Photoshop: Sharpen with High Pass

06 Finished Result

South African Penguin

Do you sharpen up your images in Photoshop? Perhaps you use one of the preset sharpen methods you find under the filter menu? (filter – sharpen).

Very often these presets are just exactly what you’ll need to enhance your photo, but sometimes you want to/need to have more control over the process. In this tutorial I’ll show you how to sharpen your image in just a few small steps using the High Pass filter.

The photo I’ve used in this tutorial is a scan from film. The star of the photo, the penguin,  was captured on a trip to Cape Town, South Africa.

  • Open your photo and copy the original layer (ctrl+j)
  • On the copied layer, choose the high pass filter (filter – other + high pass) (illustration 01)
    By default the radius is set to 10 pixels, which should be suitable.  Click OK.
  • Change the blending mode for the layer. Set it to Hard Light (illustration 02)
  • Play around with the opacity of the layer until you’re satisfied with the result.
  • If needed you can also add a Brightness/Contrast Layer, but this depends entirely on your photo.

Click on the gallery to see the process:

More tutorials:
The Alligator (add a lens blur effect to your photo)
Restore scanned photos in Photoshop

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17 thoughts on “Photoshop: Sharpen with High Pass

    • To be honest I’ve never used it, but according to Adobe that specific masking tool:

      Controls an edge mask. With a setting of zero (0), everything in the image receives the same amount of sharpening. With a setting of 100, sharpening is mostly restricted to those areas near the strongest edges. Press Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) while dragging this slider to see the areas to be sharpened (white) versus the areas masked out (black).

    • I had to try it out. Here you can see a detail from a randomly chosen photo. I didn’t change anything, I only used sharpened it and used the masking feature in RAW. As you can see the tones got slightly changed as well.

      • Yeah I see that …! it turned out well, but the whole colour scheme seems altered..

        When I just look at the preview in CR, I find it a little hard to see the difference, unless I go to extremes..

  1. I’ve never liked the results from a high-pass sharpening, but I see here that its about choosing the right photo – that then all that tweaking you talk about. I’ll try it out sometime.

    • Actually I hardly ever use this method with high pass. My preferred method is the ‘sharpen more’ filter. I use it on a layer copy and if the result is too sharp I change the opacity of the layer. It’s quick and easy.

  2. I haven’t gotten Photoshop yet, I don’t know why it seems complicated to me, and I haven’t even tried it. As I move further along, then maybe.I can see where it made a big difference here.

  3. It is interesting to learn another sharpen method. Sometimes I use the Sharpen-Unsharp Mask and at other times I copy the original layer, apply an Overlay Blend 100%, then go to the High Pass filter. I play around with the radius, but it usually varies from 2.5 – 5px.
    I will definitely try your method.

  4. Pingback: Tutorial: Restore Scanned Photos in Photoshop | Cardinal Guzman

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