Sharpen with High Pass and how this method works

We use this filter to sharpen images usually and I believe most of you already know for recipe to apply 2-3 Radius in High Pass dialog then to change blending mode to Overlay, Soft Light, Hard Light. Most of tutorialists and instructors will explain that blending modes from “contrast group” where belongs already mentioned blending modes ‘’ignores’’ neutral gray areas. Excellent, but what means this “ignores’’? This means my friends that blending mode from contrast group won’t be applied at all where neutral gray color is present, in other words neutral gray acts as black color in layers masks, for those who are familiar with layer masks.
High Pass filter in Adobe Photoshop

Sharpening with High Pass (Filter > Other > High Pass) works increasing contrast with one of blending modes which do this job in Photoshop: Overlay, Soft Light, Hard Light, Vivid Light or Linear Light. Those blending modes increases contrast uniformly to entire image and High Pass job is to detect edges and highlight them with lighter color on screen so you can see what will be sharpened; rest of image is filled with neutral gray color which acts as mask when blending modes from contrast group are concerned. So when one appllies Overlay after High Pass, contrast will be increased partially only at edges which High Pass has detected (light areas when High Pass is applied to the image). That’s purpose of sharpening to increase contrast along edges so image appears sharper or with more details (more obvious details).

Now that you know how this sharpening works, U can use this filter more efficiently and without to use recipe 2-3 Radius uniformly for all images. Drag Radius slider in High Pass dialog and watch what’s happening to the image, only light areas will be sharpened. After applying High Pass change layer blend mode to Overlay for example if you have duplicated layer.
Change layer blend mode in Adobe Photoshop

Double click two arrows on the right side of High Pass below Smart Object to edit filter blending mode and change it from Mode: drop-down list.
Open Blending Options dialog when working with Smart Object

Or use Fade High Pass (Shift + Ctrl + F is keyboard shortcut) command from Edit menu if High Pass is applied to Background or single regular layer.

Use Opacity slider (or change using keyboard shortcuts) to lower sharpening amount in two above mentioned blending mode dialogs or lower opacity of underlying layer.

Photoshop / Filter effects reference

Product used in this tutorial: Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended


  1. This is fine for an overall sharpen. Sometimes though high pass sharpen can be used for facial retouching and enhancing the texture within the eyes. Here high pass can be used at a much higher radius and the masked to give the desired richness to the iris.

  2. I have never used High Pass before, but I can think of some instances where this would be extremely helpful. Thanks!

  3. Small world, I was just having to use this a couple days ago for a big job. It's a good tip.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How to Change Artboard Size in Adobe Photoshop

Free Puzzle Pieces Actions For Photoshop and Elements

Old Weathered Vertical Wooden Planks Free Image