How to Non-destructively Sharpen Your Image In Photoshop

In this tutorial, I will show you how to Non-destructively Sharpen Your Image, as a result bring out more photo details in Photoshop. You can apply this method to any image and you will be amazed by the result. Plus it is done in a non-destructive way, without damaging the original image.

This is a beginner level tutorial and the steps are very easy to follow. Have a try :)

For tri-fold brochure printing projects, use an experienced online printing company.

OK let’s get started!

Update: I have made a video tutorial about this technique, you can click on the player below to view it right away:

Step 1

Download this image here and load it into Photoshop – firstly we want to duplicate the background layer once (always a good habit when it comes to image editing):

Go to “Channels” (View > Channels) and add a new Alpha Channel:

Then, hit Ctrl + A and select the entire canvas:

Go to the new Alpha Channel, copy and paste the selection onto our Alpha Channel:

Step 2

Go to Filter > Stylize > Find Edge and find the edges of this image on the Alpha Channel:

and here is the effect after the Find Edges Filter applied:

Then go to Image > Adjustments > Levels:

Apply the following Levels adjustment settings: (You can experiment with different values – the ultimate goal is to obtain as much contrast as possible)

Apply the following Gaussian Blur to blur the edges slightly:

You can apply the levels adjustment again to increase the contrast a bit for this Alpha Channel:

And here is the effect on the Alpha Channel:

Step 3

Load the selection on the Alpha 1 channel by holding down the Ctrl key and Left-click here:

Press Ctrl + Shift + I and inverse the selection:

Click on the “Layer 1” layer and go back to the image, you will see the channel selection is still visible:

Hit Ctrl + J and duplicate this selection into a new layer, turn off the background and “layer 1” layer, and you will see the following effect:

Step 4

We’re almost done! On this newly duplicated layer, apply the following Unsharp Mask settings: (Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask)

Hit Ctrl + F and duplicate this unsharp mask filter again, then apply the Fade Unsharp Mask (Shift + Ctrl +F) option once:

Set opacity to 100% and “lighten” blending mode:

and you will have the following effect so far:

Turn the original photo layer back on and you will see the image becomes clearer and contains more details. Here is the before and after effect for various parts of the image:

Hair and Decorations



Face and Eyes






That’s it for this tutorial! Hope you enjoy it and find it useful :) Till next time, have a great day!


  • My name is James and I have been using Photoshop since version 5.0 (long time ago!). PSD Vault is my spare time hobby and I write majority of the Photoshop tutorials and articles here. I hope you enjoy my blog, and feel free to leave a comment or contact me if you have any questions.

  • Show Comments

  • Great tutorial. I’ve bookmarked your page and I’m going to start using this technique straightaway. Thanks for sharing!

  • Chavezz

    sorry, but you can achieve the same result (or maybe even better one) in 2 clicks with High-pass filter in Photoshop.

  • Antaka123

    High pass is cool and PSDVault did introduce that technique before, but this one can do better. I ran a couple of tests on various photos and its proved that this technique works better than High Pass :)

  • Chavezz

    I disagree :-)
    This technique will cause an ugly and non-removable pixelated effect, as seen on screenshot named “Face and Eyes – after”.
    High-pass with Layer masks can do better result when correct numerical values are used, which is in my opinion much better than this “Find edges method”.

    I think this method works well when applied on pictures with technical or architectural subjects, but doesn’t work for human face (due square pixelation mentioned above).

    But I’ve learned a new workflow, and that is allways usefull.
    Many thanks to author therefore :-)

  • blebo


  • Sasaturaj

    i must say i get amazing results. thank you

  • Joangelphine helps me alot

  • Web Hosting

    really practical tutorial for editing portraits, thanks! will give this a try.

  • Amazing works for Photographer

  • Document Imaging Scanner

    I like Effect of you Photography

  • wuzelwazel

    Fun Fact: Unsharp Mask works on the same principle as using High Pass to sharpen. A High Pass set to Linear Light is literally identical to Unsharp Mask of the same radius with Amount set to 200% and Threshold at 0. I use whichever makes more sense for the end goal, which very often ends up being Unsharp Mask due to the easily accessible Threshold (which does essentially what the tutorial above is doing by limiting the sharpening to edges).

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