Chapter 1 | What is Frequency Separation?
  • 01 - Introduction
  • 02 - Working with Iulia David
Chapter 2 | Tools & Techniques
  • 01 - Manual Frequency Separation
  • 02 - The Frequency Separation Action
  • 03 - Brush Tool
  • 04 - Healing Brush Tool
  • 05 - Blur Technique
  • 06 - Clone Stamp Tool
  • 07 - Small Scale & Large Scale Retouching
Chapter 3 | Beauty Portrait 1
  • 01 - Small Details
  • 02 - Large Details
  • 03 - Dodge & Burn
  • 04 - Color Correction
  • 05 - Sharpening & Saving Out Multiple Versions
Chapter 4 | Beauty Portrait 2
  • 01 - Small Details
  • 02 - Large Details
  • 03 - Additional Retouch & Clean Up
  • 04 - Dodge & Burn
  • 05 - Color Correction & Enhancement
  • 06 - Finishing Touches & Sharpening
Chapter 5 | Beauty Portrait 3
  • 01 - Small Details
  • 02 - Large Details
  • 03 - Additional Retouch & Cleanup
  • 04 - Dodge & Burn
  • 05 - Color Correction
  • 06 - Finishing Touches & Sharpening

Frequency Separation: How to Master Retouching in Photoshop


Perfect skin. Beautiful portraits. Natural results. Frequency Separation is the go-to technique for professional retouchers. Learn the ins and outs of the powerful method as we show you how to remove blemishes, smooth out skin tones, and help your subjects look their absolute best!


  • 7 Sample Images
  • 1 Frequency Separation Photoshop Brushe
  • 1 Sharpen Photoshop Action
  • 1 Frequency Separation Photoshop Action


Beautiful Color, Perfect Detail

frequency separation technique before and after: before versionfrequency separation technique before and after: after version



What is Frequency Separation?

Frequency separation in Photoshop is a modern process that gives you complete control over the delicate textures and color in your images. Retouching has come a long way in the digital age. Using the power of Photoshop, we can separate the fine details from the color information and then edit them independently.

Without the frequency separation technique in Photoshop, it is easy to reduce the quality of the subject’s skin tone. If you can master the frequency separation technique, though, you’ll be able to flawlessly soften skin tones and still preserve other skin tones. In other words, mastering this retouching practice in Photoshop will give your photos an instant boost of beauty and professionalism.

Step-by-step Guide to Frequency Separation:

Not only do we take you through the process of frequency separation step-by-step, you can follow along as we go through several examples of complete portrait retouching using 16-bit RAW images.

Frequency Separation Photoshop Action

Your time is valuable. The faster you can finish an edit, the faster you can get on to your next project or photoshoot. Our included Frequency Separation Photoshop action will automatically separate the high and low frequencies in any image, saving you time and getting you right into retouching.

frequency separation photoshop before and after: before photofrequency separation photoshop before and after: after photo



High Frequency vs. Low Frequency

High frequencies are the smaller details in your images. Think skin texture, hair, or the stitching in fabric. Low frequencies include all of the color information in a photo like the transitions from highlight to shadow. Frequency separation is the process of dividing these two elements into separate layers which can each be adjusted without affecting the other.

Remove Blemishes

We all have them; small wrinkles, pimples, stray hairs–the tiny blemishes that easily show up on today’s high resolution cameras. Learn the proper methods for removing and reducing little distractions while keeping all the important details that make a person unique.

Smooth Skin in Photoshop

Dark shadows, uneven highlights, and skin redness will never be a problem again. Learn how to analyze and edit low frequency layers to smooth out color and areas of light and dark, creating perfect skin tone to highlight your subject’s natural beauty.

photoshop frequency separation details before photophotoshop frequency separation details after photo



Tools & Techniques

Using a combination of layers, brushes, blurs, and our powerful Photoshop Action, by the end of this tutorial, you’ll be fully equipped with every tool and technique you’ll need to master frequency separation. We start with the basics and then show you in-depth application using high-end, professional images from photographer Iulia David.

Professional Skin Retouching

We don’t just show you the power of Frequency Separation. We take you through a complete professional retouching workflow, including steps like dodging and burning, color correction, and sharpening.

Manual Frequency Separation

Learn how to separate the high and low frequencies of any image from scratch to soften skin, remove wrinkles, and professionally retouch beauty portraits. Once you’ve mastered all of the steps for Frequency Separation, load up our custom action to save valuable time with impressive results.

Learn Professional Retouching

photoshop frequency separation skin tones examplephotoshop frequency separation skin tones after example



Unbelievable Results

From the smallest details like pores and hairs, to the large details like colors and tone, learn how to retouch every part of an image.

skin tones in frequency separation photoshop techniqueskin tones in frequency separation photoshop technique after



Small Scale Retouching

Follow along as we dive in to the details of an image, focusing on the high frequencies and retouching tiny blemishes and distractions. The small scale elements in a photo can make a huge difference to an image overall, at any scale, and are essential for creating larger prints.

Large Scale Details

Seeing large scale details means you can identify how and where light falls on a surface and how it affects the overall color and tone. We zoom way out, demonstrating how you can smooth out shapes and color, creating flawless transitions between light, shadow, and color while preserving all of the original texture.


Whether you’re working with RAW or JPEGs, you can utilize the power of frequency separation to improve your photos. We show you proper workflow with both file-types using our custom frequency separation action.

beauty photography frequency separationbeauty photography frequency separation after example



The Brush Tool

Like most techniques in Photoshop, the Brush Tool will do most of the heavy lifting. Learn to adjust color, fix exposure, and take care of blemishes with some professional techniques and a few brushstrokes.

Blur Technique

Blurs may seem like one of the last tools you would turn to when doing detailed photo retouching, but they are a key tool in frequency separation. Learn how to use Gaussian blurs in Photoshop to isolate the color information of an image so you can smooth out skin and easily adjust highlights and shadows.

The Clone Stamp Tool

When retouching the fine details and textures in a photo, the Clone Stamp Tool should be your go-to. Learn how to use it to make changes to only the high frequency layer, sampling areas of texture you want and painting over textures you want to remove.

Course Instructor & Featured Artist
Aaron Nace frequency separation tutorial

Aaron Nace

PHLEARN Founder – Class Instructor

Aaron Nace is a photographer, Photoshop artist and founder of PHLEARN. He is the #1 Photoshop instructor in the world with millions of YouTube subscribers.

Iulia David frequency separation tutorial

Iulia David

Beauty Photographer & Retoucher – Featured Artist

I am a London based photographer specializing in editorial, commercial and beauty portrait photography. Born in a family of artists I have always been surrounded by art and curious in knowing the latest trends. My style is simple and clean with an edge. I think it is all about a collaborative synergy, bringing the most out of my team to create beautiful, compelling photographs.

View Iulia’s Portfolio


  1. Just wow… You make it very easy and enjoying

  2. Excellent tutorial, video by video I am becoming more comfortable with skin retouching in Photoshop, Quick Question after making the blur layer I was not able to edit the other layer created above low frequency layer. How can i solve that?

  3. Highway to master retouching….. Wow. Tried it on black and white portrait and it’s awesome results. Thank you bAaron! Cheers!!!

  4. I’ve only gone through chapters 1-3 so far and feel comfortable doing a frequency separation retouch start to finish. I especially appreciated learning the technique of using an inverted layer mask and going back to brush in the desired edit to specific areas. That alone will help me refine my editing in the future for so many other things –not just frequency separation. The color correction section of chapter 3 was also very helpful, I feel like I learned another detail of Photoshop I never knew existed. I look forward to completing chapters 4 and 5 for even more practice using these new skills.

  5. Amazing teacher. Amazing tutorial. Amazing skill. Nothing to say, i’m learning a lot, i’m improving my skill a lot with you. So really, thank you. Congrats.

  6. Many thanks for such an elaborated view that cover every single aspect in frequency separation.

  7. Should we blur the entire face for frequency separation or at the black and white intersection of image

  8. One of the reasons these are all great is the way Aaron explains stuff. Very useful.

  9. Well certainly learned a lot on this tutorial, thanks for taking the time to share this with us

  10. Love you Aaron

  11. Absolutely incredible! I’ve learned so much in this course. The hardest technique for me was the “brush technique” to smooth transitions. If I turn off the HF layer, I get a headache because the image is too blurry. I would love to learn more about this technique as I still don’t know how to use it effectively.

  12. Excellent tutorial!! Frequency separation has taken my retouching to a whole new level!!

  13. Loved it !

  14. as always another great tutorial, thank you very much for this !

  15. It’s a very good quality tutorial, I just wish my teacher didn’t force us to watch so many of these and take tons of notes and practically write a whole paper per chapter. I wish I could actually enjoy it instead of doing this as an awful assignment.

  16. Aaron doesn’t charge nearly enough for his Pro tutorials. I’ve been using Photoshop since day one, and I continue to learn new techniques from Aaron.

  17. Very Good, I have used it on my own images and it has been fantastic. That is before Model No 1. I have a difficult subject that has a lot of natural beauty. She is a teenager as a result the face is very pocketed and has a little acne but most of all lots of what look like white heads. I am in the process of working on her face. One of the most important features to me is the amount of and what to fix is a problem to me. Your tutorials are fixing those for me. Thankyou

  18. Fantastic! Wonderful! In love

  19. Been a fan for a long time. As a hobiest I find that I can learn at my current level and come back months later and pick up additional levels of knowledge. Your presentation style I find is easy to understand and straightforward. Keep up the good work.

  20. No matter how skillful you are in Photoshop! Education is education. I love information. Thank you Aaron

  21. Amazing tool and amazing tutorials, thanks Aaron for providing these. I have been learning a lot from you.

  22. I have a tough time remembering things, but whenever I need to refresh my memory, this is my go-to, and I hope that eventually, I will ‘get’ it — a fantastic set of videos.

  23. FANTASTIC Tutorial!!! I’ve been using SF for a couple of years now and thought I had it down. You have sky rocketed me to the next level in retouching using SF. You are an awesome teacher, you explained things extremely well and throughly. Thank you so much!!!

  24. Aaron, thank you so much for all your YouTube videos and developing these Pro Tutorials. These Pro Tutorials finally pull together all my bits and pieces of knowledge about Photoshop. I watched your Beauty Retouching series first, then followed up with this Frequency Separation. Both have given me the knowledge to take my SOC photos to a professional level and given me the confidence to do so. I can’t wait to surprise my peers with my new editing skills. I can’t wait to explore more of your Pro Tutorials. Your style of teaching, explaining the “why” behind each of your moves, is VERY HELPFUL! I even enjoyed your self-talk chattering, it was entertaining.

  25. Tough subject for me but I have gained much more understanding and skill. thanks!

  26. What is 16bit and 8 bit images.

    Aaron Nace – Class Instructor
    Thanks for your comment, check out this article for a detailed explanation.
  27. Brilliant, it all makes sense to me now. Awesome. Thank you.

  28. An amazing tutorial that takes your retouching skills from good to amazing, definitely a must-watch if you are interested in skin retouching. It really stepped my game up significantly!

  29. Great tutorial., but I wish it would also cover an example of how to edit skin covered with tattoos.

  30. Mr Nace, this tutorial on mastering frequency separation is amazing. Anyone struggling with F.S. needs to buy this. So many tricks and tips tp push you onto the next level. I have bought other tutorials on this method of retouching but nothing comes close. A. Nace is different class.

  31. Yet another excellent class. My skills grow every time I watch a tutorial from PHLEARN.

  32. Absolutely amazing work! So glad I found this, surely improved my FS greatly! Thank You 🙂

  33. I loved this tutorial. I really liked the fact that not only the explanation was clear, but also having 3 images to work on from start to finish has helped a lot. I would really love to see this method of teaching a technique like FS, with 3 different images to work on…..thank you so much it was enjoyable and helpful.

  34. Great work as usual Aaron, Thanks so much 🙂 I have a question since I have just finished the dodge and burn tutorial. When doing a retouching work, what comes first (frequency separation, Dodge and burn, Adjustment layers, Adjustment lights …etc ) because I am now a bit confused about what is the right workflow if an image needs to go through all these …

    Aaron Nace – Class Instructor
    Great question, I recommend doing frequency separation first, then dodge and burn, then finishing steps like sharpening and color toning.
  35. What is the difference between this action and the one in another tutorial here that creates the “Luminosity Painting”? and which should we use?

    Aaron Nace – Class Instructor
    Good question, we recommend using the action included in this tutorial for frequency separation
    – it is the newest and most up-to-date version. The “Luminosity Painting” version is an older technique that works well in most circumstances, but has a few limitations – that is why we developed the new version available in this tutorial. Thanks!
  36. LOVE IT. This has helped me FINALLY tackle Frequency Separation — classes combined with the assets, I feel like I am finally at that next level I need to be with headshots (etc). You are such a great teacher!

  37. I was wasting away my time on Netflix and then i cancelled my subscription and subscribed to Phlearn. The best thing I’d ever done.

  38. On filling eye shadow using stamp, on HF layer , stamp copies texture as well as color?

    Aaron Nace – Class Instructor
    Thanks for your comment, be sure to set your clone stamp tool to “Sample Current Layer”
  39. Thanks for amazing training, but just a question i have here as you mentioned stamp on HF layers only copies texture, but it looks like it also do some color as the mold color doesn’t show up anymore if it was only removed as a texture it should have left a brownish color? Specially on big scale..

    Aaron Nace – Class Instructor
    Thanks for pointing that out, yes at a large scale you may see some color transfer. You can remove all color from the HF layer by going to “Image > Mode > Desaturate” on the layer. Thanks!
  40. Excellent tutorial, explicative on every single aspect and very professional. Fantastic!

  41. If you want finally put every pieces together what you have learned on Frequency Separation, Dodge and Burn, Color Corrections and everything this is the best tutorial I have ever seen. This is exactly the right tract not so short and also not too long. You are never board watching it. If you want to learn retouch skin perfectly w/o using just blur technique this it just the video course right for you! Thanks Aaron!

  42. Great tutorial, tons of info. I started to take some notes and by the end I had 6 pages!!! Thank you guys, it will be very veyr useful!

  43. Helped me get over some rough spots that I’ve struggled with. Super course.

  44. This tutorial is brilliant , the best so far I have ever seen on Frequency Separation . I have learned so much, I have tried all the free stuff on You Tube and other places but this is something else. Anyone doing portrait or wedding work really needs to look at this one. Aron really pulls all the stops out on this and and I never knew there was so much with in Frequency Separation. Gets all 5 Stars from me , and please keep up the good work.

  45. I use Photoshop not as a professional, but for fun, as Iron said in one of the lessons. This is a fantastic course, I learned a lot and I’m eager to try to apply. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge with us. Regards, Aleks

  46. awesome! I had a few false starts with the final image, but I eventually got it and am so stoked on how they all turned out! These tutorials are so much better than anything else out there. Great job!

  47. Excellent tutorial as always. Always used the patch tool but no more. I always have trouble with the texture layer before but following you has straightened me out looking forward to your next tutorial!

  48. I have tried and tried and on the blur layer, the colours seem to get duller when I add gaussian blur and on the texture layer, I am effecting the tones as well as the textures and I can’t for the life of me figure out what I’m doing wrong. I downloaded the action, but it didn’t work so I had to make the action manually, following step by step instructions and I can’t see where I’ve gone wrong.

    Aaron Nace – Class Instructor
    Thanks for your comment, I am sorry the technique is not working. Please contact us and we will walk you through the process with one of our Photoshop Experts.
  49. Again, an excellent tutorial. I’ve done frequency seperation from your other tutorials,. yet this one just blows them away. I love your teaching technique as you explain everything so simply yet cover every detail. Keep up the great work!!!!

  50. Fantastic tutorial. Love how its broken down into very clear steps and how different options for the LF retouching.

  51. Great tutorial – as always -. It just feels like every time I got a question in my mind you’re about to answer it a couple minuets later. Skin tone and structure is one of the most difficult parts of editing images, but this tutorial makes it way easier! Keep up the good work

  52. Great as always but on working in tandem with you but using my own image, when trying to get rid of skin imperfections using the clone stamp tool, all of a sudden, nothing happens when I sample with ALT and then over the area that I want to smoothen out. All my settings are the same as you and I double checked that only current layer is selected. The cloning does not work on the HF layer. What am I doing wrong Aaron?

  53. Another winning tutorial from Aaron! Detailed and effective. Nice and slow pace loaded with technique and expert preferences. I appreciate the shortcuts and exploring numerous tools – always pick up something new. A perfect example of why I became a subscriber. Thanks Aaron and Phlearn.

  54. I watched so may free videos on youtube and I learned some cool things but I knew if I wanted to take my photography to the next level I needed to know how to edit. I signed up without hesitation and it was truly worth it. The way break things down and make ot easy to understand is truly amazing. I actually can’t wait to start editing more photos and learn more.

  55. This is a 5 star tutorial on FS. Full of knowledge. I will recommend this class for anyone that wants to take his or her retouching skill to another level.

  56. Another outstanding tutorial from Phlearn. Just the quality I’ve come to expect from the Premier Photoshop learning resource around. Keep up the excellent work!!!

  57. Had no idea I was doing Frequency Separation almost completely wrong for the past few years, this tut is incredible. Thanks guys!

  58. Wow! Probably the most helpful tutorial I’ve done as a retoucher. If you want natural, but incredible looking retouches, these are the tutorials for you. Loved them, and I will be using these techniques on everything.

  59. This is the first tutorial I am following in your pro section, and let me tell you, Aaron, that you are a fantastic teacher and your tutorial is so good in content, structure, examples, extra tips, quality of presentation, … I am used to follow photograph / retouching tutorials on the internet and frankly speaking you are one of the best. I was looking for such a tutorial about frequency separation, first to better understand the principle and then to learn how to use it efficiently. For me it is more in the domain of product photography, but what I learn here is directly applicable and will be a great help for me. Thank you.

  60. I just now got around to watching this awesome tutorial and enjoyed it very much. I do more compositing than retouching, but recently have been asked to “make some grandmas look good”. So, I have a couple of questions and a request. 1) When you make a merged image you always use image> apply image set to normal. Is this the same image I would get if I used CTRL + Shift + Alt + E or does the picture render different? I can’t see a difference, but I wondered if there was one. 2) I have tried lowering the opacity 50% like you suggested to someone else when retouching older skin, but the results are not satisfactory. Is there a way to merge the original somehow back in only at a lower opacity? Older people seem to lose structure in their lips and skin texture making it hard to not destroy more when you use HF. So just like some other comments below I would really love to see a tutorial on older ( above the age of 60) retouching. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.

    Aaron Nace – Class Instructor
    Great questions Sherry. 1) Apply Image basically does the samoe thing as a Stamp Visible (CTRL + Shift + Alt + E), with the added bonus of changing blending mode, inverting, and applying other calculations. It is like an Stamp Visible on steroids. If all you are doing is making a visual copy, they work the same. 2) Retouching older skin can be tricky. In general I suggest using tools like the Patch Tool and then the Fade command (Edit – Fade) to reduce visibility of the changes. We have a Free Tutorial on Removing Wrinkles and I will take your suggestions in mind to make a longer, more in-depth PRO Tutorial on retouching older skin. Thanks!
  61. OUTSTANDING TUTORIAL! Retired and started a Portrait Photography Business. I have been working on my portraits with Lightroom and finding it very difficult. I found your youtube videos to be very helpful. After becoming a Pro subscriber you made the how’s and why’s of photoshop come together. Great Job Thank you so much. I Ray Climent p.s. You’re correct about driving a stick shift and being able to use the Wacom Tablet and I’ve been driving stick for 52 years. Wacom Tablet is a great tool, starting to feel more comfortable with it. Regards Ray

  62. This was great, finaly got a good understandig of how to use FS. Great tutorial 🙂

  63. Great tutorial ! being a Phlearn pro subscriber, i have learnt a bunch of things in PS, and i already see a huge difference in my editing. Its all about fine tuning and attention to details, just a quick query, how important is to get the LF layer blur correct, if we overdo it say by +5 radius does it affect the color?

    Aaron Nace – Class Instructor
    Great question, using a larger radius won’t effect color, but it may make removing smaller details a little more difficult. If you find you are having trouble, you can always re-do the action and start again 🙂
  64. Just as I thought I had a firm grasp on FS… I love picking up little tidbits that help with my retouching! Thanks Aaron!

  65. the best frequency separation call i have ever come across. you made it so simple and user friendly. I have always seen it as a very difficult but after your class i got the boldness to jump into action. Thank you very much for such a class. you really are a talented teacher. Phlearn Pro tutorials !!!!! just the best!!!!!!

  66. I’ve been subscribed to you on YouTube for a few years now. Thank you for all the content you post. Definitely would reccomend to any and everyone.

  67. oh my god this has changed my life. Thank you so much! Thanks to this great step by step tutorial I have been able to master natural looking retouching in my family portraits and newborn colour tone and skin tone without looking unnatural or painted in. Wow this has really changed my photography, thanks so much! Now I can keep the natural texture of the skin but blur out the blemishes and you wouldn’t even know anything was there to begin with. perfect results every time

  68. I love this tutorial its helped me tremendously, however I am having a MAJOR problem, after a while of editing when I choose my clone stamp tool in the HF layer it does not allow me to make any changes, it doesn’t let me sample the skin texture either! HELP! I have it to current layer also.

    Aaron Nace – Class Instructor
    Thanks for your comment, it sounds like all your settings are correct. Would you mind sending an email to We have Photoshop professionals who will help you get the problem solved!
  69. What a great work!!!! Thanks for this tutorial. I tried several tutorials about FS and i just cant fully understand! Now with this masterpiece i finally got it! Again, thank you!!!

  70. Really loved this! Very useful information, well structured and the actions are just great! Thank you!

  71. I hardly do retouching, but, based on previous tutorials, I knew I would learn a lot. I wasn’t wrong! This tutorial and the tips and additional information have made it one of my top favourites. The actions are a great bonus and it’s always good to be reminded about sharpening at the appropriate image size. Thanks so much.

  72. I love this tutorial, I have been following Aaron for several years and I use his techniques and his actions. Finally here this technique is explained in a complete and exhaustive way .. and I realized that up to now I have made a lot of mistakes 🙂

  73. This and all of the tutorials are the best I have ever watched. Phlearn is by far the number one best providers for learning how to use photoshop. I love how everything is available to download and follow right along. I reccomend phlearn to all of my friends and anyone who asks me how to use phototshop I tell them to go to phlearn. PLHEARN IS THE BEST.

  74. As someone with a fair bit of retouching it may not be as useful as for a beginner, but it’s always great to see different points of view on the technique you use, plus Aaron is always so insightful on why and how he does things! For a beginner, it’s an absolutely killer tutorial, really comprehensive.


This tutorial includes 7 sample RAW images, 25 video tutorials, Frequency Separation & Sharpen Photoshop actions, and a custom Photoshop Brush. Download the sample images and assets at the top of the page.

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