When it comes to retouching faces for headshots, gone are the days of blurring skin
for a smooth, plastic look. As a retoucher,
I’m always asked to produce natural-looking skin that still contains texture.
A popular technique I use to achieve
this is frequency separation, or using
two layers—one for texture and one for
tones—to independently retouch various skin concerns. Here’s how I do it in
STEP 1: MAKE A DUPE
Begin by making two copies of your
background or original image by selecting
the layer and pressing CMD+J twice. For
organizational purposes, rename your new
layers (I recommend naming the bottom
layer “TONES” and the top “TEXTURE,”
or something that makes sense to you).
STEP 2: BLUR IT OUT
Turn off the TEXTURE layer by clicking
on the eye to the left of the layer. Select
the TONES layer and add a blur. In your
menu, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.
You want to add just enough blur to smooth
out your tones by sliding the radius to the
right, then click OK (Fig. 1). Now turn on
your TEXTURE layer and select it. In your
menu, go to Image > Apply Image. Set the
Layer dropdown menu option to your bot-
tom (TONES) layer. Change the Blending
mode dropdown menu option to Subtract.
Set the Scale to 2 and the Offset to 128.
These numbers will always be the same.
Now, click OK (Fig. 2).
STEP 3: LIGHT WORK
Jumping back over to your layers panel,
make sure the TEXTURE layer is still selected, and change the blending mode to Linear
Light. The blending mode dropdown menu
option is found at the top of your layers panel
(Fig. 3). The default is set to Normal. You’ll
notice that the image now looks like the original, which is exactly what you want!
STEP 4: GROUP IT
Grouping these two layers will help you
stay organized. Hold down Shift and select
both layers. You can either right click your
mouse or press the icon that looks like
four lines and an arrow pointing down,
located at the top of your layers panel.
Select the option “Group from Layers…”
(Fig. 4). Here, you’ll only want to give it a
title—I recommend calling it “Frequency
Separation,” but you can name it anything
that makes sense. Don’t change any other
option, and click OK. You’ll see that it has
now placed your layers within a folder
that can be toggled on and off as a whole
by clicking the eye icon to the left of the
group. Your layers are still editable and can
be seen by clicking on the arrow to the left
of your new folder (Fig. 5). Cool, right?
BY DAMIAN BATTINELLI
FREQUENCY SEPARATION FOR HEADSHOTS
af ter the capture
the how-to issue