Begin by opening an image you feel needs sharpening. Remember, this method will not fix an image that is out of focus. Rather, it will add an extra degree of crispness, really bringing out details and making your image pop.

Once I have my edited file ready, I usually save sharpening for very last. You will want to flatten any layers you may have. Create a copy of the background layer by dragging it to the ‘create new layer’ icon at the bottom of your layers palette.

With the newly created ‘Background Copy’ layer selected, go to Filter > Other > High pass.

Once you click on the High Pass filter you will get a very strange looking image. What you will see is an almost entirely grey version of your shot, however, if you play with the radius setting in the High Pass dialog, you will notice the edges of your image are highlighted. For sharpening purposes you will want to set your radius anywhere from 0.5 to 1.

You will want to set your radius to a point where your edges are just barely visible, then click OK.

Next, with your background copy layer selected, press Shift-Command-U (PC: Shift-Ctrl-U). This key combination de-saturates the layer, removing the unusual colors from your edges.

The final step is to select the overlay-blending mode for your high pass layer. This will remove the grey appearance and perfectly map your background layer.

Of course, the final step is to flatten your image and go directly to print or to web. One thing I do like to do though is to zoom in to a 100% and click the high pass layer visibility on and off.

BEFORE (above)

AFTER (below)

This will clearly show you what the sharpening has done for you. Sometimes the effect is more desirable than others. Play around and soon you will get the feel for which images need sharpening and exactly how much.

Share & Enjoy

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  1. Ric Hornor (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008


  2. Kenny McCarthy (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008

    was following up to the point of press shift+apple+D, APPLE ???

  3. Mark (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008

    The Apple key = the control key on a PC.

  4. Lin Hawkyard (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008

    The instruction is for working on a Mac keyboard – the command key is equivalent to the Ctrl key on a PC keyboard, so I am assuming that the instruction would be shift+ctrl+D

  5. Alex Preiss (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008

    It works great. Thanks.

  6. Katalin (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008

    On my PC its Shift+Ctrl+U

  7. Brumos (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008

    Hmmm…. I believe the correct key combo to desaturate in CS3 is ‘shift+cmmd+U’

  8. d Klecan (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008

    Your right Brumos it is U not D. but to be sure…it can be done manually as follows:

    From the menu:

  9. Awaken Yoshikawa (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008

    Nice Tutorial

    Awaken Yoshikawa
    Second Life

  10. James (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008

    i like to apply duplicate layers of the high pass effect for more sharpening and enhancements. sometimes, one high pass isnt enough. experiment and see what works best for you.

  11. Me (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008

    The difference in the two images is almost impossible to see with that resolution… Not that smart…

  12. Navneet Shetty (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008

    Thank Dude,
    Really effective for quick shapenning of images….

  13. Paul Moss (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008

    This is Brillian many thanks for the tip

  14. Nancy (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008

    Great info thanks…Nice results!

  15. ching (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008

    So does this help eliminate halation?

  16. Naveen Goud (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008

    Absolutely High Pass :-)

  17. [...] TWIP.  I did a little searching to find out more and found two nice tutorials on the method at Layers Magazine and  The basics [...]

  18. Espilotro (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008

    Nice tutorial

  19. [...] Adobe Photoshop Tutorial | Digital Photography | Sharpen Photo | High Pass Filter | Layers Magazine – [...]

  20. [...] trobat un petit tutorial (en anglès) Sharpening using Hig Pass Filter que explica una forma senzilla d’utilitzar aquest filtre per donar un major detall a una [...]

  21. Chuong (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008

    very simple yet useful, effective. I tested it on my pics and see the results instantly. Very naturally sharp looking ;) .

  22. [...] Once you’ve cropped your image, colour balanced it and completed your healing and dodge and burn, you’re ready to sharpen your image for print. Ignoring the default sharpen filters, I want you to take a look at using the high pass filter, you’ll find the basic method here. [...]

  23. Vince (Reply) on Friday March 14, 2008

    Thank you so much! This made a world of difference in my most recent editing session :)

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