Photoshop has several sharpening filters built in, but one of the fastest and easiest methods for sharpening your images in Photoshop is to use the High Pass filter in conjunction with Blending Modes.
In this tutorial, we will look at how to sharpen an image using the High Pass filter combined with the Overlay, Soft Light and Hard Light Blending Modes.
APPLYING THE HIGH PASS FILTER
Start by duplicating your original background layer:
With your Background Layer highlighted, select Filter>Other>High Pass:
One of the great things about the High Pass filter is that it targets the edges in your image, which are typically what needs sharpening. This way, you will get a much more subtle sharpening effect to the edges in your image, rather than a drastic sharpening effect throughout.
You will typically want to set the radius between 1-5 pixels, depending on the size of your image (larger image files will require a higher pixel radius). You also want to increase the pixel radius to a dimension where you can see all of the edges/outlines in your image, while still having a gray image preview as you can see below. Once you begin to see a lot of color coming through in the preview, you have probably over-sharpened.
SETTING THE BLENDING MODE
After you have applied the High Pass filter, experiment with various blending modes to see which one best suits your image. Some of the most common Blending Modes are Overlay, Soft Light, and Hard Light.
Below is an example of Overlay:
If you find that Overlay provides too much contrast, try Soft Light, which has less contrast:
To retain contrast, and create a brightening effect, apply Hard Light:
Here is an example of all three Blending Modes. As you can see, the differences are subtle, but you can see the most difference in her hair, especially in her bangs:
In this example, I have the Blending Mode set to 100% for each example. If you feel as though the sharpening effect is too strong on your image, you can always reduce the Opacity of the High Pass filter layer.
Are you looking for Photoshop actions to help you quickly sharpen your images? Be sure to check out our PURE Color Workflow.