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All right. This is one of my favorite techniques of all time in Photoshop and it's the HighPass sharpening technique. If you are like me, a designer, you are visual, and you want to so something as quickly as possible in Photoshop. Yes, there are many different ways to sharpen an image inside of Photoshop. You know there is the Sharpen Filters, there is lame, lamer, lamest and then probably one of the two that you have been taught to use or have been told to use. The problem I have with these filters is that you kind of have to understand the relationship between all these sliders, right. There is Amount, there is Radius, there is Threshold. They are related. When you change the Radius that changes the impact of the Amount and Threshold, and whatnot. Some of you may have actually learned what these relationships are and mastered them.
Perhaps you watched very long title just on sharpening in the Online Training Library. I'm looking for a quick technique though. One that involves only one slider, right. I don't want to have to sit there and memorize a bunch of stuff, so let's begin this technique. We are going to go ahead and duplicate our original layer, Command+J, Ctrl+J, and we'll go ahead and call this High Pass. It gives you a clue where we are going with this. If you are a designer, you'll probably have at one point spent all day in Photoshop touching every single filter, just to see what it would do, and eight hours later you get to the bottom of the filter list.
There's an Other menu and you got to High Pass. You went "great, it made my image gray," you hit Cancel, and you never came back. Well, it turns out that the High Pass filter is one of the greatest filters inside Photoshop, because it's an edge detection filter. If you recall, when you sharpen an image, what are you doing? You are increasing the contrast of edge pixels. An edge is a light pixel next to a dark pixel. So when you sharpen, the dark pixel gets darker, the light pixel gets lighter. Sharpening just increases the contrast of those light and dark pixels. We want this to be ultimately flexible, we want to be able to undo or change our mind after the fact. So we are going to convert this High Pass layer into a Smart Object.
I'm going to right-click on that, Ctrl-click, say Convert to Smart Object. And this gives us the ability to apply a filter non-destructively to this layer. So we'll go to the Filter menu. Again we'll come down to Other > High Pass and don't be alarmed. Yes, it's making your image gray, but let's talk about that for a second. Anything that's not an edge becomes 50% gray. Anything that is an edge gets darker on the dark half and lighter on light half. So it's basically doing an edge enhancement. It's an edge detection filter.
Generally your Radius is going to be somewhere between two and three, sometimes you will go higher and sometimes you will go lower, depending on the detail in your image and the resolution of the image. I generally start with 2.5 for just about every image, right in the middle between two and three. I am going to go ahead and click OK. Hmmm. If only I could make all that gray stuff go away. Well what blend mode ignores gray? Well, that would be Overlay or any of the contrast blend modes. But here is the thing. If I go to the Blend Mode list, this is going to be changing the blend mode of the actual layer.
I am going to take this opportunity to tell you that if you have a smart filter applied to a layer like we have done here, and as a reminder we got there by converting this layer to a Smart Object, the filter itself has it's own blend mode options. There is this little slider to the right of High Pass here in the Layers panel now and if I double-click on that slider, it reopens the Blending Options for that filter. And you can see I have the same Blend Mode list. Now I'm going to choose Overlay. And voila! Look at that. All the gray pixels go away. I click OK.
Here is before, here is after, and you can see that High Pass sharpening effect applied to a duplicate layer, set to Overlay, is a really quick easy way to do sharpening. If I double-click on the word High Pass that reopens the filter. It remembers the last setting. Right now it's 2.5 and now I have the ability to adjust this on the fly. I can increase it to 4.3 let's say. I can take it down. So you have the ability to fine-tune the level of sharpening. If you thought 2.5 was too strong, we can take it down to 1.8 let's say. And there is before and there is after.
We click OK and you have got a very flexible and fun way to do image sharpening without having even to memorize a bunch of sliders and rules.
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