Get Sharp, or Not! Secrets of The High Pass Filter

with 22 Comments

Barb BrookbankMost photos benefit from a little sharpening. Sharpening makes edges more defined by darkening dark pixels and lightening light pixels. This results in more contrast.

In Photoshop, there is always more than one way to do something. So today, instead of talking about the Sharpen filters, I’m going to talk about the High Pass filter.

I’m quite fascinated with the High Pass filter. Not only does it sharpen photos, it can also soften photos. And, it is non-destructive, which means that even after you apply the filter, your original photo remains intact.

Here are three versions of our sweet Miss Livv (she was ready for her close-up).

We have the original version, the sharpened version, and the soft and dreamy version.

On this example, I used settings that were a bit too extreme in order to make the differences clear. The settings in the tutorial are the ones you should use.

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Tutorial:

Step One: Prepare the Workspace

  • Open a photo (File > Open).
  • In the Menu Bar, choose File > Duplicate and click OK. (Photoshop: Choose Image > Duplicate.)
  • Press Ctrl J (Mac: Cmd J) to duplicate the background layer.

Step Two: Apply the High Pass Filter to Sharpen the Photo

  • In the Menu Bar, choose Filter > Other > High Pass.
  • In the dialog box, set the Radius to between 0.5 and 1 and click OK.
  • In the Layers panel, set the Blend Mode to Overlay.

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Step Three: Apply the High Pass Filter to Soften the Photo

  • Activate the original photo. Using the instructions in Step One, create another duplicate.
  • Press Ctrl J (Mac: Cmd J) to duplicate the background layer.
  • In the Menu Bar, choose Filter > Other > High Pass.
  • In the dialog box, set the Radius to 15 and click OK.
  • In the Layers panel, set the Blend Mode to Soft Light.
  • In the Menu Bar, choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Invert.
  • In the dialog box, click OK.
  • In the Menu Bar, choose Layer > Create Clipping Mask.

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And here’s my finished layout! I chose to use the soft photo, not the sharpened one.

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Credits:
Get Sharp, or Not! Secrets of The High Pass Filter by Barb Brookbank
Background Paper and Frames (re-coloured): Boys and Toys – Shabby by Digital Scrapper
PhotoMask: Recollection by Joanne Brisebois
Green Polka Dot Paper: Lucky Ducky by Miss Mint
Overlay Dots: Life’s Little Celebrations by Jill Means
Flower: Escape to Nature by Eva Kipler
Doodles: 4Seasons by Micheline Martin
Fonts: Aphrodite Slim Text and CKJot

Download this Digi Scrap Tutorial

22 Responses

  1. Shirl/grambie
    | Reply

    I have used the high-past for sharpening. We even had earlier tuts. But I will definitely have to try the softening effect. Love it.

  2. tora
    | Reply

    Thank you for this tut 🙂

  3. Mary A Derichsweiler
    | Reply

    I have Elements 7 and the layers panel is grayed out.How do I get the blend mode?

    • Barb
      | Reply

      Hi Mary, I think you must be trying to change the blend mode of the background layer. Let me know if this helps.

  4. Mungo
    | Reply

    I love that softened look, thank you

  5. Denise Bernard
    | Reply

    Hi,

    Amazing information. I have added it to my FAVORITES! In adding your tutorial, I was struck with the file name 2013-04-16-High-Pass-Sharpening.pdf. I use the same filing system, starting with the date, including the dashes. However when I finish the file name I use spaces and you use dashes. What is the reason for the dashes. I feel like I am missing something.

    Thanks in advance!
    Denise

  6. Denise1985
    | Reply

    Hi,
    Amazing information. I have added it to my FAVORITES! In adding your tutorial, I was struck with the file name 2013-04-16-High-Pass-Sharpening.pdf. I use the same filing system, starting with the date, including the dashes. However when I finish the file name I use spaces and you use dashes. What is the reason for the dashes. I feel like I am missing something.
    Thanks in advance!
    Denise

    • Barb
      | Reply

      Hi Denise – I don’t think you are missing anything – the dashes are just the way we save them.

    • lsattgast
      | Reply

      Using dashes is more of a web convention. On the web, you don’t want images or PDFs that have spaces.

      • Barb
        | Reply

        Thank you, Linda! Now I’ve learned something new today! 🙂

  7. Luisa
    | Reply

    Barb, you rule! Thanks so much. Your tuts are always soooo useful.
    Luisa

  8. Nannette
    | Reply

    Great tutorial Barb… Always something new to learn.

  9. Spanishmayne
    | Reply

    Thank you for the interesting tut

  10. Debbie Anderson
    | Reply

    Three layers, right? Umm…can you help identify which layers are active when applying the high pass filter, blend mode, adjustment layer, and clipping mask?
    Thank you!

    • Barb
      | Reply

      Hi Debbie, so sorry you are having trouble! The bottom layer is the background. Layer 1 is the copy–this is the one to which you apply the filter and the blend mode. Then you add the adjustment layer (which lands at the top of the Layers panel). Clip it to Layer 1 beneath it. Does this help? Please let me know :).

      • Debbie Anderson
        | Reply

        Thank you so much Barb! This definitely helps!! Such a very fun tip, and i love playing with your techniques! 🙂

        • Barb
          | Reply

          You are so very welcome!

  11. lsattgast
    | Reply

    Great tutorial, Barb! I use the High Pass filter for sharpening all the time, but I’ve never used it for softening. I love it—something new to try!

  12. Kathy Black
    | Reply

    Barb, great tutorial!Love the softness of the photo!!

  13. Mary Catherine McCarthy
    | Reply

    When I try to apply the filter, the image just grays out. What am I doing wrong?

    • lsattgast
      | Reply

      Are you applying the blend mode to the layer after applying the filter? That makes the gray layer disappear and show the effect.

  14. Mary Catherine McCarthy
    | Reply

    worked that time. thanks

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