HOW to SMOOTH SKIN using FREQUENCY SEPARATION in Photoshop. Smoothing skin using frequency separation in Photoshop is a common technique used in portrait retouching. Frequency separation separates the image into two layers: a high-frequency layer containing texture details and a low-frequency layer containing color and tone. This allows you to work on each aspect separately. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

1: Duplicate the Background

  1. Open Your Image:
    • Launch Photoshop and open the image you want to retouch.
  2. Duplicate the Background:
    • Right-click on the Background layer in the Layers panel and choose “Duplicate Layer.” Click OK.

2: Apply Gaussian Blur

  1. Select the Top Layer:
    • Click on the duplicated layer to select it.
  2. Apply Gaussian Blur:
    • Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.
    • Adjust the Radius until you get a blur that smoothens the skin but retains the overall features. Typically, a radius between 5-10 pixels works well.

3: Create High and Low-Frequency Layers

  1. Create High-Frequency Layer:
    • Duplicate the blurred layer by right-clicking on it and choosing “Duplicate Layer.” Name it “High Frequency.”
  2. Apply Image Adjustment:
    • With the “High Frequency” layer selected, go to Image > Apply Image.
      • Set the Layer to “Background Copy.”
      • Choose the Blending to “Subtract.”
      • Set the Scale to 2 and the Offset to 128.
  3. Create Low-Frequency Layer:
    • Create a new layer and name it “Low Frequency.”
  4. Group Layers:
    • Select both the “High Frequency” and “Low Frequency” layers, right-click, and choose “Group from Layers.”

4: Use the Healing Brush Tool

  1. Select the Low-Frequency Group:
    • Click on the “Low Frequency” group in the Layers panel.
  2. Use the Healing Brush Tool:
    • Select the Healing Brush tool (J).
    • Sample an area close to a blemish or imperfection by holding down Alt (Option on Mac) and clicking.
    • Paint over the imperfections on the low-frequency layer. The texture from the high-frequency layer will be preserved.

5: Adjusting Tones and Colors

  1. Select the High-Frequency Group:
    • Click on the “High Frequency” group in the Layers panel.
  2. Use the Brush Tool:
    • Select the Brush tool (B) with a soft brush and set the blending mode to “Normal.”
  3. Adjust Opacity:
    • Adjust the opacity as needed and paint over areas where you want to blend tones or colors.

6: Fine-Tune

  1. Fine-Tune as Needed:
    • Continue fine-tuning by adjusting the opacity of the layers, using different retouching tools, and addressing specific areas.
  2. Check Before and After:
    • Toggle the visibility of the “High Frequency” and “Low Frequency” groups to compare the before and after. Make additional adjustments as needed.


  • Use a Light Touch:
    • Be subtle with your adjustments to avoid an unnatural look.
  • Address Specific Areas:
    • Focus on areas with blemishes, uneven skin tones, or imperfections.
  • Experiment with Blending Modes:
    • Experiment with blending modes and opacity settings for the brushes to achieve the best results.
  • Take Breaks:
    • Take breaks and zoom out periodically to avoid over-retouching.

Frequency separation is a powerful technique, but it requires practice and a careful eye for detail. The goal is to achieve a natural and pleasing result without sacrificing the subject’s unique features.

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