advanced photoshop

How to sharpen photos in Photoshop

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Tips & Tutorials, by The Advanced Photoshop Team

Learn how to sharpen up your shots in just four simple steps

All images require some sharpening out of camera in order to enhance edges and bring out detail in the contrasting areas. In this four-step tutorial, we will show you just how simple it is to sharpen up your shots using some of Photoshop’s most basic adjustment tools. Using the Unsharp Mask tool, you will learn how to correctly adjust the sliders in order to improve the appearance and sharpness in your shots. Enhancing the focus further, we will also show you how to sharpen more specific areas in the frame using the Sharpen tool. This is ideal when editing portrait shots, the Sharpen tool can be used to brighten up and bring out the subject’s eyes.

01 Layer Setup

Step 1
Open the image you want to sharpen in Photoshop. Duplicate your original layer by going to Layer>New>Layer Via Copy. Re-name your new layer ‘sharpen layer’ and click OK. Now you are able to sharpen your image without affecting your original image file. Go to Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask to begin sharpening your image.

02 Begin to sharpen up

Step 2
In the Unsharp Mask dialog box, click the preview button and zoom to 100% onto the subject’s eyes. Bring the Threshold slider up between 1 and 5 to smooth the skin and reduce noise. Now increase the Amount slider, which will affect how much of the image is sharpened by the Radius slider, set it at 90 to 120%.

03 Bring back detail

Step 3
You can now slowly drag the Radius slider up to increase sharpness in the entire image, keep previewing the results on screen. You should avoid setting the Radius any higher than 5.0 pixels as your image can begin to appear noisy. If noise sets in too quickly, try increasing the Threshold slider slightly. Adjust the Radius and Threshold sliders until you are happy with the results, then click OK.

04 Brighten the eyes

Step 4
Now select the Sharpen tool from the Tools palette on the left-hand side of the screen. Zoom into your subject’s eyes and adjust the Brush Size to suit the pupil. Select a Soft edge with the strength at around 20%. You can now begin to gently brush over the eyes to selectively sharpen them up. This should also make them appear brighter on-screen. Finally, flatten your layers and save your new and improved sharp shot.

How to sharpen photos in Photoshop