How to Use Smart Sharpen in Photoshop CS6

By Barbara Obermeier

Smart Sharpen does a great job of detecting edges and sharpening them in Photoshop CS6. This filter gives you a lot of control over the sharpening settings. Here’s the scoop on those settings:


  • Preview: Obviously, keep this option selected so that you can take a gander at what’s happening as you sharpen. You’ll appreciate the large preview.

  • Basic and Advanced: The only difference between the two views is that with the Advanced view, you can control the amount of sharpening in the Shadow and Highlight areas of your image. Use the following controls to fine-tune the amount of sharpening in your light and dark areas:

    • Fade Amount: Determine the amount of sharpening.

    • Tonal Width: Specify the range of tones you want to sharpen. Move your slider to the right to sharpen only the darker of the shadow areas and the lighter of the highlight areas.

    • Radius: Specify the amount of space around a pixel that’s used to determine whether a pixel is in the shadow or the highlight area. Move your slider to the right to specify a greater area.

  • Settings: You can save your sharpening settings so that you can load them for later use without having to re-create them. Click the disk/down-pointing arrow icon to do so.

  • Amount: Use this control to vary the amount of edge sharpening. A higher value increases the contrast between pixels around the edges. Your choices range from 1 percent to 500 percent. For subtle amounts of sharpening, anything around 100 percent or less provides the effect you’re looking for without making the image appear overly contrasty (yes, that’s a technical term) or unrealistic.

  • Radius: This slider controls the width (in pixels) of the edges that the filter will modify. The higher the value, the wider the edge that’s affected. Your range varies from 0.1 pixel (for fine control) to 64 pixels (for broader sharpening effects).

    How you use this control varies chiefly on the resolution of your original image. Low-resolution images (100 pixels per inch and lower) look best when you use only a small radius value, from a fraction of a pixel up to 3 or 4 pixels.

    A good rule to consider when you select a radius is to divide your image’s ppi resolution by 150 and then adjust from there. For example, if you have a 150 ppi image, set the radius at 1 and then tweak from there.

  • Remove: Specify the algorithm to be used to remove the blurriness in the image.

    Gaussian Blur is the method used by Unsharp Mask and is good for removing that hazy type of blurriness. Lens Blur detects and sharpens the edges and detail in the image, and it does a good job of reducing those nasty halos that can occur from sharpening. Motion Blur reduces the blurriness that can occur when you move your camera (or your subject moves).

  • Angle: Specify the direction of motion if you choose Motion Blur as your algorithm.

  • More Accurate: Check this option to make Photoshop provide a more accurate removal of blurriness. It takes longer, but it’s worth the wait.