Beauty Retouching & Photography Education

Retouching Skin: Frequency Separation Technique

Level:  Intermediate

Here`s a simple skin retouching technique called Frequency Separation, which I use in Beauty, Fashion & Portrait photography retouching. It’s relatively quick and easy to grasp. Start with a softer Healing Brush on the Low Frequency layer to fix deep wrinkles and uneven, bumpy skin, and use a harder Healing Brush to fix skin texture imperfections on the High Frequency layer.

To manually add the High & Low Frequency layers follow these steps:

1.  Make sure your image is in 16 bit/channel mode.
2.  Create two copies of your working layer.
3.  Group them and name the top layer High Frequency (this layer will only contain texture) and the bottom layer Low Frequency (this layer will only contain colors & tones).
4. Turn the High Frequency layer visibility off and apply Gaussian Blur filter to the Low Frequency layer (Radius: 4.0-5.0 pixels, only colors and tones are visible, no details).

Frequency Separation technique

5.  Now select the High Frequency layer and turn its visibility back on.
6.  Go to Image > Apply Image and choose the following settings:

Source – the name of the file you are working on,
Layer – Low Frequency,
Invert – check,
Blending Mode – Add,
Opacity – 100%,
Scale – 2,
Offset – 0.

Click Ok to move on.

Apply Image Settings


7.  Change the High Frequency layer Blending Mode to Linear Light.
8.  Pick up the Healing Brush Tool and set it to Sample from Current Layer (this is a very important detail, don’t miss it!)
9.  Start with Low Frequency layer to even out skin tones, and then move on to the High Frequency layer to finish up the stubborn blemishes on the texture layer.



Check out this video tutorial from my “Creative Retouching Essentials in Day” interactive eBook to see how I use my Frequency Separation Action:




Check out these retouching time lapse videos, in which I use the Frequency Separation technique to retouch the skin, and the result images.




This retouch was done in 25 minutes from start to finish (watch the clock at the top of the screen):





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Check out our Creative Retouching Essentials In A Day interactive eBook, which covers even more of the retouching essentials. Sign up to our Newsletter to receive an exclusive discount on it!

You might also like to check out our Digital Photo Retouching: Beauty, Fashion & Portrait Photography interactive eBook, which is jam-packed with spectacular educational and inspirational content on photography and retouching!

Read this great review on the latter on Fstoppers.



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  • sean whitty

    Hi Julia. Lovely video here!pls could you explain how you finally add texture(noise) to the skin after finall retouching and light shaping

    • Thank you Sean!
      There are many ways to add texture back and I explain all of the ones I use in my “Digital Photo Retouching” ebook.

      But here’s one that you can do with the Frequency Sep Action – run the Frequency Separation Action, fix up the tones on Low Freq layer and just a little bit of texture on High Freq layer. Then run merge these layers with your top layer and run another round of the FS Action. Delete the Low Frequency layer in the new group, and adjust the Opacity of the new HIght Frequency layer, you can also cover it with a black mask and only unmask the areas where you need to add some texture.

      I would definitely recommend my “Digital Photo Retouching” ebook though, you’ll find a lot of great info on skin retouching there, probably all you need to know, plus you’ll get all the Actions including the “Add digital skin texture”

  • Hello Julia, thank you very much for this cool informative post! I always use thie skin retouching techniques on my pictures. Please have a look on:
    Have a nice day, CU Jens

  • Leo FV

    Hi Julia,

    I’m a french student and I have been retouching beauty pictures for almost a year now. I really wanted to tell you how your techniques and tutorials helped me ! I am probably going to buy your ebook because I truly want to know all the details of your creations. However I was wondering if the free actions you mentioned in your video (posted the 3rd May 2013) were still available to download ? I can’t find them on yours blog !

    Thanks a lot, your work is very inspiring to me,

    Leo F.V.

  • Beginner like me always follow your tutorial on regular basis. Thank you so much for your effort!


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