Learn what sharpening does and how to apply basic sharpening.

What you learned: Sharpen a photo using the Unsharp Mask filter

How sharpening works

Sharpening works by increasing contrast at edges in the image.

Zoom to 100%

Double-click the Zoom tool in the Tools panel to zoom in to 100%, so you can accurately judge sharpness.

Convert for Smart Filters

With the photo layer selected in the Layers panel, go to the Filter menu and choose Convert for Smart Filters, so you can sharpen without permanently changing the photo.

Apply the Unsharp Mask filter

  1. In the Filter menu, choose Sharpen > Unsharp Mask.
  2. In the Unsharp Mask dialog box:
  • Drag the Amount slider to set the strength of the sharpening effect.
  • Drag the Radius slider to set the width of the sharpening effect at image edges.
  • Drag the Threshold slider to the right to minimize sharpening of image elements you don’t want to emphasize, like grain in the sky.

Save your work

Save the image in PSD or TIFF format to retain layers.

Want to change the sharpening?

If you want to change the sharpening at any time, double-click Unsharp Mask in the Layers panel to reopen the Unsharp Mask dialog box.

Tip: Almost every photo will benefit from sharpening, but be careful not to over-sharpen.

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