Retouch using frequency separation
Learn how to use this professional portrait enhancing technique for smoother skin without loss of detail
One of the biggest challenges a portrait retoucher will face is how to retouch blotchy skin without losing important texture and pore detail. One solution to this lies within frequency separation, which is a way of splitting skin into two independent layers in Photoshop: texture and tone. Applying tools such as the Clone Stamp to retouch spots can be performed on the texture layer, and smoothing tones or reducing redness can be applied to a different layer. In the following steps you will learn how to prepare your Layers in Photoshop for frequency separation, and then use filters and tools to create a perfectly retouched portrait.
1 Duplicate layers Duplicate the background twice by hitting Cmd/Ctrl+J twice. This gives us two layers to work with non-destructively for frequency separation. Hide the topmost layer: Layer 1 copy.
2 Set Gaussian Blur On Layer 1 (currently visible), go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Apply an amount of blurring that hides the blotchiness of the skin. Around 5-9px is usually about right. Hit OK to apply.
3 Apply Image Reveal the topmost layer and make it active. Then go to Image>Apply Image. Set the Layer drop-down list to the blurred layer below Layer 1. Set Blending to Subtract, Scale to 2 and Offset to 128.
4 Change blending Set the blend mode of Layer 1 copy to Linear Light. Notice how the image has reverted back to its original state. Photoshop separated skin texture (top layer) from tone and colour (layer underneath).
5 Lasso selection Zoom into the face and locate the Lasso Tool (L). Set Feather to 25px in the Options bar. Make a selection around an area of skin. Press Q to toggle the Quick Mask view to preview the selected area.
6 Soften skin Be sure to have Layer 1 selected. With the Lasso active, go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Decrease Radius to 0 and increase it gradually until the blotchiness on the skin is reduced. 18px works well.
7 Complete face Repeat the process of making selections over areas of the face. Apply the Gaussian Blur filter each time (Cmd/Ctrl+F to apply previous filter settings). The texture remains intact but the skin softens.
8 Retouch texture Select the topmost layer that contains the texture. Use a low opacity Clone Stamp Tool (S) to retouch any spots that lie within the texture. Be sure to have only Current Layer selected in the Options bar.