Tonal Correction with Frequency Separation


Hello.  I hope you’re all ready to jump right into our next Portrait Editing tutorial.  Today I will be showing you how to correct skin tones with the same process as last week, but this time we will be working with the Low layer which contains the tonal values and not the textured High layer.  A lot of editors use the Frequency Separation process and I love it for when I have a lot of photos from a function to edit.


In the image below I have circled some tonal problems on our sample image i.e between the brows up to the forehead that’s from make up not applied well, the shadow on the cheek and nose, the dark shadow under the tip of the finger and I also want to tidy the eye makeup a bit.



Last week we ended off with grouping our second skin correction and our layers panel should now look something like the image below.  The beauty of working with groups and name layers is that we can toggle them on and off to see our progress as we go along.



Let’s get started!  Create a new stamp layer by holding down the Shift+Ctrl+Alt+E keys or on a Mac Shift+Cmd+Opt+E.  Please note that should you want to make changes to your previous edits, it will not carry forward once you’ve made the stamp layer and this is why retouching images can be up to 500 layers as retouchers repeat processes many times, but for personal use, this should not make too much of a difference.  Duplicate the stamp layer.



Name the bottom layer Low and the top layer High.  Make sure the Low layer is active and follow these steps.  Filter>Blur>Gausian Blur and enter a value between 8 and 15.  You just want to blur the details so that they are no longer sharp.  For my image I used a value of 10 and as you can see on the eyebrows, the individual hairs have been softened.



Activate the High layer and follow these steps for a 16-bit (RAW) image.  Image>Apply Image with the following settings.  Layer : Low – Invert : Checked – Blending : Add – Scale : 2 and Offset : 0.  Use these values for an 8-bit (Jpeg) image.  Layer : Low – Invert : Unchecked – Blending : Subtract – Scale : 2 and Offset : 128.  Change the blend mode of the layer to Linear Light.



Create a new layer between the Low and High layers.  Let us set up our Brushes.  Use a Soft Round Brush with a Hardness of 0.  In your Brush Properties uncheck Shape Dynamics, set the Opacity 100% and Flow 3%.  The reason for this being that your opacity is a constant and your flow is affected by pen pressure.  And I can hear so many voices shouting “I don’t have a Wacom Tablet”, but it’s a good idea to get into this habit because you may enjoy editing your photos so much that a Tablet will be on your Birthday?Christmas/Black Friday wish list.  Toggle the Airbrush on.


Depending on where you work on your image you will have to increase and decrease the size of your brush.  You can do this quickly by hitting [ to decrease your brush size and ] to increase your brush size.  Zoom into an area that needs to be corrected and sample the correct color tone close to the area by holding down the Alt/Opt key and clicking on the image.  Start to lightly brush the correct color in.  Sample from both the light and dark sides to ensure a smooth transition.  Be careful not to pick a color from the wrong area because you will end up with a totally new tone that will just look wrong.


Zoom in and out of your workspace to check progress and toggle your new layer on and off to see the difference.  I worked with a very small brush on very tiny areas of the eye makeup to gently push it in and tidy it up.  I also lightened the shadow of the finger quite a bit.



Drag these 3 layers into a new group and rename it.



See you in 2 weeks when we will concentrate on working on the eyes.






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