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Looking to make part of an image stand out a little more? In this post we will show you how to do selective sharpening in Photoshop using the high pass filter. This is method is great for giving head-shots a bright-eyed look, or subtly highlighting elements of images. I’ll walk you through the steps to use this method on a photo where I want to highlight the eyes even more. Below

How to do selective sharpening in Photoshop using the High Pass Filter

Duplicate Layer

Once you have your image open in Photoshop, the first step to selective sharpening with this method is to duplicate the the layer of the image. If your file has many layers, it is important to duplicate all the layers, and merge them into one layer. This duplicated layer is the one we are going to make all the edits to.

Desaturate Duplicated Layer

The next step is to desaturate the duplicated layer. To do this go to the Photoshop menu and click Image > Adjustments >  Desaturate (Or Shift+Ctrl+U on Windows or Shift+Cmd+U on Mac). Later we will use a blend mode to bring the color back from the original layer.

How to do selective sharpening in Photoshop using the High Pass Filter Desaturate

High Pass Filter

The next step is to apply the High Pass Filter. This filter can be found on the Photoshop menu by clicking Filter > Other > High Pass. Your goal using this technique is adjust the radius on the high pass filter so that the borders of the details on the image pop out, but that you do not get a bunch of noise in-between the borders of the details. Start on 0px radius and adjust it up slowly until those details pop out. For my project right between 4px and 5px was perfect. If you are using a smaller photo the sweet stop will be less, a larger image, the sweet spot will be more. Once you adjust it to your liking, click “OK”.



selective-sharpening-blend-modeBlend Mode

Once you have added your High Pass filter, the next thing to do is add a blend mode to this layer. This will bring the color from the original layer back. You have 3 blend mode options for the best results, they are “Overlay”, “Soft Light”, and “Hard Light”. To add a blend mode, go to the top of the “Layers” panel and click the drop-down box that will likely be labeled as “Normal”. Switch between overlay, soft light, and hard light find you favorite. On my project I chose “Hard Light”.

Add a Layer Mask

So now we have our High Pass filtered applied and we have our color back, but it is affecting the entire image. So now we need to add a layer mask and use it to select only the elements of the photo we want to stand out. You can find the “Add Layer Mask” button at the bottom of the “Layers Panel” next to the “FX” button. Before you click it, make sure you still have the duplicated layer selected, and if/when you do, click “Add Layer Mask”.

layer-maskUse the brush tool on the layer mask to select only the parts you want the high pass filter to be visible on. For my project it is the eyes. The quickest way for me was to black out the filter on the entire image first using the black brush, and then switch to white to uncover the layer only on the eyes. Note, it is important to to have a soft brush, I adjusted the hardness to 0px. Once you have completed this, you have successfully done selective sharpening in Photoshop using the high pass filter.