Double USM 2 | The next generation light and black halos sharpener

Double USM is a sharpening tool working separately on Dark and Light halo’s components of an image, an impossible task until today. With a double set of sliders and his high-quality preview, Double USM fills the gap and lets you tweak halos precisely, to fit your image processing need. 

Recently, thanks to the know-how achieved developing plug-ins as Wow!, Mask Equalizer and Next, we set out to make this outstanding product even better by improving on some of Version 1 weaknesses and adding extra features.

DoubleUSM Panel and a marble masterpiece

Six time faster

Version 2 is 6 to 8 time faster compared with Double USM 1, that means to be able to compare different settings in a while.

Separate Treshold

For dark and light halos you can now set a separate value for radius, amount and threshold. The previous version didn’t.


We added three new masking sliders to progressively mask highlights, mid-tones, and shadows.They are hidden in compact mode.

32bit Core

Version 1 was a script. Version 2 is a plug-in that it uses its internal engine working at 32bit stretching the local histogram much better.

  • Works separately on dark and light halos 70% 70%
  • Exclusive Mixed Sharpening (a combination of Traditional and Hiraloam) 85% 85%
  • High quality preview 50% 50%
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CC and later – €18 upgrade from Double USM1

CS5 / CS6 Compatible

The Basics of Unsharp Mask

Despite its name, Unsharp Mask is used to increase the perception of sharpness in an image and to get a sharper print in offset or fine art prints. However, the “un-sharp” term to name an action that makes an image more-sharp, has a reason why. In this technique, the increasing of sharpness is obtained blurring a positive copy of the image and combining it with a negative copy of the original.
The resulting final version is sharper, or less blurry if you prefer than the original. USM, if correctly applied, improving texture and detail. So, through a blurring, you get a sharper image.

The Unsharp Mask – USM filter boosts the image’s perceived sharpness by creating artificial dark and light halos around the borders. Since its first appearance USM hasn’t changed: you’re allowed to control Radius (how thick halos are) and Amount (how strong halos are), besides Threshold.

Light and Dark Halos

The “detail effect” that Unsharp Mask filter is creating out of nowhere is made with halos that appear along “borders.” Let’s call borders where areas of different luminosity meet. Dark halos are created on the darker area’s border; light halos are created on the lighter area’s border.

As the great Dan Margulis Dan Margulis has demonstrated, Light Halos tend to be visually more disturbing and need to be toned down – both in their intensity (Amount) and in their thickness (Radius). Unfortunately, the traditional Photoshop unsharp mask filter doesn’t allow you to control them separately which is exactly what Double USM is here for.

Double USM 2 splits the unsharp mask filter into its core components (Dark and Light halos) and lets you customize their Amount, Radius, and Threshold separately.

Detail of the light and dark halos created by USM

Traditional Sharpening (High Amount, Low Radius). Double USM does it better

This is what we’re mostly used to high frequency detail boosting (i.e. small features and borders). Standard sharpening values include high Amounts (up to 500% if you’re heavy-handed) and small Radii (it depends on the image size and the output – display, print/press – but we talk about values ranging from 0.3px for the web, up  2.0px or more). The threshold is really up to you and must be evaluated on each picture.

Comparison before-after with Double USM and Traditional preset

Default Values Preset “Default”: D (300, 1.5), L (150, 0.7), T (0) as example below. Optimized for offset print.
Reduce layer’s opacity to 70% for digital printers, or at 50% for the internet and monitor display.

HiRaLoAm Sharpening (Preset: HiRaLoAm Darker/Lighter)

HiRaLoAm sharpening add a 3D look at your images enhancing the shape of the subjects. “HiRaLoAm” stands for High Radius, Low Amount. Bigger radii (unusually broad) at low Amounts (lower than 100%) sculpt the subject and add shape. 

Detail of the light and dark halos created by Comparison before-after with Double USM with HiRaLoam preset

Default Values Preset “Hirhaloam Darker” : D (50, 50), L (30, 30), T (2) “Lighter”: D (30, 30), L (50, 50), T (2)
as an example below – The difference when printed is much more evident.

Custom preset

HiRaLoAm sharpening adds a 3D look at your images enhancing the shape of the subjects. “HiRaLoAm” stands for High Radius, Low Amount. Bigger radii (unusually broad) at low Amounts (lower than 100%) sculpt the subject and add shape. 

Comparison before-after

D (300, 1), L (50, 20), T (2) – Optimized for offset print. Reduce Double USM layer’s opacity at 70% for digital printers, or at 50% for the internet and monitor display

CC and later – €18 upgrade from Double USM1

CS5 / CS6 Compatible

Double USM 1 customers must be logged in to get the update price. There are two ways to log in:

  1. Go to your My Account Page and log in using username and password you used to buy Double USM 1. If you don’t remember the password, use the password recovery service. Once added the product to the basket it will already be at the discounted price.
  2. Add the product to the basket, go to cart, and the price will be displayed at the full price. Proceed to next page where you will be asked if you are a new or returning customer. Select “Returning ” and the price will switch to the discounted one.

Compatibility, version and manual

Double USM 2
Photoshop CC and later
Mac: OSX Snow Leopard and later
WIN: WIN7 and later
Current Version: 2.0.0
Read or download the user manual

Double USM 1
Photoshop CS5 and later
Mac: OSX Leopard and later
WIN: Windows XP and later
Current Version: 1.2.0
Read or download the user manual

Toggle to access the version history

Version 2.0.0
New plug-in version.
Six to eight times faster, compared to Double USM 1.
Separate threshold for dark and light halos.
Masking sliders for shadows, midtones and highlights.
Works internally at 32bit and Quad-core compatibility.
Interactive user manual embedded in the panel and linking to training contents.

Version 1.2.0 (Aug 2013)
NEW: Presets management.

Version 1.1.0 (Jun 2013)
NEW: Photoshop CC support.
FIXES: Potential issue when adjustment layers’ mask auto-creation is disabled.
CHANGE: Panning removed in CC due to a change in the Photoshop’s ExtendScript implementation.

Version 1.0.1 (Mar 2013)
NEW: Windows version (due to a scripting limitation on PC platforms, panning is not enabled).
NEW: Double USM remembers last used parameters.
FIXES: Selecting a layer which has a mask now outputs correct results.
CHANGE: Replaced the Fit-on-Screen button with 100% Zoom.

Version 1.0.0 (Jan 2013)
– Split control of both Amount/Radius for Dark and Light Halos in the UnSharpMask filter.
– RGB / CMYK / Lab / Grayscale images, 8bit and 16bit.
– Action-friendly (you can record Double USM into an Action and apply it in batch later)
– Previews: dark + light halos, light only, dark only, off.
– Zoom and Pan
– Quickstart PDF Guide installed in the user’s Documents/cs-extensions/Double USM folder

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