Sharpen photos the smart way: demystifying Photoshop’s image-sharpening tools

Sharpen photos with Unsharp Mask

Sharpening the luminance

Sharpening the luminance

Using USM can result in colour shifts and artefacts being introduced. Avoid this by only applying the sharpening to the Luminance channel.

Convert the image to Lab Colour mode (Image>Mode>Lab Colour) and then select the Luminance channel in the Channels panel.

Converting to Lab Colour mode results in some loss of image quality, so it isn’t always desirable. It’s better to apply USM to a duplicate layer and blend that layer with the background using the Luminosity Blend Mode.

SEE MORE: Photoshop Layers Demystified – a beginner’s guide to smarter photo editing

Sharpening for printing
Apply sharpening at the size the image is to be used at. Different levels are required depending upon how the image is to be viewed.

An image that is to be printed may need a heavier sharpening treatment than one viewed on-screen.

As some printers apply sharpening, it’s important to make a test print or two before making multiple large prints for the first time.

PAGE 1: Why use Photoshop to sharpen photos
PAGE 2: Sharpen photos with Unsharp Mask
PAGE 3: Sharpening the luminance
PAGE 4: Sharpen photos in Adobe Camera Raw
PAGE 5: Sharpen photos with Smart sharpen


Photoshop Effects: recreate the look of a medium format portrait
10 things photographers can do to stop wasting images
Raw Editing: what you need to know about white balance correction
Dramatic Lighting: how to create stylish portraits using simple Photoshop effects