How to Sharpen an Image in Photoshop Using Smart Sharpen

1. Your first order of business is to load your image and duplicate its background layer. You can do this by right-clicking the background layer and then choosing the Duplicate Layer option. Also make sure to change the blend mode to Luminosity to ensure that everything blends smoothly.


2. Next, select Filter -> Sharpen and choose the option labeled Smart Sharpen. You should now be greeted by the Smart Sharpen Window. Here, you’ll first want to check the Preview box and then make sure that the zoom level is set to 100%. Resize the window and feel free to move it around to get a better view of things.


3. The next set of options will require some trial and error depending on the image you want to sharpen. The Amount value is set to 200% by default and works just fine for a lot of images but for others you’ll want to go with something lower like 150%. You could also go higher but that might lead to an unnatural look. The Radius can stay at 1.0 but in some cases 2.0 will yield better results. Anything more than that and you’ll start seeing halos. Finally, set the Noise Reduction Slider as per your needs.


4. The final step is to use the Remove dropdown menu and select one of the three available types of blur you want to eliminate – Gaussian, Motion or Lens. Each will lead to a different effects depending once again on the image used so don’t be afraid to experiment. While you’re at it, play around with the Shadows and Highlights sliders to try and improve the image even more.


How to Sharpen an Image in Photoshop Using Unsharp Mask

1. Just like before, you’ll want to make sure that you’re using the sharpening method on a different layer so repeat step 1 from the previous section.


2. The second step is similar as well but when choosing the Sharpen Filter this time around you’ll want to go with Unsharp Mask instead of Smart Sharpen. A new window will appear that you can resize and move around just like before. Don’t forget to check the Preview box and set the zoom level to 100% while you’re there.


3. You’ll immediately notice that this filter has far fewer options that Smart Sharpen. In this case, you’ll want to start with the sharpen amount at around 60% and gradually work your way up from there while observing the changes. You generally don’t want to go over 200%, though. If you’re going with a very high percentage of sharpening you’ll want to adjust the Threshold levels. Otherwise, you can leave that option at 0. Meanwhile, the Radius should be kept anywhere between 1.0 and 2.0 pixels in this case as well.


Best Alternative: How to Sharpen an Image without Photoshop

Now you know how to sharpen an image in Photoshop but the question is, should you? While it’s hard to argue with its effectiveness, Photoshop is a fairly expensive software that takes a long time to master. If you’re looking for a cheaper and much simpler alternative we recommend checking out Vance AI Image Sharpener. This AI-powered online tool takes care of the sharpening process automatically using machine learning, resulting in much less work for you. In addition, subscriptions start at only $9.90 per month and you can test it for free, so what’s not to love? Here’s how it works:

1. Visit Vance AI’s website and select the Image Sharpener tool from the AI Solutions dropdown menu found at the top of the UI.


2. Upload your image and click Continue. Select either Auto Sharpen or adjust the sharpening degree slider in manual mode. Click Start to Process.


3. From the Processed Images tab, preview the image and then download it if you’re happy with the results. You can also select and download multiple images at once if needed.


Final Thoughts

You can potentially notice big differences in quality when you sharpen an image using Photoshop but the process usually involves a lot of trial and error. You can achieve similar results with AI Sharpen for cheaper and without putting in nearly as much work. Granted, the amount of options is more limited but it can still get the job done regardless. Also read: How to Sharpen an Image in Photoshop