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One of the more recent features added to Photoshop is the ability to set filters or apply filters to layers nondestructively. In previous versions of Photoshop, when you ran a filter on a given layer, it was a destructive action. It permanently changed those pixels. And so you ended up having to do is duplicate the layer before you ran the filter just in case you want to change your mind or change the Opacity, or delete it, or whatever. So now you can actually apply filters to layers nondestructively as long as you convert the layer to a Smart Object first. So, here is my Background layer. I can Option+double-click or Alt+double- click to convert that to a layer that supports transparency. And I'll right-click on the layer name and say Convert to Smart Object.
Now, when I have that converted, if I go to my Filter menu and say well let's use my favorite sharpening technique. I like to use High Pass. At first that looks like your image just turns into a big puddle of gray. High Pass is actually an edge detection filter, so anything that's not an edge turns gray. Everything that is an edge gets a slight enhancement. The dark part of the edge gets darker and the light part of the edge gets lighter. Let's crank this up, we'll make it say a Radius of 3, and we'll click OK. Now to make this look sharp, what you can do is now that the filter is a Smart Filter, because its been applied to a Smart Object, you can have separate blending options for the filter itself. That's what this little slider indicator is in Layers menu here. I'm going to double-click on the slider and change its blend mode to Overlay, which will ignore the gray pixels in that effect. So let's click OK. Here is before, and here is after.
And hopefully you can tell that the High Pass when set to Overlay makes the image look sharper. Now, if I want to make it even more sharp, the fact that it's a Smart Filter, I can re-edit that filter and change its settings. So if I double-click on High Pass, it reopens the dialog and it remembers my current settings. And I can crank that up nondestructively. So, I can always go back and adjust the setting of a filter, if you convert your layer to a Smart Object first. Handy tip.
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