Double Pass & Hybrid Sharpening

Different sharpening techniques make the world look different. A world of difference can be seen between the thin hard line of Unsharp Mask and the broad feathered line of High Pass Sharpening. Can you choose a combination of both? Yes, you can! You can choose the texture of one, the halo of another, and the line of yet another, applying them either globally or selectively. You can customize the look and feel of detail in any image or image area with astonishing precision and flexibility.

1) Before sharpening

Double Pass Sharpening

Results will differ if you filter the same image layer twice. Why? First, either the technique or the settings can be varied. Second, having been filtered once, the state of the pixels will have changed before a second pass is applied, generating a different final effect. Consequently, not only the type and amount of filtration matters, but also the order in which the filtration is applied.

One classic double pass sharpening technique involves filtering first with an Unsharp Mask setting using a low Radius (under 1.0) and a high Amount (300% or more) and second with an Unsharp Mask setting using a high Radius (approximately 1.5) at an Amount of 100%. A variant of this technique adds a third pass of High Pass sharpening. Both methods use the first pass of Unsharp Mask to give the second pass of filtration more to bite into. The key to making any multi-pass sharpening technique successful is to produce a strong, yet still convincing effect with as few, if any, unwanted arti-facts as possible, either with or without masking.

Some routines will repeat filtration at a lower Amount multiple times; for instance, a sharpening setting may be applied 10 times at 10% instead of one time at 100%. The idea behind this approach is that you can achieve a more intense effect (crisper edges) with fewer artifacts (accentuated noise/texture). As it’s inefficient to perform these routines by hand more than one time, this type of approach is best handled by recording an Action that you can play for future uses, which may need to be modified if resolution varies substantially.

Are there benefits to filtering more than twice on the same layer? Maybe. Maybe not. You get diminishing returns with each additional pass of filtration. You may also run the risk of producing more unintended artifacts. Furthermore, as complexity rises, your ability to both predict and interact with the final effect diminishes. In general, I recommend you to be cautious of highly complex routines and urge you to ask yourself if you derive significant benefit from them.

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