Achieve crisper-looking photos.
The Unsharp Mask filter is an effect in Adobe Photoshop that allows users to achieve great image sharpening results by adjusting a few sliders.
This effect originates from traditional film photography and is rooted in a darkroom technique where a copy of the original image is intentionally blurred, or “unsharpened,” and then applied to the original image as a contrast mask — essentially a sheet of film placed alongside the negative during printing. By layering the original with the blurred version, specific low frequencies are canceled out during the printing process, and the resulting image appears clearer.
A blurred image in-camera will always be blurry — no amount of sharpening will change that. While Photoshop can’t improve your image quality, it can add clarity and improve contrast in specific areas of an image to make it clearer.
Sharpen photos with the Unsharp Mask.
“The Unsharp Mask is designed to enhance the details in an image,” says Photoshop expert Jesús Ramirez. “Photoshop is not creating the details, it’s just creating the illusion that there is more detail. And it is doing so by creating contrast on the image.”
The Unsharp Mask increases the image contrast along the edges of objects in a photo. The effect doesn’t actually detect edges, but it can identify pixel values that differ from their neighboring pixels by a certain amount. From there, the mask will increase the contrast of the neighboring pixels, making the light pixels lighter and dark pixels darker. This increased contrast makes objects more identifiable and creates an illusion of more detail.