Use Bicubic Sharper for Web Resizing

We posted a while back on how to sharpen your photos like Flickr for smaller resolution images. The technique used “Unsharp Mask”, but today we’ll quickly describe how you can ensure sharpness using a simple setting.

When you reduce the size of an image in Photoshop, there’s an option on the Image Size screen that allows you to choose how the image is resampled (shown above). By default, this is set to “Bicubic”, but that’s not optimal for shrinking photographs down to smaller sizes for the web. Instead, you should use “Bicubic Sharper” to preserve the sharpness in your photo.

Here’s a demonstration of the difference. The following photograph was resized from 3883px wide down to 500px using “Bicubic”:

Now compare that photograph with the following version, which we resized using “Bicubic Sharper”:

You can hover your mouse over either photograph to compare it the other (you might have to wait a few seconds to see the change).

To set “bicubic sharper” as your default, go to

Preferences->General->Image Interpoation->Bicubic Sharper (best for reduction)

If you’ve been resizing images poorly in the past, you should now see a noticeable increase in sharpness! Yay!

  • tobi

    Is this Syracuse University?

  • Michael Zhang

    Nope, UC Berkeley.

  • brian

    to be honest… looks a bit over sharpened to me.. but I know it's a matter of personal taste

  • Herr Olsen

    This is way too oversharpened. As soon as you see that much halos you're doing it wrong.

  • Michael Zhang

    I think the “oversharpening” was due to the post-processing of the photograph rather than the method outlined in this tip though. Mainly I was trying to show the difference between Bicubic and Bicubic Sharper. Thanks for the feedback!

  • mnovaes

    Not a great post, seriously. There are many better solutions for this. Lightroom sharpening is great (and as much as automatic/simple), as it is the awesome Smart Sharpen filter from Photoshop. Even the old Unsharp Mask works better than this…

  • mnovaes

    Sorry if I've been a bit too harsh, but IMO there are plenty of better alternatives, in a lot of ways. Best regards!

  • Miles

    You should always control sharpness and apply it as the last step in any image export. Never sharpen originals. Control over sharpening means duplicating the base layer and applying it selectively using a layer mask. Applying sharpening to OOF areas can make them look ugly (Flickr does this) and subtle differences in focus that add depth to an image are wiped out by universal sharpening (as in the image in the linked “sharpening photos like Flickr” post). There are some instances where you might wish sharpness across an image but it's worth thinking before you apply sharpness, even with deep focus landscapes there are areas that can be spoiled by sharpening, for example sharpening areas of blue sky, or any other flat colour or gradient area, can increase noise and add artifacts.

    I guess I'm just trying to say that sharpening should only rarely be just whacked on a whole image.

  • nathanyan

    Tools like unsharp mask already take care of this. That is what the “threshold” parameter does.

  • Miles

    Supposedly yes but in practice I've never found it satisfactory. OOF areas often have fine detail, especially in bokeh and highlights, and if an image has grain in open areas unsharp mask can turn it into artifacts. Applying sharpening selectively through a masked layer takes a minute and provides far more consist and intuitive results, at least for me, mileage may vary.

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  • Riccardo Melillo

    oversharpening sometimes can be acceptable, sometimes not, mostly depends on the subject

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  • Aeruz

    its useful for ui designing
    it really depends

  • Carol

    which you use photoshop?