Photoshop Top 40, Feature #5: The Sharpen Filters

About a dozen years ago, I engaged in the only cosmetic surgery of my life (so far!), LASIK. It corrected my far vision. But now that my aging crystalline lens is as impliable as a piece of beef jerky, I require reading glasses. And there’s not a thing Photoshop can do about it.

Photoshop is similarly incapable of correcting a photograph that was captured or digitized out of focus. Consider the following examples. In the first, the image is simulated to be out of focus using Photoshop’s powerful (but not Top 40) Lens Blur filter. In the second, I slather on a heaping helping of the Smart Sharpen filter with little evidence of positive transformation, not to mention lots of clipped highlights and shadows.

sharpened blurriness

Compare that to the same image as it was actually captured by Jason Stitt of the Fotolia image library. With accurate focus at its disposal, the Smart Sharpen filter is capable of rendering tactile detail, even with a tiny Radius value (the number after the slash below).

sharpened focus

The purpose, then, of Photoshop’s Sharpen filters is not to invent detail where none exists, but rather to enhance the detail that is already there. You can correct for source imperfections, call attention to facial features, enhance elements for effect, or add impact for output. And Photoshop supplies three filters to meet your needs: Unsharp Mask (the old-school approach), Smart Sharpen (great for detail-intensive images), and High Pass (best for portraits). Apply any one of them to a smart object (Feature #18), and you have the most flexible approach available to Photoshop.

My hint last week was something of a giveaway. And not surprisingly, we had lots of correct or very close answers. And by lots, I mean hundreds. Chosen at random, this week’s winner is Waterboy99 of Novato, California, who guessed “The Sharpen Filters,” which was exactly right. Congratulations, Waterboy99!

Now it’s time to guess Feature #4. Hint: This one-word feature encompasses all things in and out, up and down, back and forth. Keep an eye out for my newsletter in your email inbox.

(For a list of all Photoshop Top 40 videos thus far, click here.)

Photoshop Top 40 is available as a downloadable podcast from iTunes. Click here to subscribe. dekePod subscribers will get the videos automatically.

Best of luck on Feature #4!

Next entry:Martini Hour 057, In Which Deke Gives You Part of His Brain

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  • Great Tie In

    Thanks Deke for clearing up exactly what the Amount, Radius, and Threshold use was, including values for web and print. I’ve often wondered what those stood for, especially now that Radius carries over from one option to the next.

    Nice job dude.

    OH, and congrats Waterboy!

  • I guess you know this but…

    I use highpass all the time, it’s great on blurry but noisy images where I want to sharpen but not sharpen noise because I can either set it low or use noise filters on the highpass layer.

    I get around the colour deficiencies by having a duplicate layer on which I add the highpass, which then gets set to luminosity against the original. Kind of a kludge but it works - but I guess you knew that already.

    I sometimes scan older photos (which are often out of focus) and this works really well for me, better even than setting ‘threshold’ in unsharp mask.

    Loving this series btw.

  • Thank you!

    What a surprise. I’m stoked. Thanks for the great series as well!

  • I live up to my pseudonym

    When it comes to this Photoshop competition I find I really have mush where my brains should be. My guesses have been way off and even when the hint for number 5 was ‘a giveaway’ it went straight over my head.

    With feature number 4 I think I stand a bit of a chance, but when I tried to access and found a message saying something to the effect that the ‘limit for visitors had been exceeded’, then I knew that there will have to be a very big hat to pick the winner out of this time.

    Oh well, at least when the error message came up I had my curiosity satisfied. I often wondered how this website was built, and there in front of me was the little drupal drop. Drupal is notorious for being hard to theme so I take my hat of to you Deke, not just for your Photoshop skills, but for your excellent webmaster abilities.

  • Don’t worry!

    It’s the hints that are misleading wink I only guessed once and only partly!

  • The advanced smart sharpen features

    Dear Deke-
    The sharpen podcast is extremely helpful as this whole series has been. I have a question though. What are the shadow and highlights settings in the advanced panel for? And by the way, 101 tips in 5 minutes is my favorite Photoshop podcast of all time. Highly entertaining and packed with info.


  • Thanks for a GREAT tutorial!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    Very nice job.  I have been using only the unsharp mask until I viewed this video.  You make a convincing case for expanding my options.  And, you have demonstrated quite clearly how to do this.  Outstanding job.  Go Deke!!!


  • you must be aware that you

    you must be aware that you have a really nice blog must be very much thankful to you because of this awesome blog

  • there are a lots of blog

    there are a lots of blog available on that theme but your best so far…that’s why I am commenting here

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