The Blur and Sharpen Tools in Photoshop Elements 10 - dummies

The Blur and Sharpen Tools in Photoshop Elements 10

By Barbara Obermeier, Ted Padova

If the Blur tool is yin, then the Sharpen tool is yang. The Blur tool can be used to repair images, as well as for more artistic endeavors. The Sharpen tool increases the contrast among adjacent pixels to give the illusion that things are sharper.

Soften with the Blur Tool in Photoshop Elements 10

You can use the Blur tool to soften a small flaw or part of a rough edge. You can add a little blur to an element to make it appear as though it was moving when photographed.

You can also blur portions of your image to emphasize the focal point, as shown where everything is blurred except the girl’s face. The Blur tool works by decreasing the contrast among adjacent pixels in the blurred area.


The mechanics of using the Blur tool and its options are similar to those of the Smudge tool. When you use the Blur tool, be sure to use a small brush for smaller areas of blur.

Focus with the Sharpen Tool in Photoshop Elements 10

The Sharpen tool needs to be used with restraint. Sharpen can quickly give way to overly grainy and noisy images if you’re not cautious. Use a light hand and keep the areas you sharpen small. Sometimes, the eyes in a soft portrait can benefit from a little sharpening. You can also slightly sharpen an area to emphasize it against a less-than-sharp background.


To use the Sharpen tool, grab the tool from the Tools panel and follow these steps:

  1. Press Shift+R to cycle through the Smudge, Blur, and Sharpen tools.

  2. Select a brush from the Brushes Preset Picker drop-down panel.

  3. Select a blending mode from the Mode pop-up menu.

  4. Choose the strength of the effect with the Strength slider or text box.

    The lower the value, the lighter the effect.

  5. If your image has multiple layers, select Sample All Layers to make Elements use pixels from all the visible layers when it produces the effect.

  6. Paint over the areas you want to sharpen.

Here are some additional tips for using the Sharpen tool:

  • Use a low value, around 25 percent or less.

  • Remember that you want to gradually sharpen your element to avoid the nasty, noisy grain that can occur from oversharpening.

  • Because sharpening increases contrast, if you use other contrast adjustments, such as Levels, you boost the contrast of the sharpened area even more.

If you need to sharpen your overall image, try choosing either Enhance→Unsharp Mask or Enhance→Adjust Sharpness instead. These features offer more options and better control.