Design insights & tutorials.

Photoshop Tip: Sharpening with Photoshop’s High-Pass Filter


Greetings. Have you ever been working on a project and needed to give an image a little boost? Whether it needs a bit more contrast, or needs to be sharper, I always find that the High Pass filter can give me a more dynamic result without spending too much time.

The High Pass filter should be used as an Overlay on top of a merged image. To see how it works, open a photo. I’m opening this awesome photo of me smashing sandwiches into my face, but you can open whatever photo you like. Press Ctrl/Command + J to duplicate the background (great keyboard shortcut). Now, let’s High Pass this thing.


The High Pass filter is located at the bottom of the filter list under “Other.” The radius dictates what detail is omitted from the image. Play with it and figure out how much of the image you want to sharpen. I’m leaving it at the default of 10.

Now set the layer to “Overlay.” If you feel there’s just way too much sharpening for your taste, mess with the opacity. Here’s my finished image. It’s not too different from the original ( which wasn’t of the best quality to begin with), but the contrast is more dynamic, and there is some additional depth added through the sharpening.



Here are some additional examples:


About the Author, Oliver Barrett

I'm a designer, art director, illustrator, bowling captain, bass player, shortshop, strategist, and much much more. Follow me on Twitter and check out my Flickr
Discover More by Oliver Barrett


We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • simonh4

    I personally use the unsharp mask filter to do my sharpening. I'll try this tip!
    PS: the picture is pretty disgusting (the one with the hamburgers) :-D

  • Wilson Revehl

    Great boost! This really brings out the ketchup on your shirt!!

  • Mitchell Jones

    Much better than unsharp mask imho… Thanks!

  • Liz Hunt

    Yes. Just yes.

  • trondus

    I've used the High-Pass as sharpening for a while now, but instead of “Overlay”, I use “Vivid Light”.

  • iami0

    i'll try this tip. thx.

  • Josh Goodwin

    Ah this brings me back. I still sharpen this way, even after all these fancy schmancy sharpening tools have been added. I feel i get better control this way.

  • timhammond

    I can forsee that first photo giving me nightmares.

  • JoeG

    I've just recently discovered the High Pass filter myself, and have fallen in love with it. I apply it to every photo I open anymore. I find that the Overlay filter works great with high resolution images, but for the lower quality ones I stick to Soft Light to avoid a major blowout in the highlights.

  • Iva83

    The tip's great, but the photo really, really makes me sick in this heat.

  • Chris Stauffer

    Great Tip!

  • Gion

    thank you so much for this uselful tool I really need something like that

  • HWS

    I use this sometimes, but often I just convert to Lab-colours, select the lightness channel and use unsharp mask on that.

  • Jeremy Brown

    Thanks for the tip Oliver! Not sure if I'll ever eat a burger again, but thanks anyway!

  • Michael Thomas

    That's pretty cool, every time I use the sharpen tool it often looks a lot worse than it did originally, I will have a play around with using this method. Thanks!

  • simonh4

    Just tried it on 2 pictures, looks nice! &

  • Sam

    Thanks for the advice, I have had little luck with the sharpening tool in the past, but I will try your method.

  • william_12

    Just tried. Works rather well.

  • william_12

    Did I say 'Thanks for sharing.'?

  • dana

    what a great tip. so many times i end up just pulling sharpening ideas outta a hat. sometimes i use “Brightness/Contrast” + “Smart Shapen” for a quick fix. But this works rather well.

  • Ryan Marganti

    Great tip. This is my go-to sharpening method. I do have one suggestion. Set the layer style to overlay BEFORE selecting the high-pass filter. This way you can make adjustments in the high-pass dialog box with 'preview' turned on and get a better idea of what the final product is going to look like. Peace!

  • Mark

    thanks for the tip. it works great!

  • Pingback: Tutorial: Retro Modernist Poster Design with 3D Typography | GoMediaZine

  • bimasakti

    cool, I also always use it, for making posters clearer image in high pass reply!

  • zelda

    i can tell this will be a filter i'm going to be absolutely addicted to.

  • Matt

    Thanks for this nice work!
    dizi izle

  • Clippingimages

    great tips man…thanks for sharing…

  • Bob