Skip to main content

High Pass Filter

Lesson 2 from: How To Use Filters in Adobe Photoshop

Ben Willmore

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

2. High Pass Filter

Next Lesson: Blur Filter

Lesson Info

High Pass Filter

Let's look at a way of sharpening your image that's known as high pass sharpening and let's see how the smart filters can help us out to make it a more enjoyable experience. First let me show you what it's like without smart filters. Usually to do high pass sharpening I have to duplicate the layer that contains my original picture. One way of doing that is to type Command + J, Control + J on Windows, to jump something to a new layer. I just type that. Then I'm gonna go to the Filter menu. I'm gonna choose other and that's where I'm gonna find high pass. And when I apply high pass I can adjust this, if I bring it all the way down you see 50% gray and as I bring it up higher and higher you see more contrast in here. And the more contrast I give it, the more sharpening this image is going to get but the problem is I see this gray that we're not gonna have in our end result because after I click OK I'm going to change the blending mode at the top of my layers panel to a choice called eithe...

r overlay or soft light. And when I do the gray goes away and if I zoom up on my picture though to at least 100% view, now if I hide this layer, before, and then I turn it back on, after, you can see that it's been sharpened. You can see the detail popping out. But what I didn't like about that process is at the time I was in the filter choosing the settings that I wanted, I couldn't see this end result. It was only after applying the filter that I saw them. So let's see how to do the exact same thing but use smart filters and make it a friendlier process. I'm gonna throw away that layer and instead of duplicating the layer and all that, I'm just gonna convert this into a smart object. Then I'll go to the Filter menu, I'm gonna choose Other, and I'm gonna choose High Pass. But when I first apply high pass I'm just gonna turn it all the way down. When it's at point one which is the lowest setting you can get, all you get is solid 50% gray. I'll click OK. Then I want to apply this using a blending mode and if you're using smart filters which is what we're doing now, I can go over here on the right side and double click on this icon to choose a blending mode, and I'm gonna choose the blending mode of overlay. That's the same mode that I used when I showed you the first time. I'll click OK. So now I'm seeing the image as it originally appeared and because high pass was applied with such a low setting, you actually wouldn't see any change in the image whatsoever. But now I'm gonna go back into high pass by double clicking on the words high pass in my layers panel, that's gonna pop open the high pass little dialogue here and now I can fine tune this. I can say, well, how much high pass do I want because it's already in the blending mode that I want and if I turn it all the way down I see an unchanged image. And if I inch it up I can get a sense for exactly what I'm gonna get but to me that's much friendlier than the manual process that you would use if you hadn't used smart objects. And then high pass brings out all these texture in the image. I think that's great for the truck and all its little scratches on the paint and all that but the sky, I don't want the detail of the sky to become too gritty. And so, I'd like to remove it from the sky. So to do so I'm gonna come over here and maybe use the quick selection tool to see if I could click here and drag across my sky to get a basic selection of it. And I'm not gonna be precise about the selection, we have sessions about selections and everything where we could make sure that this is perfect. But right now I'm just trying to teach you the general concepts so I'm not gonna refine the selection any further than this. But I'm gonna go in my layers panel now and click on the mask that's there, and make sure its corners are highlighted. And in a mask black hides things, in this case it's gonna hide this filter. So I'll go to the Edit menu and choose Fill and I'm gonna tell it to fill it with black. Now if you look at my layers panel you'll see that the sky area has been covered with black. Get rid of my selection. And so now I know that that's only applying to the truck itself, that is if my selection was accurate. And I might further come in here and decide that I don't want those edges where it's really dark where the fenders are to have the sharpening either. And so, I'll grab a large soft edge brush and I'll just paint right down there. If you look up on my layers panel you'll see the paint and I'll paint over there. And maybe just a little as bit across the bottom where it's dark like that. So now I can really vary that. And so I really enjoy the fact that we can convert something to a smart object and then the filter that we're applying is something that is not permanent, I can always double click on its name, go back here and fine tune it. It's as if I never left it to begin with. And we can have a blending mode to help it apply in a different way. So that's kinda some of the basics of how I think about filters. Now let's see if we can push that and create some really interesting images. Here's the end result of applying a creative filter to an image and let's zoom up on it and see what it looks like. Here I'm trying to make it look a bit like an oil painting where it's got brush strokes to it. And I could do this using the paintbrush tool, it does have what's known as bristle brushes available but then I would have to paint in all these areas and it would take me a lot of time to be able to get this to actually look good. But instead I decided to use filters to do this. But this wasn't just a single filter application and that's because if you look at how painterly the body of the car is, you can see those kinda wild painterly look. Well, if I were to apply that to everything, the picture would look like this. And when it looks like that too much of the car to me looks fake. If you look at the wheels and the detail that's found there, and you look at small details like in up here where you'd usually see the brand of the car and everything, it's just too obscured. So what I ended up doing here is I applied a filter more than once and I masked it so I could selectively apply to different areas. I'm gonna turn on another version of it and watch the wheel on the right side of the screen, and notice that more detail came in. Turn that on and off, look at the little light here that's in the bumper. You see it suddenly has detail and then I did it again, and let's see in this case if I turn this on, if you look at the hood ornament of the car and you stare at it, when I turn this on it has a little bit more definition. And then finally there's one more and if I turn that on, watch that hood ornament, and now really the detail comes in where I can really see what was in there, whereas before it was obscured. And oftentimes that's what makes the difference between a generic-looking end result and one that's really refined, and that is being able to apply it multiple times. So let's take a look at how that can be done. I'm gonna do it with this particular image and the first thing I'm gonna do is to go to the filter menu and convert for smart filters. The second thing that I'll do is go back to the filter menu and I'm gonna find something under Stylize I believe called Oil Paint. And in the Oil Paint filter I can move this off to the side and I probably wanna zoom up on my image to see it at full size. There's a preview checkbox in here that's currently turned off so I don't see it on the main window, but I can turn that on to see it. And what I'm gonna do is experiment with the settings that are shown here and try to get a very painterly effect, and I think we already have it at a setting that is giving it a rather pronounced painterly look. But I can experiment here to see how this was going to vary the look of this filter. Okay, let's say something like that. I'm gonna click OK. Now the problem with that is if I zoom up on this robot on the right I really can't see the detail in his little dial that's here and in this area and this little tongue that comes off of the trailer is so abstract now that it just doesn't feel right. It just feels like a generic application of a filter. And so, what I would like to do next is have a second version of this and to get a second version all I'm gonna do is duplicate the layer. So, if I don't have a selection active and I type Command + J, that means jump it to a new layer, that's an easy way to duplicate. If I had a selection though it would attempt to only duplicate the area that's selected and that would complicate things so I didn't want that. I'll collapse down the bottom layer's little triangle on the right side of the layer just to simplify. And now that I have this one on top, I'm gonna double click on the word oil paint to get back into the settings for the layer. And I'm gonna go look at this little area right here in the hub of the wheel, and I wanna be able to see more detail in it. So, I might come in here and bring down things like stylization or bring it up just to see what it's gonna make that render with a little better detail. And I might bring down things like scale, so can do finer details. And maybe bring down something like cleanliness so it doesn't clean it up quite as much. So there I'm starting to get detail that I think is usable for that little hub area. But now it's just too much detail, the fine stuff and the rest of the image to my eye so I'm gonna click OK and I'm gonna then click on the mask that's attached to that second version of the image. I'll go to the image menu, choose adjustments, and there's a choice called invert that's gonna give me the opposite. Then I'll grab my paint brush tool and I'll paint with white. And wherever I paint with white we're gonna bring in that effect although right now I'm surprised that this seems to have disappeared. Hold on a second. Okay, that's underneath. This looks, oh, this is taking away the filter. (laughs) Let me choose undo here. I actually didn't wanna do what I did. What I just did is I was going to paint on the mask next to the word smart filters. I'm glad this happened 'cause it would probably mess you up as well, and that would take away the look of the filter therefore rendering the image as unfiltered, meaning the normal photograph. That's not what I want. I wanna actually filter the entirety of this layer, I mean, mask the entirety of this layer. So instead of working with this I'm gonna add an additional layer mask for the layer. So I got the layer active, I'm gonna click the layer mask icon down here in that mask which is gonna take the entire visibility of this layer and control it. I wanna invert. There we go. And so now, I'm instead seeing the original version that's underneath and I'm gonna paint with white, and it's painted in wherever I think that detail would be useful. And I'll come over here to the robot and I'll paint it in where I think it's gonna look good to bring in additional detail. And all I have to do is repeat that process for any other area that needs detail. And if I end up doing this with any about three different filter settings, painting it in where you need medium and fine details, I find the end result looks dramatically better and you have to experiment with where it's gonna look better just to see. But what I can do is turn off this mask temporarily by Shift + Clicking on it. And so, then I'll see what it looks like when it's applied everywhere. I Shift + Click again to turn it back on and then that can help me decide where I should end up painting. Anyway, I'd end up doing that multiple times at different settings and that's gonna allow me to create a much more refined-looking end result. But I'm not actually gonna spend the time to do that right now because we wanna experiment with a lot more filters. But I would just duplicate this layer, double click on the oil paint part of it, use different settings and then the mask that's attached to the layer itself is where I'd be painting to control where that's happening. If you're not used to layer mask be sure to watch the layer mask session. But that's how this was done, there was a total of one, two, three, four different applications to the filter using different settings.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Practice Images

Ratings and Reviews


Great class. Clear instruction. (There is a typo, however, on the title of the last section where it should say combining, not combing.)

Student Work