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Using Frequency Separation for Retouching in Photoshop

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  By Julian
Using Frequency Separation for Retouching in Photoshop

Hi everybody, today I’m going to be showing you how cool Frequency Separation is for Retouching.

Mow it sounds very tech and complicated but if you follow my instructions it will not be to hard at all and you should get a good understanding of this technique.

So welcome to another very exciting Tutorial brought to you via Sleeklens.

What Frequency Separation is, is it separates textures and from shadows and tones and puts them on different layers, hence where the Separation in the title comes from.

This helps when you’re Retouching because you can work with everything separate… there’s that word again haha.

It’s real good because if you just need to work on things like blotches or redness it will be on one layer and if you need to take care of wrinkles it will be on another layer.

So this is our image today, pretty cool image, I got this image from which is a free image resource site I use for all my tutorials.

Now if we zoom into my image we can see there like little wrinkles and skin textures, when it comes to retouching you will see a lot of times people get rid of these types of things completely, well this is not really good to be perfectly honest, reason why is because you do not want your skin to look plastic which I see on the basic level every single time it’s crazy and it doesn’t look good at all.

So if you’re just starting out keep this in mind, yes you do want to remove wrinkles and things like that but to a point, you still want everything to look realistic, if you look over our Blog you will see lots of Retouching Tutorials, so if you haven’t had a chance to look at those then if it interests you do so as they will help you out greatly.

The First task I want to you perform is to hit Ctrl J twice, this will create two new layers with your image on them.

On the top layer click on the eye beside it on the left to make if invisible.

Now click on the middle layer, and what we’re going to be doing with this is to put a Gaussian Blur on it so click on Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur

What you want to do is get your blur to a point where you can still see the image clearly but the small textures and blemishes will not be so visual and you will hardly if at all be able to see them.

Then we’ll go back to our top layer again and make it visible by clicking on the eye to the left.

So go to Image – Image Apply and you’ll see a change happen on they Layer, it will have gotten a lot darken, but fear not we have much much more today.

Ok so you can see the options box, and I want you to enter in these options that I have.

The options that you need to enter in for this is choose your middle layer in the layer drop down box, it should be called something like Layer 0 copy.

Then change your Blending mode to Subtract

Next enter 2 into the little box that says Scale at the bottom right and 128 into the box below that that says Offset and then click ok.

Once you have done this you cant to change the actual layers Blending Mode.

The blend mode that you should choose is called Linear Light.

If all has gone according to plan you will have the bottom layer as your normal/original layer, the middle layer will have the Gaussian Blur and the top layer will have our recent effects added but it will not look any different as of yet.

So click on the top layer, hold shift and click on the bottom layer, then press Ctrl G, this will group the two layers together.

Now, the first thing I want you to do is click on your middle layer.

What we’re going to be doing here is, we’re going to be adding a little more blur to our portrait, but this will not blur the entire image because our texture is on the separate layer above, so we will still have details.

So next grab your Lasso Tool (L)

Then we are going to add a Feather of about 30 – 40 to this.

If you get an error prompt then just drop your Feather down and keep doing so until your selection is created.

Then zoom in on the areas that you think would need to be blurred out, so you’re looking for areas like blotchy skin etc.

This is usually on the cheeks and places like that, you will start to recognize them right away as time goes on and your eye for these kind of details start to stand out, so if it looks bad to your eye then trust your instincts and run with it.

You can also hit Q if you wish to create an instant mask to see exactly what it is that you have selected.

The next step of this is to then go to Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur

Then start to work your way through the blotches and smoothing out the skin and you will notice that as you go along the blotchy areas start to fade away but the texture and detail is still remaining so the portrait still looks real.

So what I would do is I would select sort of large areas but not overly large then I refine back in selecting smaller areas.

I stay away from the hair and eyes, so basically stay away from ares that have fine details, you don’t want to touch those because they will be noticed right away even but the most amateur of eyes.

Ok now your know how to get rid of the skin blotches now we’re going to be taking a look at how to fix the texture up which is our top layer.

Just a side note before I go into the Texture is if you feel that you have went over board with the blurring don’t worry about it, you can always drop the opacity of your layer to reveal the original image underneath which will bring the image back slightly, so keep that little trick in mind as it helps in more then just this one area.

So now select your texture layer (The top Layer)

What we’re are going tot be doing is to use the Clone Stamp Tool on Texture area blemishes, so if you look at areas such as the one below you will understand what I’m talking about.

So any crazy areas with lots of wrinkles and spots or moles on the face.

NOTE! this is very important.

When you choose the Clone Stamp Tool (S)

You must go to Current Layer as I have indicated in the example image below or the Clone Stamp will effect all the layers which you do not want.

The benefits to this is that because it is only textures you will not be affecting any of the Skin tones, Highlights or Shadows so you’re pretty safe compared to if you where just doing Normal Spot Healing of Clone Stamp Work as you would in normal Retouching.

For the Clone Stamp as well I would use a soft brush and drop my opacity a little.

As you go along keep in mind that you do not have to totally eradicate wrinkles and little so called blemishes (oh the Retouch industry is so fickle) I would suggest that you still keep a hint of them, you want your portrait to look natural, what you are doing in Retouching is you are reducing things by about 60% so there is still a good bit let of the person and it looks real.

What you do is hold Alt and Sample from below the areas you want to fix up, then you paint over the wrinkles etc.

So check out my final image.

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial.

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Graduated from college in 2002 with a degree in Art & Design, I started exploring my way in Graphic Design and Professional Post Production. Full-time freelancer since 2011.

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