on this question: Which checklayers are used in frequency separations?

RyanFromGDSE added this comment:

"Just FYI sharky, "High end" and Frequency separation rarely go together. Frequency Separation is pretty low end on the retouching spectrum. – RyanFromGDSE"

On the web frequency separation is sold as the non plus ultra of the skin retouching techniques. What would be a higher end technique? what is considered High end, and what medium low?

If the answer has also a Demo video of the various techniques it would be appreciated.


It's not that high end retouchers don't use Frequency Separation but they do it far more sparingly than what you see in most entry level retouching tutorials.

The pros really just do dodge and burn so you maintain skin texture much better. Frequency Separation would be more for problematic areas like creases in armpits or necks come to mind. It's sometimes called "Texture Grafting," and you can find tutorials on it by searching for that.

Sidebar -- How to Texture Graft:

  1. Make your LF and HF layers
  2. Duplicate the HF layer
  3. Change the top HF's blend mode to Normal but then clip it to your original HF layer (which is set to Linear Light)
  4. Then using the top HF you select areas for duplicating, copy, paste, move, rotate, scale all of that to position it over large blemishes. Then apply an inverted mask (hold Alt while clicking the mask key) and then gently paint that in just over the blemish.

In doing it with this type of method you're reducing the loss of detail to only the areas really needing the copied texture.

You can, and should use Frequency Separation, just sparingly and when necessary not as a one-click solution which will result in horribly alien looking skin. It's important to remember what Frequency Separation is really doing and the different ways it can be used. For example if you want to check colors it might be helpful to look at your Low Frequency layer without texture to get a better idea of how well your colors are blending together. But for most things you'll get better results using simple Dodging and Burning on Curves Adjustment Layers. You'll also end up having more control as you can easily clip to those if you need to do more localized adjustments after.


Frequency separation is just another technique - just like plugins it's how it has been abused that gives it a bad reputation.

High end retouchers primarily use dodge and burn - down to the level of removing skin blemishes and softening pore details.

Frequency separation is probably a medium/low technique.

Plugins are probably below the lowest of the low (though if you must use a plugin I'd recommend Imagenomic Portraiture (at the lowest settings!))

Time is money though and I'm not a high end retoucher so I will use FS and Portraiture in my work (most commonly now by adding a low opacity pass of Portraiture in the FS low frequency layers).

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