Photoshop tutorial: Discover a simple way to get perfect skin in your photos

Learn the secrets of frequency separation

Intro


In this tutorial, photographer Tigz Rice will show you how to create perfect skin in a photo without making your models look plastic.

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This tutorial uses a technique known as ‘frequency separation’, by splitting your image into two layers. This enables you to work on the colour and the texture of the skin independently of each other.

Once you’ve mastered this technique, you can also apply the same action to many other common retouching workflows, like filling in hair, getting rid of wrinkles in clothing and correcting backgrounds.

Time to complete

10 - 30 minutes, depending on your experience

Software needed

Photoshop CS or later

Step 1

STEP 1

Open your chosen photo in Photoshop. First, correct any exposure or white balance issues – either using Adjustments, using Camera Raw when you bring in a Raw file, or using the Camera Raw filter (Filter > Camera Raw Filter) if you’ve got Photoshop CC. I used the last option.

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Step 2

STEP 2

Now we’ve got a correct exposure, lets remove some of those more obvious problem areas, which I’ve highlighted in the image.

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Use the Healing Brush tool (J) or the Clone tool (S) to get rid of stray hairs, blood vessels in the eye and the odd major blemish. I’ve marked these areas in red on the screenshot.

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Step 3

Step 4

STEP 4

Now lets work on the skin colour and texture. In the Layers panel, duplicate your image twice and rename them to ‘High Frequency’ and ‘Low Frequency’ as shown.

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Step 5

STEP 5

Hide the High Frequency layer by clicking the eye icon and highlight Low Frequency layer. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

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You want to blur the image until the sharp detail has gone, which usually requires a Radius of about 3-4 pixels. This is the layer that holds our colour information.

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Step 6

STEP 6

Select the ‘High Frequency’ layer and make it visible again.

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Go to Image > Apply Image… and use the settings shown in the dialog box (except for Source, which should be the file name of your image.

Once Done press OK. This layer holds our texture information.


Step 7

STEP 7

Right now your ‘High Frequency’ layer will be in shades of grey. Change the layer’s blending mode to Linear Light and your image should return to its normal colours.

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Step 8

STEP 8

Now we’ve separated our image by colour and texture, we can begin our main edit.

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Create a new blank layer between the ‘High Frequency’ and ‘Low Frequency’ layers. This layer is where we will non-destructively edit the colour of the skin.

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Step 9

STEP 9

Using the Clone tool (S), go to the Toolbar (at the top of your screen) and set the Sample area to Current & Below so it’s using information from the ‘Low Frequency’ layer below.

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Choose a soft-edged brush and set the opacity of your brush to somewhere between 10-20%.


Step 10

STEP 10

Hold down Alt and click with your pen on your tablet (or mouse) to select the sample area. Start blending and correcting the small areas that need attention. Here the image required work on the dark pink around the nose and some smoothing on the lower jaw.

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In the screenshot you can see the effects of my work here on the left, with what was I was working from on the right.


Step 11

STEP 11

Switch back to the ‘High Frequency’ layer. Still using the Clone tool, go to the Toolbar and set the Sample area to Current – so we are only sampling from the highlighted layer. Choose a soft-edged brush and set the Opacity of your brush to 100%.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

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Step 12

STEP 12

Hold down Alt and click with your graphics pen or mouse to select your sample area and start correcting any pores, glitter, wrinkles or fine hairs that need attention.

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Remember, its about creating an even texture, not removing it completely.

In the screenshot you can see the effects of my work here on the left, with what was I was working from on the right.


Step 13

STEP 13

Once you’re happy with how the skin is looking, add a little more contouring. Create a layer for applying dodge and burn effects by pressing Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + N.

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Change the blending mode to Soft Light and tick the Fill with Soft-Light-neutral-color (50% gray) overlay option.


Step 14

STEP 14

Select the Dodge tool (O) and choose a soft brush, set to 5% highlights.

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Brush softly over the whites of the eyes, the tops of the cheeks, the chin and the natural highlights of the lips and eyelids.

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Step 15

STEP 15

Now select the Burn tool (Shift + O) and choose a soft brush, set to 3% midtones. Use this to softly brush in some more definition under the cheekbones and around the nose.

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Step 16

STEP 16

Once you’ve finished, continue editing as normal. Here, I’ve corrected one of the wrist embellishments to face the right way, brought in some extra hair on the right side of the face and lightened the hands to match the white make up

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Step 17

STEP 17

It can take a couple of minutes to set this workflow up each time you want to use it, so why not record your own Frequency Separation Action in the Actions panel.

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Simply click the New Action icon in the Actions Panel, name your action and press record. Once you’re finished, just remember to press stop.

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