How to Sharpen an Image in Adobe Photoshop CC 2015

July 10, 2016  •  1 Comment

In this tutorial I will be discussing two of the methods I prefer to use when sharpening my images in Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.  The first method I'll discuss using is one that employs manipulating the channels of an image.  The second method I'll discuss using employs changing the blend mode.

 

Sharpen Method Using the Channels

1. Always edit your photograph in a non-destructive manner.  Duplicate the "Background" layer by pressing Ctrl+J (Windows) or Command+J (Mac).  The reason you duplicate the original layer is because you want to work in a non-destructive way.  This technique allows you to be able to undo any changes you make by simply deleting the layer you have been working on.
2. In the Menu Bar browse to Image > Mode > Lab Color and select Lab Color.

01_2016-07-10_16350801_2016-07-10_163508


3. After you change the image to Lab Color, you will receive a notification pop-up.  Select "Don't Flatten".

02_2016-07-10_16383402_2016-07-10_163834


4. Change to the "Channels" tab and select the "Lightness" layer.

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5. In the Menu Bar browse to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharpen Mask and select "Unsharpen Mask".

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6. You can adjust this setting to the desired effect that you want.  I normally use the following values:

Amount: 88%
Radius: 4.0 Pixels
Threshold: 7 levels

Press OK once you have set your values using the sliders.

05_2016-07-10_16462705_2016-07-10_164627


7. Click on the "visibility" icon next to the "Lab" layer so that all of the layers in the Channels tab are now visible.

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8. Now you want to change the Image mode back to "RGB Color".  In the Menu Bar browse to Image > Mode > RGB Color and select RGB Color.

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9. After you change the image to "RGB Color", you will receive a notification pop-up.  Select "Don't Flatten".

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10. Go back to the "Layers" tab.

09_2016-07-10_170037 Sharpened Layer09_2016-07-10_170037 Sharpened Layer


11. Change the name of the to layer that sharpened to "Sharpen" so you will be able to identify it.
12. Now you can toggle the visibility of the layers to compare the new "Sharpen" layer to the previous original layer before you applied the sharpen method.  Notice how the image is now sharper and looks more in focus.
13. This is the full view of the image after sharpening.

10_2016-07-10_170038 Sharpened Layer Full View10_2016-07-10_170038 Sharpened Layer Full View


14. This is how the original imaged looked before sharpening.  This view is zoomed in.

11_2016-07-10_170417 Original Layer11_2016-07-10_170417 Original Layer


15. This is the full view of the original image.  You can see the slight difference how the sharpened image looks crisper and more in focused.  This method doesn't introduce noise into the image.

12_2016-07-10_170418 Original Layer Full View12_2016-07-10_170418 Original Layer Full View

 


Sharpen Method Using the Blend Mode

1. Always edit your photograph in a non-destructive manner.  Duplicate the "Background" layer.  The reason you duplicate the original layer is because you want to work in a non-destructive way.  This technique allows you to be able to undo any changes you make by simply deleting the layer you have been working on.
2. Change the Blend Mode from "Normal" to "Overlay".

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3. In the Menu Bar browse to Filter > Other > High Pass and select "High Pass".

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4. Set the Radius to a value at 4 and then click on OK.  I choose 4 because I find this value to sharpen the photograph without causing too much noise or degradation to the quality of the image.  You do not want to make the image to appear over sharpened.

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5. Take notice of how the preview image within the layer you have been working on has now turned grey.

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6. This is a view of the image after sharpening, zoomed in at 100%.

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7. This is a view of the image after sharpening, fit to screen.

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8. This is a view of the image before sharpening has been applied.

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Once I have done sharpening the image.  I will create a Stamp Visible Layer command to merge the visible layers into a new layer.  To do this press Shift+Ctrl+Alt+E (Windows) or Shift+Command+Option+E (Mac).  The benefit of creating a Stamped Layer is that you don't have to flatten the layers which will cause you to loose the previous edits that you have made.  Remember, you always want to work in a non-destructive manner within Photoshop.  Preserving the layers allows you to go back to a previous state in your editing process if you decide later that you don't like something or want to change something.

 

Before and After Comparison of the Channels Method

Zoomed in at 122.14% in Adobe Photoshop CC 2015

20_Before After - Channels Method20_Before After - Channels Method

 

Before and After Comparison of the Blend Mode Method

Zoomed in at 122.14% in Adobe Photoshop CC 2015

21_Before After - Blend Mode21_Before After - Blend Mode

 


There are probably other applications, methods, or Photoshop actions that could be employed to accomplish the task of sharpening a photograph.  Remember there are numerous ways to accomplish the same thing within Photoshop.  Choose whatever method you prefer that fits within your post processing workflow.

 

My blog is at http://www.ericadeleye.com/blog.  To view my photography work follow me on Instagram @eha1990 and @ericadeleye.  On Facebook follow me at http://www.facebook.com/EricAdeleyePhotography.

 

 


Comments

the Puptrait Studio(non-registered)
Hello Erici!

It's JB Shepard from the Puptrait Studio. I use the blend sharpen mode on virtually every photo. And I absolutely love it.

But to get the most from it, there are a few extra steps I usually take that I thought might be worth sharing. Most involve step 4 (applying the over pass filter) or shortly follow...

1) At step 4, selecting a radius find a high contrast dark area and high contrast light. Choose the highest radius you can while minimizing the bleed of light into dark and dark into light. Sharpness with this method is essentially just controlled contrast. Less contrasty areas can afford a little extra nudge towards sharpness. Higher contrasty areas will see noise or a halo sooner.

2) Once you have the high pass filter applied, apply a mask, invert it and only brush in sharpness where you want it. Avoid sharpening super contrasted areas, out of focus areas, lens aberrations and darker colorful areas. All of those trouble spots will result in color noise and general flattening of your image.

3) Use blend if to quickly control noise from sharpening. If you're seeing a lot of noise in higher contrast areas, you can use blend if (double click the right side of any layer, then alt+click on the tiny arrows to create a gradient) to ease back trouble spots. In the example above, if I was seeing noise or ghosting against the white sky, I would blend if from the right side of my base layer (the bottom bar). This will allow me to sharpen the foreground elements much more heavily without creating a halo against the sky.

4) Use the opacity % of the layer to hone the sharpening in. The earlier work I almost always do at 100-200% viewing. But for this last step, I usually zoom out to full picture and play with opacity, adjusting it then clicking the layer off and on, until I find a setting where the sharpness is barely visible.

5) Before applying the Over Pass filter, you may want to consider other blend modes. I learned of this technique using Overlay, as you mentioned above. But I find that it often introduces unwanted color noise in my shadowy areas. Using Hard Light often works better, and when it doesn't make a noticeable improvement it's virtually identical to Overpass.

Hope that helps!
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