well. I find it to give me tons of control (portraits are fine) and it appears quicker than this one:

Duplicate your layer
Filter / Sharpen / Unsharp Mask...
Settings (75% / 0.5 / 0)

Add a layer mask to the sharpened layer
Use a soft brush (50% opacity / 50% flow)
Paint black on the layer mask to re-soften areas of the image (ideal for skin in portraits)

Tip: for headshot-type portraits reverse the mask (paint everything black and then brush in white to only sharpen the areas around the eyes and mouth). Sharp eyes and soft skin make for very attention-grabbing portraits.

36. posted by wwwsathik, Sep 7, 2006 10:00 AM

very nice...!
makes it very sharpen

37. posted by harish14, Sep 15, 2006 8:18 AM

Good one thanks a lot.


38. posted by stocker, Sep 16, 2006 9:00 AM

Interesting technique.

39. posted by turpi, Sep 25, 2006 5:06 PM

thank you very much! the results are stunning :)

40. posted by digital_a, Sep 28, 2006 11:08 PM

This is soooo easy and works really fine, better than other tricks I came to know about

41. posted by otonyel, Oct 21, 2006 11:17 PM

Muito bom!

42. posted by drakola, Oct 31, 2006 9:05 PM

Brilliant sharpening tip. Quick and easy to apply and the results have given me a lot of confidence in showing off my photographs to a wider audience.

43. posted by Briangro, Nov 5, 2006 3:19 PM

You can get almost the same, sometimes better, effect by using the unsharp mask sharpening filter.

44. posted by katebug48, Nov 13, 2006 1:13 AM

Wow, what a difference that makes. I cannot wait to try that!

45. posted by danihell, Nov 28, 2006 1:18 AM

just tried! its very cool tnks for sharing ur tricks! and for helping newbies like me!

46. posted by 2windspa, Dec 8, 2006 5:47 PM

Thanks Miguel for a very neat trick. I have been struggling with my Canon Rebel XT choosing a different focus point from what I intended. This really helps a lot. Thanks again.

2windspa (Nan)

47. posted by fbarok, Dec 15, 2006 4:31 PM


48. posted by marglamp, Dec 21, 2006 1:07 AM

Excellent tute just starting to get back into photoshop after some time off got to remember all the filters again

49. posted by lputman, Dec 23, 2006 7:03 PM

Absolutely wonderful...being a photoshop newbie, this was extremely helpful and easy!

50. posted by MeHere, Dec 26, 2006 12:22 AM

so simple. Must try it. Thanks very much, its an execellent tute.

51. posted by headsh0t, Feb 12, 2007 10:05 PM

wow that helped me a lot! thank you so much!!!

52. posted by kayceeus, Feb 17, 2007 6:14 PM

Super useful, I usually use Sharpen Edges and then have to go back and soften it some. Thank you!

53. posted by Ballez, Mar 6, 2007 5:44 AM


54. posted by quirolant, Mar 16, 2007 8:53 PM


55. posted by hcmlopes, Mar 19, 2007 6:06 PM

great technique

56. posted by ezoeta, Apr 9, 2007 2:01 AM

great idea! very useful. thanks a bunch!

57. posted by Gartos, Apr 27, 2007 9:15 AM

Thank you very much! ??????? ?????? ?? ????!!!

58. posted by iasilva, May 4, 2007 6:19 PM

amazing!!! cannot thank you enough for this tip!!!!

59. posted by lbstyle, May 22, 2007 5:01 PM

Great! :)

60. posted by gatyesz, May 22, 2007 10:02 PM

This is really great technique! I use PhotoShop since 3.0 released but I always get something new...


61. posted by bryceandre, May 28, 2007 9:44 PM

You're a champ!!! Thanks as well to the other posters for their the other quick sharpening tips!!!

62. posted by crisderaud, Jun 13, 2007 5:24 AM

Works just like you said it would and it is just as easy to do too. Many thanks!

63. posted by lange, Jul 1, 2007 10:08 PM

This is the best way to sharpen your picture. Incredible, thanks a lot.

64. posted by przybysz, Jul 8, 2007 7:29 PM

it's absolutely amazing, love that tut

65. posted by Leebolish, Aug 8, 2007 4:33 AM

For the people saying it's the same as unsharp mask; it's not. Much more advanced and manual. This is what PS is all about - learning the details, not just clicking on a filter button! :) Great tutorial!

66. posted by mikehome, Aug 17, 2007 3:00 PM

Super, works much better and easier as sharpen tools. Thanks!

67. posted by jinfan01, Sep 15, 2007 11:11 AM

nice effect

68. posted by jinfan01, Sep 15, 2007 11:11 AM

nice effect

69. posted by sxchuman, Sep 20, 2007 2:06 PM

men! you are so smart!

70. posted by owaisk_4u, Oct 1, 2007 8:37 PM

awesome trick thanks :)

71. posted by youdesign, Oct 12, 2007 7:56 PM

I you remercer all my filicitation

72. posted by Chris0315, Nov 9, 2011 1:35 AM


73. posted by justfakeit, Oct 23, 2007 1:29 AM


Very useful.

74. posted by plethr, Oct 26, 2007 7:02 AM

What an amazing trick! This changes so much about how I work in photoshop! Thanks!

75. posted by spath21, Nov 3, 2007 2:14 AM

Great stuff, thanks buddy!

76. posted by jessada, Nov 22, 2007 5:35 PM

Wow wow wow... 2 thumbs up

77. posted by schnaibel, Dec 19, 2007 12:50 PM

Really great!!! =D

78. posted by Kurtdolf, Jan 10, 2008 11:05 PM

Thanks! really usefull

79. posted by victordov, Mar 10, 2008 8:56 PM

Thanks! really usefull I AGREE with Kurtdolf.

80. posted by Ropeypopey, Apr 1, 2008 3:04 AM

Trying to clear things up.....

This technique is almost, but not quite, the same as just using the Unsharp Mask.

The difference is in the blending mode used - to be exactly equivalent to USM one would use "Linear Light" (@50% opacity) and not "Hard Light".

Yes, you do have more control because you can vary the blending mode some more.
But you have to work without a preview window, and lose the ability to define a threshold.

Hope this helps.

81. posted by nazreth, May 13, 2008 8:11 AM

nice! tnx! :)

82. posted by syaqs, May 27, 2008 8:06 AM

thanks! it helps me a lot!

83. posted by hades, Jul 3, 2008 3:38 PM

Very good technique!

84. posted by adcomdxb, Jul 28, 2008 8:06 AM

It's too helpful

85. posted by gumuruhssp, Sep 28, 2008 4:35 PM

simple but clear!

many thanks!

86. posted by seaveyb, Oct 23, 2008 11:46 PM

Another slight variation that I read in Deke McClelland's Adobe Photoshop CSX one-on-one series is to perform a levels adjustment on the layer that has been "High Passed" then blend with an overlay and adjust with opacity. McClelland suggests that this is nearly the equivalent of a 'Smart Sharpen'

87. posted by escan, Aug 20, 2010 3:02 PM

Easy tut thanks

88. posted by disenoweb9, Feb 22, 2013 7:59 AM

nice effect!

89. posted by carlislekm, Jul 29, 2013 4:45 AM

Very interesting

90. posted by inizjall, Nov 6, 2013 3:16 AM

great tutorial ...

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