Saturday, 16 October 2010

PP Tips 4 - Simple Sharpener

This is part of a 'How To' series on post process work.

Sometimes, if everything is right with the world, an image will pop out of the camera which really only needs a little sharpening.

Now there are dozens of ways to sharpen an image, and I have tried most of them. I have even purchased sharpening software.

After trying many ways to sharpen, and not really getting the results I was after, I ended up writing my own Photoshop action.

This is not an entirely original action (I'm not that smart), but is adapted from some tried and true sharpening techniques. The action also applies a small amount of contrast.

So, this post is simply about how to use this action, first set of examples, and what the action steps are doing. See the second set of examples.

If you would like to use it, I have included a link to it below. It is entirely free for you to download, no strings attached. Just click the link and a download dialogue will appear.

This was originally written to work in Photoshop CS2, and has since been used in CS3, 4 and 5. Others, who have downloaded it, have 'ported' it for use in PS Elements, but I can't advise you on how to do that. I don't know !

The action is here - Sharpening Action

Note : At the bottom of this page is the script for the action, if you wish to modify it or replicate it in another program, other than Photoshop

Once downloaded, simply copy it to the Presets/Actions folder for Photoshop. When Photoshop is opened, just load the action for use.

Example Set One

Here is the image I wish to apply the action to. I pre-cropped this slightly

Step 1
When you open the 'Actions' window, this is what you should see.

Click the run button. This is the arrow at the bottom of the Actions pane.

Step 2
The action will run very quickly, and once finished, The following dialogue window will open. Read it and then click Continue.

Step 3
A second dialogue window will open. In this window, select 'Blending Options: Custom' and then choose how much effect you want the action to apply. This is adjusted using the Opacity slider.

The default value is 50%. This is fine for images which are around 10-12 megapixel. If the image is smaller, you may need to reduce the percentage.

Step 4
Once you have set your desired percentage, simply select Layer/Flatten Image.

That's it.

The original image.

The adjusted image.

Example Set Two

This series of images simply describes the action steps and shows the effect of each of those steps.

The original image.

The image after the action is run.

The original image viewed at 100%.

Note : This is what is commonly referred to as pixel peeping. Keep in mind that viewing this particular image at 100% is equivalent to viewing a print size of 30 x 40 inches

The image after the first action 'step'. This is simply creating a new layer, and then applying USM at 25, 25, 0. What this does is add a little apparent sharpness by altering the contrast.

The second step applies USM of 100, 1, 0 which is then 'faded' at 100% in 'darken' mode.

The third step applies USM of 150, 1, 0 which is then faded at 50% in 'lighten' mode.

The fourth step applies USM at 150, 1, 0 which is then faded at 15% in 'multiply' mode.

The fifth step simply sets the sharpening layer at 50% opacity. At this point, the action stops and the dialogue appears which allows you to change the opacity to your desired setting. I find that most times 50% is adequate.

This image simply shows the original (left) and the image after the action has run (right).

And, just a final point. Here is the script of the sharpening action, for any who wish to modify it, or replicate it for use in a program other than Photoshop.

That's it. Hope you found it helpful.


Other posts in this series - Click here for the index page.



  1. Hey Dave! I hope this message finds you well.

    I need a santiy check here. In the header of this thread you have provided a link to the Photoshop action used for this sharpening method.

    It seems like I saw that link in another post processing thread. But in that thread were examples of the actual processes used to create that action. Does this ring a bell with you? I would like to review those processes if possible.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Perfect! I'm not an Adobe user but if I can see what is happening within Photoshop, I can typically recreate the process in my Corel program. I'll post a reply in your DP thread to report how it goes.

    Best regards,


  4. Kevin, Hi.

    I removed the link to the old DPR thread, as someone pointed out to me, quite correctly, that the values did not match what was posted here. That script was actually version 1.

    I have now included the actual script in the post content, at the bottom of the page.

    Cheers, Dave.