Introduction to Sharpening 1 Videos (1:40m)
  • 01 - What is Sharpening?
Tools & Techniques for Sharpening 6 Videos (1:05h)
  • 01 - The Sharpen Tool
  • 02 - Automatic Sharpening
  • 03 - Unsharp Masks
  • 04 - Smart Sharpen
  • 05 - Sharpening with High Pass
  • 06 - Reverse Sharpen
Sharpening Examples 4 Videos (1:02h)
  • 01 - Correcting Focus Issues with Sharpening
  • 02 - General Sharpening
  • 03 - Enhancing Landscapes with Sharpening
  • 04 - Enhancing Portraits with Sharpening
Sharpening Workflow 3 Videos (38:34m)
  • 01 - Best Practices
  • 02 - Using Photoshop Actions
  • 03 - Sharpening for Print & Web
Catalog  >  PRO Tutorials  >  Photoshop Tutorials  >  How to Master Sharpening in Photoshop



How to Master Sharpening in Photoshop

About this Class

Corgis. Babies. Your favorite pillow. Some things are better soft. Just not your photos.

In this tutorial, Aaron covers the ins and outs of professional sharpening in Photoshop. Learn to enhance details, create contrast, and prepare your images for print, web, and social media.

What’s Included

14 Video Tutorials   |   13 Sample Images   |   9 Custom Photoshop Actions

Class Instructor

Aaron Nace – PHLEARN Founder

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Starting at $8.25/month – Unlimited Streaming
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Master Sharpening



Bring Your Images into Focus

Beautiful details. Crisp edges. Stunning contrast. Give your photos a professional finish with sharpening in Photoshop.

Sharpen Any Image



Sharpen Any Image in Photoshop

Make any image clearer. Sharpening is an essential step that adds depth and dimension to a photograph. Master the tools and techniques the pros use to sharpen an image in Photoshop.

The Details that Matter Most

Have you ever wondered how to properly sharpen eyes in Photoshop? What about hair, lips, or clothing? Not only do we cover the tools and techniques to perfectly sharpen an image, we also teach you what parts of a photo will benefit most from some extra contrast and clarity.

Skills for Any Photographer

Bring out the details in a mountain landscape. Highlight the craftsmanship in a bride’s wedding dress. Accentuate the color and depth in a model’s eyes. No matter what type of images you create, professional sharpening will help them look their best.



Rescue Photos

Photoshoots can be crazy and sometimes things go wrong. Missed focus? Need to get rid of some unexpected motion blur? Learn how to sharpen photos in Photoshop and take them from unusable to beautiful.

Add a Professional Finish

Give your photos the professional punch they need to catch a client’s eye or stand out on Instagram. Your photos deserve to be next to the best – we’ll help you get them there.

Work Faster with Our Sharpen Action

In the competitive world of photography and post-production, your time is valuable. Our exclusive Photoshop sharpen action will help you work faster and achieve professional results – without ever skipping a beat.



Guide the Viewer’s Eyes

Ever wonder how certain images pull you into a person’s eyes or guide you to the most important features in a landscape? Composition is key but sharpening can also have a huge impact on the photography. Learn to use sharpening to guide your viewer’s eyes to the things that matter most.

Crisp Edges, Stunning Contrast

Are your photos feeling flat? No problem! Use image sharpening to add contrast and depth to any picture. Separate your subject from the background or add a subtle dodge and burn effect to create shape and definition – all with the techniques that you’ll learn in this tutorial.

Photoshop Sharpening Tools

We start with the basics like the Photoshop Sharpen Tool. Then we walk you through using more advanced techniques like High Pass Sharpening and Unsharp Masks for even more flexibility and control.



Unsharp Masks

Threshold? Radius? Amount? What does it all mean?! One of the most popular tools for precision sharpening, understanding how to use Unsharp Masks will take your photos to the next level.

High Pass Sharpening

Learn Aaron’s preferred sharpening method. High Pass sharpening will give you the ability to apply several layers of subtle sharpening, each to different areas of a photo. Learn to sharpen hair, eyes, lips, and clothing, each individually and at different quantities.

Smart Sharpen

When you need speed and the conditions in your photos are right, Smart Sharpen can give you amazing results in a fraction of the time. Learn the ins and outs of some of the automated tools in Photoshop that can very quickly and easily get your images looking great.



Professional Workflow

As a working photographer, you know that half the battle is managing your time. In this tutorial, you’ll not only learn one of the most powerful photo editing techniques, but also how to fit it seamlessly into your workflow. From edit to export, we’ve got you covered.

Best Practices

If you have ever used image sharpening software that claims to deliver professional results, go ahead an uninstall it. Nothing comes close to professional Photoshop sharpening. Master the tools and techniques that your favorite photographers and image-makers use to bring their work to life.

Tips for Print & Web

Get your photos ready for the cover of your favorite magazine or impress clients with images that will look amazing on their website. No matter the application, our sharpening techniques will give your photos a professional edge.

Class Instructor

Aaron Nace


Aaron Nace is a photographer, Photoshop artist and founder of PHLEARN. He is the #1 Photoshop instructor in the world with millions of YouTube subscribers.


  1. Rated 5 out of 5

    Great overview and very helpful. I’m also a fan of the Highpass filter to sharpen my images but I had no idea how useful it can be. This tutorial increases my sharpening knowledge a lot and my images gets a new quality. Thank you Aaron for your insights.

  2. Rated 5 out of 5

    Great tutorial! Really useful tips on creating subtle yet dramactic emphasis. Great to have all the background information and then the actions to make faster, also found the workflow/format suggestions super helpful.

  3. Rated 5 out of 5

    The instruction is well thought out and each step explained in detail. Makes it easy to stop and go back if I miss something or need to hear it again. Well done.

  4. Rated 5 out of 5

    Learning about sharpening is new to my tool box…Arron is the best. This tutorial is super helpful!

  5. Rated 5 out of 5

    This tutorial was SO helpful in understanding one of the most important aspects of post work and retouching. I’m sure I’ll come back to it again and again, thank you! One question – I get an error message when I try to adjust an existing high pass “Smart filters stacked on top of this filter will not preview while this filter is being edited. They will be applied after committing the filter parameters dialog.” Any idea why or how to avoid it? Cheers!

  6. Rated 5 out of 5

    Aaron takes a technical topic and makes it accessible and understandable. Great tips on why and when to sharpen as well as considerations for various output formats. Reverse sharpening .. wow. Thanks to Aaron and the PhLearn team for another amazing tutorial.

  7. Rated 5 out of 5

    Aaron is such a great instructor. Tutorials such as this are why I become a Pro subscriber. Each is thorough and practical. The website is so well crafted and accessing content is a breeze. Keep up the great work – please and thank you!

  8. Rated 5 out of 5

    I’ve been sharpening with the HIGHPASS Filter for over a decade in conjunction with Overlay, Softlight, Vivid Light and Linear Light. I definitely feel great about knowing it is one of the best ways to sharpen. Unfortunately, I feel my workflow suffered a lot because I wasn’t sharpening at the end of my image’s post-processing. I can definitely understand and agree with Aaron’s suggestion that the end of the process is the best place. Sharpening at the end is one of several great takeaways I got from this tutorial. I had no idea or clue about inverting the HIGHPASS for a softening, glowing of parts of the image. That is one tool I know I will be using a lot in the future. In the past, I kept my radius to between .05-3.0 for small details. I see the power of using a much higher radius for sharpening larger details and an even higher radius for a general dodge and burn effect that can be controlled with the opacity slider. I also picked up some great tips on sharpening for web and print. I will be cognizant of not sharpening much at all when I decide to take many of my images to print. Thank you so much for a GREAT tutorial. I feel better adept at my HIGHPASS filter techniques now. I appreciate that you repeated much of the information in each tutorial. It really helped me remember techniques in navigating Photoshop to sharpen my images. Wayne S. Grazio aka fotograzio

  9. Rated 5 out of 5

    This is just amazing, thank you for sharing your knowledge.. this is such a revelation to me! God bless!

  10. Rated 5 out of 5

    Fabulous tutorial! You are my “go to” guy for all things Photoshop. Can’t thank you enough. Helene Anne Fortin

  11. Rated 5 out of 5

    Great Job. I am so happy that the playback engine finally works without stuttering.

  12. Rated 5 out of 5

    Fantastic tutorial. Using the smart objects and high pass filter enlighten my world on this 😀 Although I work with dogs mostly and your workshops samples mostly contains human (although I think I saw a dog in the background walking by in one of the chapters hahaha), I’m pretty sure I will benefit fully of this! Never thought of sharpening after applying the correct size, so that’s a big eye opener!

  13. Rated 5 out of 5

    Adore PHLEARNing with Aaron, I learn so much each time. The sharpening master class gives me so many different options to think about as well as reinforcing all the short cuts to make them second nature is fabulous! Thank you for being you!

  14. Rated 5 out of 5

    Fabulous tutorial…learned something new and I LOVE it in particular on my flower shots!

  15. Rated 5 out of 5

    Awesome course. Learning about the saving for web and print was very interesting. Thanks for all the information and the great actions

  16. Rated 5 out of 5

    This has made a huge difference in my final pics. Definitely one of those little things I was missing but couldn’t quite figure out how to adjust. Big thanks!

  17. Rated 5 out of 5

    This is a fantastic example of why Phlearn is my go-to for improving my editing skills. The amount of practical and useful information and technique in this tutorial is beyond belief. No matter if you are just getting started in photo editing or if you have been at it for years… There is something new to be learned from this.

  18. Rated 5 out of 5

    This is totally worth the annual membership! You speak very clear, and explain things very well and are not too fast. I also like how the keyboard short cuts keep appearing. For continuous practice. Great job and great teacher!

  19. Rated 5 out of 5

    I love this tutorial and the reverse sharpening was amazing! Great Aaron! Congratulations!

  20. Rated 5 out of 5

    Great Course!!!!!! Clear and practical. Thanks again for another great video . Love your instruction style.

  21. Rated 5 out of 5

    Great tutorial. Never thought of this workflow before. Thank you Aron. By the way, are you using any shortcut keys to put one layer out of a group? I used to drag them out of the group but it’s difficult sometimes. You seem to do it almost in a fraction of a second.

    PHLEARN Staff
    Thanks for your comment, you can group layers by selecting them and pressing CTRL/CMD + G. You can take a layer out of a group by moving it up or down CTRL/CMD + [ or ]
  22. Rated 5 out of 5

    Very useful tutorial. Great examples

  23. Rated 5 out of 5

    Just love this tutorial, and the Revers sharpen which I’ll try on my photos. Lots of new things to try out.

  24. Rated 5 out of 5

    Yasssssssssss, now i am special. At first i was like ok this is just going over other things that he talked about in other tutorials or tools people mention for free…. I’m currently half way through this tutorial and now i am mad that they took so long to create this tutorial. My Image quality is friggen amazing now. GET THIS TUTORIAL!

  25. Rated 5 out of 5

    Another excellent Aaron tutorial. I thought had sharpening under control mainly using Unsharp Mask or Smart Sharpen. This tutorial showed me how much I was missing, and has taken my sharpening techniques to a new level. Highly recommended.

  26. Rated 5 out of 5

    Really enjoyed the tutorial omn sharpening, I finally understand why I should sharpen photos and how. I really liked the reverse sharpening as well. I have been looking for a way to slightly blur areas of a photo for a long while.

  27. Rated 5 out of 5

    Great learning from Aron – very happy 🙂

  28. Rated 5 out of 5

    Thanks for this one. Great course. Answers lots of questions I’ve had around sharpening. At some point, I’d like to get a bit more info on your suggestions for sharpening (and processing in general) when you have a large number of photos to process, and you need to do that in a batch fashion. Again, thanks for all the great info.

  29. Rated 5 out of 5

    Hey Aaron I love your tutorials, so easy to follow and I have learnt so much. One thing I did have a problem with in the reverse sharpen tutorial was the invert layer step. My version of PS which is CS6 did not let me do that command. Or should I say, nothing happened when I hit Cmd/I. Does this command not work in CS6 version?

    PHLEARN Staff
    Thanks for your comment, you can also invert by going to “Image > Adjustments > Invert” in the menu of Photoshop. It should work in all versions of Photoshop.
  30. Rated 5 out of 5

    Knocking it out of the park once again with this tutorial! A great detailed tutorial, that teaches you how to sharpen your images and create a great workflow, that is non-destructive. They even provide you with preset sharpening actions, that does most of the work for you. What more can you ask for?

  31. Rated 5 out of 5

    Thank you so much I can’t believe how much this has improved my images. AND oh!! my!!gosh!!even and action included makes life so much easier. Great tutorial, esp like working along with the images you provided. I keep saying he can’t keep doing great learning videos and each one I come away with more info. Amazing

  32. Rated 5 out of 5
  33. Rated 5 out of 5

    Re: General Sharpening tutorial. In my latest version of CC I can’t paint on a layer mask that is on a group without merging the group. Therefore I can’t paint on the mask and then reopen the group and change the high pass filter settings. Work around??

    PHLEARN Staff
    Thanks for your comment, I am not sure why Photoshop won’t let you paint on a group mask. Please contact our support staff and we will gladly help!
  34. Rated 5 out of 5

    Loved this tutorial, really detailed, I finally have an understanding of sharpening as a subject itself. Keep up the good work PHLEARN

  35. Rated 5 out of 5

    Hey Aaron, as always: professional workflows & presentation. Many thanks for sharing your knowledge !

  36. Rated 5 out of 5

    I have learnt many thing.And Reverse Sharpening is something Cooool awesome .This is totally fantastic course .

  37. Rated 5 out of 5

    High Pass sharpening used it many times but never thought about using it like you have shown in this video. Huge thanks, really enjoyed this video.

  38. Rated 5 out of 5

    Another great tutorial! I like that Aaron went over the old sharpening tools, the only bad side of high pass filter sharpening is that it greatly increases the file size of the image. I really like the reverse sharpening method instead of relying on blur gallery. I also finally understand the sharpen and resizing for other media. Thanks!

  39. Rated 5 out of 5

    Im soo excited to seee this .Thnk you aron


This tutorial includes 13 sample images, 9 custom Photoshop actions, and 14 video tutorials. Download the sample images and assets at the top of the page.

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