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Advanced Photo Retouching in Adobe Photoshop

Lesson 7 of 7

Frequency Separation to Remove Staining and Blemishes

Ben Willmore

Advanced Photo Retouching in Adobe Photoshop

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

7. Frequency Separation to Remove Staining and Blemishes

Lesson Info

Frequency Separation to Remove Staining and Blemishes

I wanna come in here and get rid of the whiskers that you find here or on this image. She's got stuff around her mouth. I want to get rid of that without getting rid of the shading that's on her face or here. Do you see the stain on her outfit? I want to remove it. Well, i'm going to do that through a process that's called Frequency Separation. Frequency Separation is a way to divide your picture into two parts. In those two parts are the fine little bitty details and then the big overall tonality and color of the image. In if we can separate those two, then the texture that is in her outfit, it's known as the Heather that's here could be on its separate layer from the overall color in tonality and therefore I'm going to be able to more easily get rid of this stain without interrupting that texture. Now we're going to do that using an action. This action comes with a class. If you purchase a class and let's load it when you download the files for this class, one of the files is called ...

Ben's Frequency Separation and it ends with letters ATN. that means action. If I double click on that file, either here in bridge or in your operating system, Photoshop will likely come to the front. If it did you successive successfully loaded that action, there's gonna be no screen that says congratulations, you did that. So a lot of people end up thinking it didn't load and they go try it again and again and again and every time they try they successfully load it and so they get like nine copies of it loaded in order to actually see it go to the window menu and there's a choice in here called actions. And in there you will find at the bottom Benz Frequency Separation. It's a little folder you can expand and collapse and there are two versions of an action. I'm going to choose the one called choose low and I'm going to hit the play button. When I hit play, it's going to bring up the Gazi and Blur window and I can move my mouse onto my picture and click in an important area. So I can view just that spot. When you're in Gaza and Blur. If you click within this preview you see before, if you let go, you see after. And what I want to do here, is I'm going to bring up this radius setting until the fine detail goes away. That means the texture of her outfit, where that natural variation known as the Heather of her outfit until I can no longer see that, but I can still see the overall color in tonality. So right there, all the detail from that Heather has gone away. I don't, I can't see it, but I can still see what color things are. I can still see how bright they are and everything like that. So I'm gonna click okay. If you look at the resulting layers I end up with in my layers panel, I have three layers. The bottom most layers, just the original picture. You're welcome to throw it away. You don't have to have it. But I find it useful to be there so I can compare my results to the original by just hiding the layers that are found above. But for now I'll turn off that eyeball just to let you know it's not truly needed. Then we have two layers. One is called high frequency, the other is called low frequency. Let's take a look at what's in them. Well, the middle layer, if I were to hide the top one is the blurry version of the picture. The same version we saw when we were in the blur filter. The information that we blurred away from this layer didn't just get thrown away. It got moved to the layer that is above. The layer that's called High Frequency, but all that layer contains is fine detail. It does not contain the overall color tonality, so it's not something you're used to looking at. But let's go take a peek. I'll hide the middle layer and then I'll turn on the top layer. That is all the fine detail and if you look at this, isn't that the texture of her outfit and it does not have the overall tonality, meaning the overall brightness of the picture or the overall color. I can't really see the stain in there. Instead, I only see this stain in the layer that's underneath. So what if I were to grab the paintbrush tool and I were used a soft edge brush and I just copied this color right here. When you're in the paintbrush tool, you can grab a color out of your image by option clicking, that's all clicking and windows and then I can just paint like this. Well isn't that making the stain disappear from here? Well, I'm going to choose undo and let's do that while the other layer is turned on so you can see it in real time. Now I'm getting rid of the stain, but I'm maintaining the fine little details that were there and that's what frequency separation allows you to do. Now, for areas down here, I might need to be a little as bit careful when I get into these dark areas. It all depends how much of it is contained in the high frequency. Let's see. Non, I'm doing all right. Do you see this? Like this shadow right here, the kind of dark area, if I paint over that, I might reduce a little bit of shading. So I would just choose one tone that's in there, and paint, in the shady area. But most of it I can just come over here and grab from here. Painted away. Am I grabbed from over here? Just get rid of that stain over there. It messed up a little bit. So all that means is I need a sample from an area that's over there cause this is either brighter or darker or something else. And then I can paint in it. So look at her. Let's show before and after. I'll turn on that bottom most layer, which is the original picture. We'll just hide these two layers and turn it back on. That's what frequency separation allows you to do. So let's apply this to a few other images Here this guy has got some whiskers and I really wish he didn't. But if I go in there and just try to retouch out the whiskers, the problem is, the little shading that's here that defines the edge of his lip and defines this little kind of indented area here is going to go away and I want to retain it. So I'm going to go to my actions panel. I'm going to choose Frequency Separation and I can choose choose low again, click play. I get the blurry screen again Remember you can click on your image to determine what area you're looking at and what I want to do here is adjust the radius Intel, the whiskers go away. I'm trying to find the lowest setting that makes all the whiskers disappear because whatever it is, I blur away from this layer is going to be transferred to the layer above. Now I don't want to go too high though because otherwise if I go way too high, then that indent that was there. That is just a natural part of the skin. It's also gone. That means it's also going to be on that other layer. Whatever you blur away gets moved to the other layer and am just looking for whiskers to go away. Right about there, the whiskers are gone. I click okay and now we have our three layers. Let's go take a look at them. Here's the top most layered you see the whiskers. Here's the middle layer, no whiskers, so this time I'm going to be working on that top most layer cause that's where it contains what I want to get rid of and all I'm going to do is I'm going to find an area of appropriate texture and I think this area over here would work fine. I'm going to go to my clone stamp tool and I'm going to copy from that area, but you've gotta be careful anytime you use things like clone stamp. This is the one time when you don't want to use the setting that I normally use up here for sample. You want this to set to current layer and therefore the only thing it can copy from is the contents of the layer that's active. That layer looks like this. If on the other hand it's set to current and below, it's going to copy from what this picture looks like as a whole and it's going to apply it up top where we only have fine detail and it's gonna mess things up. So anyway, I set that to current layer. Now let's come in here and see if we're able to just come in here and retouch out our whiskers. I sometimes will have to option click again to get a clean area to copy from option click just so I don't run into an ear or something by painting too far and notice that it still has that little darker redder part. That would be a slight indent to the skin, over here I might copy from what's above cause it's more of an out-of-focus area so it might look more appropriate there. Doesn't matter what color it is, it doesn't matter how bright or dark it is, it just matters that it has the right texture. Because if you look at what we're actually applying things to, it's the top most layer. And if I turn off everything else, look at what's in there. All it is is texture. This is all you're copying and working with, so it doesn't have to be the right brightness because how much does the brightness of this change? Almost not at all. You're just looking for the texture cause that's all that's on this layer and so that's all we're copying from. You don't have to worry about how bright or dark it is. Why don't you turn the layer on that's below. That's when you see the final result in, so we have the fine detail on the top layer and we have the overall tonality and color on the layer below. The same thing could be used if you wanted to retouch out the stuff around hers. It's no different than the whiskers. Just blur it until that stuff disappears. Now there is two versions or there are two versions of that action. In most of the time I use the one we've been using which is choose low. I'll just show you what choose high does. You know how when we use choose low and we'll hit play. What I was seeing was I was previewing the layer that would be the blurry layer, the one that has all the color information as blurry. If on the other hand, I want to preview the top layer, this layer, then I choose the other version of the action. So I'll just show you what it looks like. I'll choose, choose, high, click play and now I'm previewing the high frequency. I'm seeing the fine details after they've been moved. So here if I was attempting to get rid of this stuff, I can move this all the way down and then I'd see nothing. And then I slowly bring this up and I want to just bring that detail in here, but not the overall tonality. If I had been this too high, I'm going to see the shape of the skin, like the three dimensional quality of the skin. I want to keep that on the layers below. So maybe right around here I can still looks like a flat kind of tone, but I can see the fine detail. So there's just two versions of the action. It's a personal preference which one you prefer to think about, but then if it's fine detail you're trying to get rid of, you want to work on the layer that looks like it's full of gray stuff and you can come in here and just retouch stuff out and if there's still a little issue there with color, go to the other layer. That's where it's contained and there I might use just the paintbrush tool. Make sure when you're using any tool. In this case I tried to copy a a color. Then if you're going to copy a color from your image, go to the eyedropper tool and make sure it's not set to sample all the layers. This is when you want it to be current layer and therefore it copies from the layer you're working on. Not incorporating them both because cause then I'd be able to copy and put that in. So advanced retouching, there's so much we could do. We do a month on advanced retouching. I just try to give you enough techniques to get it so you don't stay at the basic level. With the retouching essential lesson, I'd tried to give you a better sense for how to think about the main retouching tools. Whereas here I showed you how to push it to another level to try to tackle much more complex in difficult retouching jobs.

Class Description


  • Retouch in perspective using Vanishing Point
  • Separate fine detail from overall tone/color using Frequency Separation
  • Eliminate telephone lines that cross intricate trees
  • Swap heads, closed eyes, and smiles in group photos
  • Get rid of whiskers without affecting skin texture and tone
  • Remove stains from clothing while retaining fabric detail


  • Beginner, intermediate, and advanced users of Adobe Photoshop.
  • Those who want to gain confidence in Adobe Photoshop and learn new features to help edit photos.
  • Students who’d like to take ordinary images and make them look extraordinary with some image editing or Photoshop fixes.


Adobe Photoshop 2020 (V21)


a Creativelive Student

Cannot recommend too strongly. Each lesson is filled with gems clearly and smoothly explained. Techniques I use frequently will become much more powerful using the expanded tools that Willmore illustrates. This is one of those courses that is worth full price, and more