How to sharpen an image in Photoshop

Sharpening a photo is one of the easiest ways to bring out more detail and ensure your photos look crisp and clear. Here’s how to do it.

There are a number of options when it comes to sharpening photos in Photoshop, from the basic sharpen tool to Edge Sharpen, Sharpen More, and Smart Sharpen. However, we use the unsharp mask to bring out details in an Adobe Stock photo because that’s the method Adobe recommends on their website.

One of the advantages of using a mask is that you can turn the effect on and off and adjust the settings even after you click OK. You can also use the mask to highlight areas of the image you want to sharpen and the bits you want to leave alone.

How to sharpen an image in Photoshop using the Unsharp Mask tool.

What you will need:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • A Creative Cloud subscription

The short version

  1. Zoom to 100%
  2. Click Filter
  3. Select “Convert for Smart Filters”.
  4. Click Filter again
  5. Hover over Sharpen
  6. Click Unsharp Mask
  7. Adjust the settings and click OK
  1. Step
    1

    Enlarge your image to 100%

    This isn’t necessary, but it makes it a lot easier to see what you’re doing. How to sharpen an image in Photoshop

  2. Step
    2

    Click Filter

    You can find this option in the menu bar at the top of Photoshop. How to sharpen an image in Photoshop

  3. Step
    3

    Select “Convert for Smart Filters”.

    When you get a pop-up window about converting the layer to a smart object, click OK. How to sharpen an image in Photoshop

  4. Step
    4

    Click Filter again

    This option can also be found in the menu bar at the top of your screen. How to sharpen an image in Photoshop

  5. Step
    5

    Hover over Sharpen

    This will bring up more options. How to sharpen an image in Photoshop

  6. Step
    6

    Click Unsharp Mask

    This is the tool we’re going to use to sharpen the image. How to sharpen an image in Photoshop

  7. Step
    7

    Adjust the settings and click OK

    You can play around with the sharpening level, radius, and threshold until you are happy with the results. How to sharpen an image in Photoshop

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Troubleshooting

How to preview different areas of your image

You can take a closer look at different parts of your image as you sharpen it by clicking anywhere in the image with the Unsharp Mask tool open.

You can also check the Preview box here to see your edits in real time, or leave it unchecked to only show them in the popup.

What to do if you overfocus an image?

If you find that you’ve over-sharpened the image, simply double-click the Unsharp Mask effect on your layers and drag the sliders back until you’re happy with the result.

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