Using Smart Sharp in Photoshop to Sharpen an Image

Sharpening in Photoshop Part Two

In the first part, I showed how to sharpen an image using high pass filter.  In this part, I will be demonstrating how to sharpen an image using smart sharp in Photoshop.  Smart Sharp gives more control over sharpening an image such as sharpening in highlighted or shadowed areas.  It also has three types of modes to choose from which you can select depending on what situation you are attempting to sharpen.

Smart Sharpen dialogue box when opened up in Photoshop.

To understand what all the sliders do, a brief description of each one.

  • Amount – Sets strength of sharpening.  A higher percentage results in an increase of contrast between edge pixels resulting in improved sharpness.
  • Radius – This affects pixels surrounding edge pixels affected by the sharpening effect.  The higher the radius, the more effect it has on the edge.
  • Reduce Noise – Reduces noise of affected sharpness.  This is only available for Photoshop CC users.
  • Remove – Three types of sharpening algorithms.  Choose the type that is relevant to what you aim to do.
    • Gaussian Blur – Similar to using Unsharp Mask.
    • Lens Blur – An improved algorithm to give more exceptional sharpening & reduce halo.
    • Motion Blur – Reduces motion blur.
  • Angle – Used for motion blur to help reduce effects of any blurring.

For shadows & highlights, there are three identical sliders.

  • Fade Amount – Adjusts the strength of sharpening.
  • Tonal Width – Adjust tonal control.
  • Radius – Adjusts area size around pixels.  Sliding more to the right increases radius.

Create Smart Object for Smart Sharp

Before beginning to use the tool, it would be best to create a smart object.

  • Make sure you have selected a correct layer for editing.
  • Press Ctrl + J to make a layered copy or right click layer & select duplicate.
  • Right-click duplicate layer then select convert to smart object.

Making Adjustments with Smart Sharp

Make sure you have the smart layer selected, then open up smart sharpen by going to Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharp.

Selecting smart sharp in Photoshop.

First, we are going to select the type of sharpening.  I will use lens blur if not selected already, then slide the required amount.

I selected 300% for the amount with some gain in sharpness already. Using an amount up to 350% should be fine but reduce if your image starts looking too sharp as we still have other changes to make.

Next select radius.  This is quite a dominant part of smart sharp so setting a very low amount will be enough.

Selecting a radius of 2.4 has dramatically improved the clarity of this image.

Next is to reduce noise.  A maximum amount of 20% is recommended before an image appears too soft.

I set noise reduction to 8% as this image was shot at a very low iso, so it does not suffer too much from noise.

For shadows & highlights, I applied only a small amount of fade.  Adjust accordingly depending on the type of image you use.

Adjustments made to highlights & shadows.

With all adjustments made, click ok & wait.  This can take a few seconds or a minute depending on the strength of sharpening.  If happy with the result then flatten image using Layer > Flatten Image.

Using smart sharp has helped to reduce blur & improve detail.


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