How to Make Blurry Images Clear With Photoshop

By Nicole Hamilton

Photoshop can restore clarity to most blurry images stored in your camera, computer or photo album by using a combination of the Unsharp Mask, High Pass and Noise Reduction filters. However, there is not one established formula for sharpening a blurry photo, so vary your sharpening technique depending on the extent of the photo's blurriness, the original file size and the final print size. Achieving the results you want may take some experimentation.

Step 1

Launch Photoshop. Click on "File" and "Open," then select the blurry image.

Step 2

Drag the background layer down to the "New Layer" icon to duplicate it. The icon resembles a piece of paper and is the second icon from the right at the bottom of the Layers panel.

Step 3

Select "View" and choose "Actual Pixels."

Step 4

Examine the image for noise such as random white pixels or JPEG artifacts. Remove as many erroneous pixels as possible before sharpening the image, as sharpening can emphasize image noise. Choose "Filter," "Noise" and "Reduce Noise." If the image is blocky or pixelated from saving it as a low-quality JPEG, select "Remove JPEG Artifacts." Adjust the settings for "Strength," "Preserve Details," "Reduce Color Noise" and "Sharpen Details." Click on "Advanced" to apply the "Reduce Noise Filter" to specific color channels.

Step 5

Choose "View," "Print Size" or "Zoom Out" to view more of the image on the screen.

Step 6

Go to "Layer" and "Duplicate Layer" to make a copy of the layer with the reduced noise. Enter the name "High Pass" and then click "OK."

Step 7

Click the "Blending Mode" drop-down menu at the top of the Layer panel and change the "High Pass" layer from "Normal" to "Overlay."

Step 8

Choose "Filter" and "Other," then select "High Pass."

Step 9

Adjust the filter's "Radius" using the slider. A higher radius value causes more sharpening. Note the effects of the filter on your image in the document window. When you are satisfied with the outcome, click "OK" to apply the filter.

Step 10

Click on the opacity and reduce it if you wish to fade the sharpening effect.

Step 11

Click on the layer under the "High Pass" Layer.

Step 12

Go to "Filter" and "Sharpen," then choose "Unsharp Mask." Applying the Unsharp Mask filter enhance the details of the image. Adjust the values to fit your image. A high-resolution image requires higher values for "Amount" and pixel "Radius." Click "OK" to apply the Unsharp Mask.

Tips & Warnings

  • Change the blending mode on the High Pass layer to "Soft Light" to soften the effect, or "Hard Light" to increase it.
  • It is best to sharpen an image several times in small amounts.
  • Be careful not to sharpen an image too much. This results in unusual halos along image edges and amplifies image noise.