What can you do if your photo is blurry? Don't worry—you can fix it in Photoshop!
In this tutorial, I'll show you how to sharpen a blurry image in Photoshop in a couple of simple steps. All these steps can be saved as an action, so that you can achieve the same effect faster in the future!
What You'll Learn in This Photoshop Sharpening Tutorial
- How to sharpen an image in Photoshop
- How to make an image clearer in Photoshop
- How to reduce noise in the sharpened image
- How to create a Photoshop sharpen action
Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:
What You Will Need
You can use any blurry photo for this tutorial. Here's the one I used:
Before I'll show you how to sharpen a blurry image in Photoshop, you have to know one thing: sharpening is about enhancing the details, not about creating them out of nothing. So if your whole photo is as blurry as the back of the head and neck in this image, then this method will not work. However, if it's slightly out of focus, like the face here, then it will be perfect for you!
Now I'm going to show you how to sharpen a photo in Photoshop. Open your image. Open the Actions panel and create a new action.
Duplicate the background layer by pressing Control-J, and hide the new layer—this copy will allow us to quickly compare the versions.
Go back to the background layer and duplicate it again. Right-click it and select Convert to Smart Object. By doing this, you'll be able to adjust the filters after adding them. Name this layer Basic Sharpening.
Go to Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen. This filter adds a sharpening effect by increasing the contrast of the edges. Drag the sliders until the edges start glowing, and then decrease the effect slightly to find that perfect spot.
Because sharpening accentuates the noise as well, use the Reduce Noise slider to make this effect less noticeable.
You can pause the action now and compare your current result to the original. It's already visibly sharpened, but we can make it even better! Continue recording and Duplicate the Basic Sharpening layer. Right-click and select Clear Smart Filters. Name this layer Detail Sharpening.
Change the Blend Mode of this layer to Overlay. The colors will appear burned out, but this is temporary.
Go to Filter > Other > High Pass. Adjust the Radius to see only subtly white lines—no other colors.
If you compare the results now, the difference is quite striking! But we can do one more thing. Duplicate this layer again and increase the High Pass, overdoing the effect a little. Name this layer Inner Sharpening.
Duplicate this layer again and increase the High Pass even more—focus on the areas out of focus and try to sharpen them this way. Name this layer Outer Sharpening, change its Blend Mode to Soft Light, and lower the Opacity to about 50%.
Add a Layer Mask to both of these layers and fill it with black using the Paint Bucket Tool (G). This will make these layers invisible.
Stop recording. This is the end of the automatic stage, and the rest needs to be done manually. First, select the layer mask of the Inner Sharpening layer and take the Soft Round Brush. Paint with white over the areas that you want to sharpen even more, by revealing parts of the invisible sharpened layer.
Do the same with the Outer Sharpening layer, this time painting over the area out of focus to make it less blurry.
Now, feel free to adjust the sliders of the previously applied filters to make the effect stronger or subtler. You can also change the Opacity to quickly make the effect weaker, or duplicate a layer to make it stronger. There's no single perfect method for how to add sharpness in Photoshop—you can experiment to create the effect you personally prefer.
Test your end result on various levels of zoom—if you need your image to look good in its highest resolution, you can do one more thing. Select the top layer and press Control-Shift-Alt-E to create a merged layer. Then go to Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise. Experiment with these settings—try to achieve the balance between blurring out the noise and losing the details.
Hold the Alt key and drag the layer mask from the Inner Sharpening layer to the current layer, and then invert it with Control-I—this will exclude the most important details from this effect.
Now you know how to sharpen a photo in Photoshop!
Photoshop Sharpen Actions
This basic sharpening isn't the only way to make a photo look better! Here are a couple of Photoshop actions that enhance the look of the photos to create unique results.
If you want to quickly add a dramatic effect to your photos, this simple action will do it for you! It will not only sharpen the edges, but also increase the contrast between the shadows and highlights.
This is another action that effectively uses HDR for sharpening. Make your cool photos even cooler by applying this stunning effect to them!
Sometimes sharpening isn't enough—sometimes you want to make the photo look more interesting by making it less realistic. And this action will turn your photos into smudge paintings, with nice crisp edges and blended shades.
This is another action that turns photos into something resembling an illustration. This action, however, keeps the details and adds its own twist to them, creating nice stylized "paintings".
Skin Retouching Actions (ATN)
This is a must-have in the toolbox of every photographer! It's a set of 34 actions, created for the purpose of making the skin look better in a variety of ways—you can mattify, airbrush, and heal the skin professionally even if you're just a beginner!
More Photoshop Action Tutorials
Here you can find more Photoshop action tutorials:
- Photoshop ActionsHow to Create a Smoke Effect Photoshop ActionMonika Zagrobelna
- Photoshop ActionsHow to Create a GTA Photo Effect Action in Adobe PhotoshopMarko Kožokar
- Photoshop ActionsHow to Create a Cyberpunk Photoshop Effect ActionMarko Kožokar
- Photoshop ActionsHow to Create a Glitter Effect Photoshop ActionMarko Kožokar
- Photoshop ActionsHow to Create a Palette Knife Photoshop ActionMarko Kožokar