How to properly enlarge images

How to properly enlarge images

A few weeks ago the new Enhance Super Resolution feature was introduced in Photoshop. Many YouTubers have presented this hidden technique as a great innovation. Such videos always makes me sceptical. So I thought I'd compare the different ways to enlarge images in Photoshop. Here is my review.


Spoiler alert. The new Enhance Super Resolution is unnecessary in my opinion. Yes, it enlarges an image, but it takes a long time to do it. Several minutes on a fast computer. I tested it on faces. The result is ok, but there are better ways to enlarge an image in Photoshop.

Trying out the settings

Photoshop includes various options for enlarging images. Maybe you also wondered which one to use and rather kept the Automatic setting which is the default. I barely upscale photographs. But in case I need to print a photo larger than it was before, I prefer to do the upscaling and not to leave this process to the photo lab. So, it's good to know which option to choose for enlargements. I tried these settings for the enlargement in Photoshop under Image > Image Size:

  1. Automatic
  2. Preserve Details (enlargement)
  3. Preserve Details 2.0
  4. Bicubic Smoother (enlargement)
  5. Nearest Neighbor (hard edges)
  6. Bilinear
Enhance Super Resolution (Camera Raw)
Preserve Details (enlargement)
Preserve Details 2.0
Bicubic Smoother (enlargement)
Nearest Neighbour (hard edges)

My thoughts

The Enhance Super Resolution variant enlarges an image to 4 times its size (200% width and 200% height). The result looks okay, but feels a bit soft.

The setting Automatic appears to automatically use Preserve Details (enlargement) when enlarging. I couldn't see any difference here. It results in an ok enlargement, maybe a bit too crisp or noisy.

Preserve Details 2.0 seems a tad better to me. Not quite as rich in contrast as Preserve Details (enlargement), but not as soft as Enhance Super Resolution.

Even Bicubic Smoother (enlargement) isn't as soft as the Enhance Super Resolution feature.

I was surprised by the result of Nearest Neighbor. It's crisp, not too sharp, not too soft. And the picture was enlarged very quickly. Still it would not be my recommended choice.

Bilinear was also very fast, but it did the worst job in my test.

My recommendation for enlarging images

After testing several images, I would clearly recommend the use of Preserve Details 2.0 for enlargements and leave the Noise Reduction slider at 0. And just forget about the Enhance Super Resolution feature. As you can see in the above images, the hidden new feature is not as magical as it sounded.

Sorry for being a bit nerdy in this article. But I needed to find out which is the best setting for upscaling photos because I was confused by some photography channels on YouTube.

Enhance Super Resolution
Preserve Details 2.0