Photoshop Action: Tri-Range Sharpen Control Smart

If you've ever used the High Pass filter method for sharpening your images in Adobe Photoshop, then you probably already know how effective it can be and how limited it can be, all at the same time.

While the tried and true High Pass method is my preferred way to sharpen, I also want to be able to tweak various elements of the sharpening effect of as much as I possibly can when I do it. After much playing around with ideas, I finally created a super flexible Action for ultimate control of High Pass sharpening: Tri-Range Sharpen Control Smart.

Pros and Cons

First off, for the uninitiated, let's review the pitfalls of High Pass sharpening:

  • Highlights in your shot can start to look noisy
  • Too high of a radius on the High Pass filter can cause undesirable halo effects
  • What the heck radius should you even use?
  • Everything gets sharpening, including areas in camera blur

But the benefits are awesome too:

  • Variable sharpening effects based on the radius you use
  • Variable sharpening effects based on the blending mode you use (Hard Light being a common choice)
  • Variable sharpening intensity based on the opacity you choose for the High Pass layer
  • Non-destructive because of the nature of the process

To that end, I decided to create a Photoshop Action that would give me the ability to increase or decrease the amount of High Pass sharpening in the highlights, midtones and shadows of my images independently. As I state in the video, to be clear, I seldom add sharpening to highlights. I made the Action have the ability to sharpen highlights just to be thorough, in case anyone else wanted to do that (or if I had a wild hair one day and chose to sharpen highlights)

The before and after above shows what my Tri-Range Sharpening Control Smart Action can do. The after image shows a sharpened image, with different settings for each of the highlight, midtones and shadow layers' opacity settings and Smart Object High Pass radius settings. The idea is total control, as is my strong preference on any aspect of my edit.

Feel free to download this Action for free, and let me know what you think!

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54 Comments

Brian Pernicone's picture

Love this action. I use a high-pass on almost all of my shots as well, so this is a super helpful way to have more control. Thanks, Nino!

Nino Batista's picture

Do enjoy! I always add that anyone should modify any Action I offer to their tastes. So have at it and lemme know how its working for you!

Michael Tanne's picture

Brilliant. This directly addresses the problem I always face with sharpening - wanting different amounts of sharpening for highlights, mid-tones and shadows. Love the separate control over radius to fine tune. Thanks! 🙏

Nino Batista's picture

I do love having total control! Glad you like.

Michael Tanne's picture

shooting w/ the Canon 85mm f/1.2L the focal depth is so narrow sometimes I want to sharpen variable amounts, say a facial feature that falls away from the sharp focus. Think I'll try using your action w/ a gradient mask.

What a great action! Thank you so much. One question: I've tried to assign a shortcut to bring it up, but when I click on options the only thing I can change is the name, the usual box to add a shortcut key doesn't show.. Any suggestions?

Nino Batista's picture

So that's odd! I'm afraid I don't know why that would happen. I mean, I have not heard of that not being an option!

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