View Full Version : Unsharpening an image

15-Dec-2014, 18:51
This may seem like a strange question but how do you unsharp an image? I accidently over sharpen a photo and now I can't "unsharpen" the image. The image was saved,so I'm stuck with the image as it is.I tried the unsharp mask but it doesn't seem to have any effect.Is there a way to go back to when the image was downloaded and start again? The card has sense been deleted.

Fred L
15-Dec-2014, 19:10
So you overwrote the original file ? The only thing I can think of, and I'm not a PS whiz, is to use some Gaussian blur to soften the image. Kind of a blunt force thing and not much finesse but it's start. I believe there are some PS files that can be reverted but that'd be a guess.

fwiw, I only 'SAVE AS' to create a new file so the original is left as is. Good luck and I'm sure there will be some better advice to come.

Jim C.
15-Dec-2014, 19:13
Rescan the negative, if you have one, if the image is digital it's lesson learned in not using Photoshop layers,
I always use layers for any image manipulation, there is always a original layer in case I don't like or mess something
up real bad, it will bloat the file but it's a escape route, just delete the layer you messed up.

If you had caught it quick enough you could use history function in PS to undo quite a few steps back
depending on how you have PS set up, since the history function can tax your system.

15-Dec-2014, 19:29
OK thanks,I'm still learning digital and PS so it's a steep learning curve and it's a bitch as well.

Fred L
15-Dec-2014, 19:45
As Jim says, layers is the way to go although I don't use them much myself.

If you find you don't like all the work you've done on an image (presuming you have an original one to begin with), simply closing it (Command-W) will bring up a box asking if you want to 'save changes'. Choose 'don't save' and nothing happens to the file. Just a quick shortcut...

15-Dec-2014, 20:58
I you have a noise reduction program (NR) or PS Plugin for noise reduction, you can use a small amount of noise reduction to soften the image.

If you don't have a PS plugin, duplicate your original over-sharpened file, perform the NR and then save the file under a new name.

If you have a PS Plugin for NR, create a copy of the background layer (Ctrl-J), activate the plugin and then apply your NR to that layer. Next, use 'Save As...' to save the file under a new name.

Another option is to use the Reduce Noise filter in PS. Be sure you do this on a copy of the background layer.

If you don't have a noise reduction plug-in for PS, I strongly recommend obtaining one, since they are more flexible than the noise filter in PS. There are several out there. Noise Ninja gets good reviews, as does Neat Image, which I use.

As has been mentioned: Using layers is the way to go. That way, if you don't like what you did, you can easily delete the layer, create a new one and go on from there.


bob carnie
16-Dec-2014, 07:12
Rescan and chalk up to keeping a master unsharpened file at all times.. keep this in16bit... btw we all have done this, many times... don't ask

OK thanks,I'm still learning digital and PS so it's a steep learning curve and it's a bitch as well.

16-Dec-2014, 08:25
Is there a way to go back to when the image was downloaded and start again? The card has sense been deleted.

Just curious, but was this a digital camera image, and not a scan of a negative?

If you still have the original file, you can always start over with your adjustments, being sure to save as a new file with a different file name.

If the image was from a digital camera, and you no longer have the file, well...you'll have to use the methods stated above to soften the image.


16-Dec-2014, 08:31
First, "unsharp mask" is a sharpening filter. A confusingly named one, for sure, but it will do the opposite of what you're trying to accomplish.

Gausian blur is the antidote to sharpening with unsharp mask (which is the standard sharpening tool).

Lens blur is the antidote to sharpening with smart sharpen (which is a more advanced tool that in some cases creates fewer artifacts).

In any case, if you over sharpen and back off, you will lose detail in the process.

So, yeah what everyone else said: in the future, do your sharpening on a layer. A lot of us are big fans of the Real World Photoshop series of books ... get the one for your version of P.S.. There's a whole section on sharpening. The whole book is on working as non-destructively as possible.

16-Dec-2014, 09:37
Note that sharpening (as far as I know, at least) can only be done in a separate layer in later versions of Photoshop. E.g. in CS2, the 'smart filters' functionality hadn't been implemented yet and an unsharp mask operation was therefore irreversible.

23-Dec-2014, 21:25
Have you overwritten the card?
There are some programs to get back deleted files as long as you have not reformatted or over written too many times.

29-Dec-2014, 17:08
As a memory device to help remember in the future, it's called "unsharp mask" because it masks out the unsharp stuff. More or less accurate in both film and digital worlds.

29-Dec-2014, 17:28
Try this if you have Photoshop

1: Copy image to new layer (be sure to stay on this new layer for the rest)
2: Filters > Other > High Pass
2a: Set pixel ratio to 1.5
2b: press OK button
3: Image > Adjustments > Invert
4: Set the layer type to Overlay

If the dis-sharpening is not quite right, back up (control-z thrice) to 2 and try a different pixel ratio. Repeat as necessary.

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