The Amazing Power of Frequency Separation Retouching in Photoshop

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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.

Download our free frequency separation action here:

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.

Free Frequency Separation Action

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.






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Download the Frequency Separation Brush here:

28 Thoughts on “The Amazing Power of Frequency Separation Retouching in Photoshop

  1. Muhammad Saad Hassan Jamal on January 12, 2018 at 8:21 am said:


  2. eminorb5 on January 12, 2018 at 1:06 pm said:

    15min with great useful tips, thanks!

  3. FLUXDOUTPRODUCTIONS on January 22, 2018 at 4:50 am said:

    My Apply Image option is always greyed out. Can someone shed some light as to what I am doing wrong?

  4. Chris Stranad on January 25, 2018 at 3:02 pm said:

    I have been using this technique for a while & love it. It recently stopped working for me. When I go to apply image & follow my usual process, nothing happens. Help!

  5. 程Gloria on January 25, 2018 at 3:36 pm said:

    Amazing tutorial!thank you so much!

  6. Chiraq God all seing on January 26, 2018 at 12:13 pm said:

    it helped me a lot a big step to better pictures thanks guy !!!

  7. downnheavy on January 26, 2018 at 9:06 pm said:

    MAN if ill actually buy a tutorial for the first time in my life it will be yours!

  8. susie carmichael on January 28, 2018 at 12:30 am said:

    When you’re using lasso to blur additional areas, should those be on other layers in case you want to go reverse the blur of a specific area? Is there a non-destructive way to do that? (example: you selectively blue the cheek, forehead and chin. you do some texture editing but then want to go back and have less blur on the cheek. how would you fix that?)

  9. Joyce Schotsborg on January 28, 2018 at 1:48 pm said:

    Used and watched this tutorial over and over again, thanx so much

  10. Robert Guerrero on February 1, 2018 at 1:24 am said:

    I almost threw in the towel on this one. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Kimberly Metz on February 1, 2018 at 3:29 am said:

    Skin looks foggy and blurred though, texture is gone..hmmmmm….

  12. Quinn Henegar on February 3, 2018 at 5:22 am said:

    the action doesn’t work. It isn’t anything like shown in the video. after I select an area I cant blur and the layers whon in the video are different than the ones the action creates

  13. iHelloway on February 3, 2018 at 10:15 am said:

    just compared to high pass … naaw High pass is better cause of thinner sharp lines and much easier to manage

  14. vincent thorpe on February 3, 2018 at 5:40 pm said:

    lm the only who thinks all apple ppl are stupid ?

  15. Adrian Lowe on February 4, 2018 at 12:02 pm said:

    Very nicely done.

  16. geonerd on February 8, 2018 at 12:23 am said:

    Those ears… eeew! 😉

  17. jusmic05 on February 9, 2018 at 2:54 am said:

    yea, the lasso tool doesn’t allow me to select anything in the action – continues to give me an error.

  18. Robert Elkins on February 11, 2018 at 11:14 pm said:

    Hey! Thank you for your videos! For some reason when I do frequency separation I can no long see changes made via dodging and burning or any other changes I make. Anyway to fix this? Thank you!

  19. ShimmerStockton on February 15, 2018 at 10:07 pm said:

    Who knew plearning could be so phun!

  20. tinygreenobject on February 19, 2018 at 2:48 pm said:

    Would you guys do something on digitally painting over a photo to create an oil painted style? 😀 Can’t find anything quality on this anywhere…

  21. Rombout Versluijs on February 27, 2018 at 3:45 am said:

    Wow this one is so much faster that the other i always did. Nice!

  22. Chal Bhak on February 28, 2018 at 4:06 am said:

    Hi sir can u solve my queries ? Why we se only subtract and why wo applying subtract effect on blur layer ?
    Please solved my questions please. My whatsapp no +917269032496

  23. Ulrich Molina on March 5, 2018 at 1:53 am said:

    So this is great if your working with a woman with a lot of makeup like you did but what about a male who doesnt wear makeup and has a lot of black head, which are a bit harder to get​ rid of.

  24. Alex Santos on March 6, 2018 at 10:00 am said:

    Beautiful Tip! Simplicity and effectiveness in one little package. Like this episode, love it, one of the best.

  25. Rahel E. on March 12, 2018 at 11:15 pm said:

    Great video, thank you. Didn’t think it would be that easy.

  26. 高度 on March 15, 2018 at 4:27 pm said:


  27. Ian Moss on March 22, 2018 at 4:46 pm said:

    Subtract / Scale 2 / Offset 128 for 8 bit images…

    Use Add / Scale 2 / Offset 0 for 16 bit images.

  28. Goofy Girl on March 23, 2018 at 1:51 am said:

    You are the best. Your teaching method surpasses everyone​ else. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!

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