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Jun 18, 2014

The Amazing Power of Frequency Separation Retouching in Photoshop

Free Frequency Separation Action

Few have discovered the amazing power of frequency separation Retouching in Photoshop! If you want to skip making your own frequency separation layers be sure to download our Frequency Separation Retouching Photoshop Action. It is designed for use in Photoshop cc.

Download the Phlearn Frequency Separation Retouching Photoshop Action

Enter your email below to and we will email a download link for the frequency separation Actions we used in this episode.

 

What is Frequency Separation?

Frequency Separation helps make Retouching a portrait easier in Photoshop. Frequency separation works because it allows you to separate the Texture of an image from the tone and Color. When Retouching you can focus on just the texture or the skin beneath it.

It sounds quite complex but in practice it is quite simple. If you want to work with Texture, choose the high frequency layer, if you want to work with skin choose the low frequency layer.

Getting Started with Frequency Separation

To get your image set up for Frequency Separation you will have to make 2 copies of your Background layer. If you are not starting from the beginning, add a Stamp Visible Layer over all layers by typing CTRL+ALT+OPTN+E. One of these copies will be for your low frequency (skin) and one will be for your high frequency (texture).

First apply a Gaussian Blur to the lower (low frequency) layer. Choose a radius that blurs out the Skin texture, but don’t go too far as to make the Face unrecognizable.

Next choose your high frequency layer and go to Image > Apply Image. Here you will want to se the Layer: to the low frequency layer. For blending choose Subtract and for Scale:2, Offset:128. These will be your settings every time, no need to change them.

Now you should have one layer with a blur (low frequency) and a layer above it that looks mostly gray (high frequency). Select the high frequency layer and change the blending mode to “Linear Light”.

Your image should now look identical to the image before you started the process.

Correcting Underlying Color

To correct the underlying Color (skin) choose an area with the Lasso Tool. I suggest feathering the selection to make it look more realistic. Use Q for Quick Mask as a quick way to see what your selection looks like. After you have made your selection choose the low frequency (blurred) layer and apply a Gaussian Blur in the selection. Choose a radius high enough to blend the tones together.

Repeat this process over different areas of the portrait to smooth the Skin tones. Because the texture is on a different layer, it should stay in tact during this entire process.

Correcting Texture

If you need to correct texture, we recommend waiting until after you do the tone. Select the high frequency layer and choose the Clone Stamp tool. In the Clone Stamp tool settings be sure to hit Sample: Current Layer. This will make sure you are just using the texture and not sampling anything else. Then on your high frequency layer sample good skin texture using ALT and then paint over “bad” skin texture. This will work very well for stray Hairs, acne, wrinkles and other small blemishes. For a lot more computer tips check out PC Login Online.

293 Comments


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  • user image
    Salim

    I’ve been waiting for this! Thanks Phlearn, thanks Aaron!
    How would you combine this with other techniques like “SurfaceBlur + HighPass” or small tools like the healing brush tool?
    Cheers

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    Natasha Heredia

    Thanks so much for thinking of us “non-dorks”! Super generous as always!
    Question: could this be used to fix an image where the face is a different shade than the rest of the body? Example…..
    If not, what’s a good way to fix??

    • user image
      Justin Lucarelli

      This technique can be apply to both 8 and 16-bit images. The difference will be on the Apply Image dialog box. Here is the difference in the settings.

      8-bit image settings ( as per Phlearn’s tutorial)

      Blending: Subtract
      Scale: 2
      Offset: 128

      16-bit image settings

      Blending: Add
      Scale: 2
      Offset: 0

      Hope this helps you to better understand the difference in the Apply Image settings. Awesome video Aaron!!!! 😉

      • user image
        Jim Johnson

        On 16 bit, “invert” also needs to be checked. On 8 bit, unchecked.

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    Pedro Arredondo

    Every week a new amazing tutorial! Wacth your videos is a phabulous way to learn how to use photoshop! 😀

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    Francisco Rullan

    I love this technique, actually is the one I use, but I have developed some improvements to correct color, find all the flaws on skin with Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer… It’s great!
    Here is a bad portrait I did while lunch with a friend… Then What was possible because Frequency Separation

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    Bettelyoun

    Glad i got this Old Pro when i did. Here was my rendition of it long time ago.

  • user image
    Bettelyoun

    Aaron could you teach us how to do Photomanipulations like this. Random images and make them come together. This guy is Awesome

  • user image
    Aku Pöllänen

    Amazing video guys! You made it simple enough for everyone actually understand the
    foundation of this technique. Liked it!:)

    One thing though! The values for the
    apply image vary depending on the bit depth of the image. For 16-bit
    image the proper values to be used are: Scale: 2 and Offset: 0.

  • user image
    Misja van de Klomp

    Hi Aaron, great explanation as always! One small question: I noticed that your flow was at 80% when using the clone stamp tool. Was that on purpose? Would you recommend doing so? Thanks!

    • user image
      Bettelyoun

      The image he used in this video was a Pro Tutorial that ain’t available anymore on the site.

  • user image
    Ben E

    Mate! My students are gonna love this! I’m gonna send them, and their wallets your way! Love ya work!

  • user image
    Bar Yafe

    Nice turorial!!! Very useful!
    I am “barsatv22” from youtube…I am a big fan of you Aaron-Phlean..

    Why can’t I load this action on my photoshop cs6??

  • user image
    Patrice

    Very useful ! Thanks Aaron, you’re a star !
    What about about a tutorial to settle PS auto actions in Photoshop CC ?

  • user image
    Jesse Gross

    Great episode! I was glad to see this technique covered on Phlearn. Though may have wanted to mentioned that the filter settings change dependent on if it is an 8bit vs 16bit image.

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    Johnny Santiago Photography

    I’ve been hearing alot about this technique. Do you have a Photoshop action for us CS6 users?

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    Joey Tichenor

    Dude!!! This is one of the best skin retouching videos out there-AND IT’s FREE- You’re crazy for this Aaron! Shaboink! My results from a 3 minute retouch- Thanks a million and a million more later dude!

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    ptwaugh

    Adam, excellent episode. You get better and better each time too. Appreciate your help

  • user image
    Steve Schuenke

    It would be interesting to see how you’d contour the face now that it’s been cleaned with this technique. Always enjoy your work!

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    Cory Jacobsen

    I absolutely love it. Im hoping one day you guys will make a full dvd or episode with a menu system to where we can click “portrait” “retouching” “frequency separation” and see how to use this method. I would love to be able to see an issue with a photo and quickly find a video addressing it. One issue I have been having is stray hairs messing up my photos, I have found many videos on removing them if they are in the background, when one runs across the face, its damn hard to remove it without really messing things up. Sadly i usually only notice the issue when I’m looking at it on a full screen and never when I’m actually taking the photo.

  • user image
    Raymond

    Thanks for one of THE best tutorials on retouching. I enjoyed it very much and with your clear instructions, I was able to do quite a decent job with an old photo of mine. Thanks again. Awesome!!

  • user image
    Charity Kehl

    Is there any way to do something similar to this if you don’t have “Apply Image” feature? I am using PSE12 and don’t have that tool on there.

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    Guest

    Hi everyone
    I really do need some help with this photo, shot through glass, and there are horizontal reflections in the bottom right third of the image that I have been unable to deal with.
    I enjoyed this tutorial very much and I downloaded the action because I was hoping that using the same technique might help me a little with the problem here but I had no luck. I tried using the clone stamp on the LF layer too but no joy.
    It could be an easy fix but I am stuck.
    If you can help me I will appreciate it!
    Vincent

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    Thomas J

    Hey Aaron

    Really enjoy the Phlearn experience. I have a question regarding the frequency separation technique you outline here. I use a technique that is very similar to yours but the settings and values in the apply image value are different. My question is are you working on an 8 bit or 16 bit file? My understanding is that the values and settings are different for each. If you are working in 8 bit can you advise people that this is the case otherwise they may not experience the great results that you do. If I’m out to lunch great. I just got schooled again. 🙂

    Thom

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    Tudor

    wow!! not my pic ,but the texture was rough so perfect to test this 🙂 Aaron you are the PS God !! :)) thx!

  • user image
    none ya

    you must be using an 8 bit image for this to work with these numbers. 16 bit is not the same numbers under “apply image”.

  • user image
    Guest

    I LOVE this video!! Super informative & easy to follow. Erased my fading henna tat from this video.

    • user image
      Brian

      You can record you own action for cs6 create a new action, press record and follow the steps in the tutorial.

  • user image
    Brian

    When I hit apply image I cannot get the source menu to come up as Frequency Separation. It only comes up as the currrent file name and type of file. E.g ‘name.nef’ or ‘name.psd’. Is this because I am using photoshop cs5 and not Cs6. Is there a workaround.

    • user image
      Brian

      Frequency Separation is the name of his image file. Yours should be the name of your own image file

    • user image
      Jeff

      I believe the “source” shows the file name because the file is the “source” that you are working with.

  • user image
    Saad

    Hi, Can I do frequency separation with PS Elements 12. Please advise …Saad

  • user image
    Paul

    This is a great technique for smoothing skin. I’m wondering if there are any other uses for this process.

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    alexica777

    Hello,
    I use the action, but when I try to blur the skin where I select with the lasso tool…it’s not working.
    When I increase the blur radius, it became grey…
    What can I do ?

  • user image
    Luis A Rivera

    WoW truly awesome ,can’t wait to start using it. Thank you (Luis) 🙂

  • user image
    andy

    Thanks soooo much!!! Downloaded action – still need to practice process after creating groups. I’m an old timer and still like to see skin texture. This works out great!!!!

  • user image
    Helmut

    I love your tutorials! They helped me a lot and I still learn new stuff every time… What I am missing in this one though is following:
    When using apply image you should use different settings for 8bit and 16bit (colour mode) images.
    8 bit: invert off, blending subtract, scale 2, offset 128
    16 bit: invert on, blending add, scale 2, offset 0

    Kind regards,
    Helmut

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    Andrea

    Well done! You’ve just revealed the big secret of high-end beauty retouchers. Not so sure they’ll be so happy with you…

  • user image
    Vikki

    After I download the action, how do I find it and put it in my actions?
    Also how do I submit a question with a picture?
    Thanks
    Vikki

  • user image
    Fred

    Hi. I just wondered if this will work in CS6 as it doesn’t seem to have the frequency separation filter in CS6. I have been trying this out and am not getting any results.
    Regards

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    Walt

    Hi. Hello. . .I am using CS5, and am very new in Photoshop. . . I have tried unsuccessfully several times to get the “linear light” portion to work, but it does not. At all. It just turns the image black. I have been following along to EVERYTHING to a T, but this part just mystifies me. . . and suggestions would be wonderful!

    thank you!

    • user image
      Jessica

      Hey! i couldn’t understand how to work all of this at first but if you haven’t already downloaded it you need to find it in your ‘finder’ if you have a mac and click on it after it’s installed, after this enter photoshop select ‘actions’ which is under window and you’ll see ‘frequency separator’ at the bottom click on the little play icon and it will basically do it all for you only giving you the option to select the degree on which you want your blur to be at!
      hope that helps,
      i have tried it with both CS5 and CS6 and it worked fine, good luck!

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      Krish

      I am having the same issue as soon as i apply a gaussian blur the selected part turn dark.. any suggestions please..?

      • user image
        Hunter

        Yup, I noticed the same thing! What you have to do is turn down you Gaussian blur. I found that if you just use a shortcut for it, it picks a random intensity. So make sure you go Filter> Blur>Gaussian blur, and change the intensity. This will take that dark area away. Also make sure that you’re feathering your lasso tool. Otherwise you will be able to notice the change within that selection, which can make it look darker than surrounding areas.

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    Sean Murray

    The video covers a lot in 14 mins, so well done. One thing you for got to point out is that the settings in the Apply Image command are to be used ONLY on 8 bit images. If you are trying to separate a 16 bit image, then the settings in Apply Image should be:
    Blend Mode = ADD (not subtract)
    Offset = 0 (not 128)
    Invert Box must be Checked
    If you would like to understand why, just send me an email. The main reason is that in 8 bit, 128 is the mid point between 0 and 255 but it is not the mid point in 16 bit (0 – 65,535)
    Cheers, Murray

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    renee

    what should I do if i use elements 12? will the action work for elements 12? Thanks.

  • user image
    liana

    every time i do the texture the 2 step in your PHLEARN FS video i get no texture . have you seen this .

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    Martin Rodriguez

    Why do I love Phlearn so much……well, because they have the best tutorials.
    This tutorial totally rocks, it has to be my very favorite technique of all times.
    I was wondering, once you commit but would like to make changes later, can one make edits or is this technique destructive?
    Thanks

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    Vidar Reiersen

    I love your tutorials! They helped me a lot and I still learn new stuff every time… What I am missing in this one though is following:
    When using apply image you should use different settings for 8bit and 16bit (colour mode) images.
    8 bit: invert off, blending subtract, scale 2, offset 128
    16 bit: invert on, blending add, scale 2, offset 0

  • user image
    ben.smith

    I just love your tutorials and here’s what I did with this one along with the original image. Thanks for the time you take to share your knowledge with us.

    • user image
      Sergio

      Great result! It is encouraging to whom wants to believe in a future where everything will be better from youth trying to improve from connoisseurs´ advices, and not from those trying to reinvent the wheel.

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    Tony Woods

    Thank you guys so much for this tutorial! It has totally changed the way I edit my fashion photos and saved me soooooo much time! You guys rule! I love all of the creative things that you all are doing and keep them coming! Thanks so much again.

  • user image
    Fred Bledsoe

    Thank you so much for this tutorial… I finally get the power and how to wield it.

  • user image
    Stanley Cullen

    How do I download the action you refered to in your video on Frequency Separation? Thank You

  • user image
    Tyler

    When I select linear light as the blending mode the image doesn’t look the way it did before, it makes it look over-exposed. Anything I’m doing wrong?

    • user image
      Mike

      I really like this tutorial as well but the image changes for me also and am not doing anything different

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      OTTO

      is your image in 8 bits or 16 bits? The values will be different according to the bit depth of your image.
      The values for “scale and “offset” at the Apply Image stage of the process given in the video are for 16 bits images (scale : 2 – offset : 128). If your image is in 8 bit (Image-Mode-8 or 16 bit) you need to input the following value at the Apply Image process : scale : 2 – offset : 0.