Skip to main content


Lesson 2 from: How to Use Frequency Separation for Retouching

Lisa Carney

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

2. Painting

Next Lesson: Filters

Lesson Info


So what we're first gonna do is we're gonna talk about some basic techniques here and we're gonna talk about just using the painting tool to start and we're gonna build as we go and get a little more complicated each and every time which is part of the fun. All right, having fun yet? It's gonna be good. All right, I want to reiterate that this process is gonna be the same process over and over again only used differently and that is what the beauty of this program or this process, I should say. Process, so frequency separation. I'm gonna keep saying process and I'll explain why. So, in this instance what we're gonna do is remove her tan lines very, very quickly. What I'm gonna do throughout this class you guys, is I'm gonna show you what I did. I'm gonna get rid of it and then we're gonna do it together. Okay, cause I think it's helpful to kind of see the roadmap before you get there and then to go. So, what this is, is this is a file that's already been built. I have my blur layer, an...

d I have my gray layer. That gray layer, this is very important, it is set to linear light. I have this on all the documentation. Every Google film you see about this will say, this is how you do. Every YouTube video, so you can look up this formula again and again. That's the base image, okay? When you've made your frequency separation and you turn it off and on, you will know that it's correct, because nothing has changed. And then what I will go in and do, is I'm gonna blur some stuff, I'm gonna paint. These are quite literally, paint layers. And then I'm just gonna retouch out these lines. It's gonna be really hard to see on the screen. There's some lines in here and they get retouched out. Again, on a screen, this is gonna be hard to see, but you'll see the effect. All right, so let's go ahead and do it. I'm gonna delete this, Command + J, Command + J, blur, gray, and if anybody knows me, they know I like to keep things neat and tidy. Why don't you go ahead and Shift + Click on both those names, put it in a folder. I like to call it FS because I can't spell very well and I always misspell frequency separation. The blur layer, you can leave all the layers on, you don't have to see it at the time you do it. Gaussian blur, let's do seven. Go up to the gray layer, which would normally be called high frequency. Go to apply image, this is where you're gonna get screwed up, right here, right here. Pick the blur, that's why you name your layers, by the way, as well. For those of you who have not done frequency separation before, your computer's gonna default to multiply. Once you've done this once, it'll default to what you have set. Subtract to 128, that looks like khak, it's gray. Oh, I'm missing a step, linear light. You have now gone into the world called frequency separation. How you know you've done it right, is when you turn that folder off and on, nothing shifts, nothing shifts. So, then now what, here's the beauty of frequency separation, is what we're gonna do is we wanna get rid of those tan lines. I believe in copies for everything 'cause I'm afraid I'm gonna make a mistake. So, please, do yourself a favor, make a copy, Command + J, and maybe call it blur retouch, RET. Do the same for the gray, Command + J. Oh my, look what happened, can you guys see that? Look how crunchy critter that got. That's because it's on linear light. So what you're gonna do, again, this is all in the handouts, you're gonna hold the option key, and click on the line in between the two layers, line in between the two layers and you change the top layer to normal. All right, we're now in the world called frequency separation. This is your base setup, and isn't it interesting we've done nothing. All we've done is set up the file, and now we're ready to work. Okay, that's the other thing that's kinda odd. I think people think that you do the frequency separation, and then once you've done it, but everything looks exactly the same. It's like, yes honey, because now we're gonna go in and do the work. So, what some people like to do, I don't do this method anymore, but some people like to do, is they like to take a tool and smudge or paint right on the layer. I have to tell you I'm not a big fan of that, I'm not a big fan of smudging directly on the layer. So what I prefer to do, is I prefer to paint. Now, I prefer to paint on the layer, some people are not. So let's say you're a little nervous. Let's say you wanna paint, and you're not sure. I'm gonna take the paintbrush, make a nice big brush, holding the bracket to get a little bigger. And I'm just gonna sample somewhere off here off her shoulder and I'm gonna start painting. Now my brush is set at 100% opacity and the flow is at 100. That might be a little much, maybe I should slow down a little. Maybe I should make it 50% opacity. I'm selecting her shoulder, maybe I should make it 20% opacity. I'm changing the opacity by hitting the number key on my keyboard, the other thing I'm gonna suggest you do is paint over. Don't be tight with your painting. So don't try to paint the lines like this really tight, paint broad. (harmonic singing) Big broad strokes, you can sing if you like, singing's fun, okay? And can you see how quick this is? This is crazy quick, it can be even quicker. I'm going actually slower than I normally would go, believe it or not. I do tend to go a little fast. Now, okay, we see a few problems here, right? Oh, her, what do you call it? The who-he's, the ties on her, who-hes, nice one. The ties on her bathing suit don't look so good. Great, we mask that out real quick. So on the paint layer, I'm gonna mask out, put the flow back up to a hundred. Just mask out those, that paint. And the thing about frequency separation, on the blur and color layer, you don't have to be too tight. You don't have to go in too tight there. I'm still missing a little bit. Watch this you guys, I used the gradient tool. I'm gonna select that color, right on this layer, thank you. I'm gonna select the color right here, I'm gonna make sure I'm on the radial, and I'm just gonna click and drag. I'm gonna increase my opacity to a hundred. That was little dark, that's all right. So you see the idea, you can make shoulder blades if you need to. Let's say you want her shoulder blade to look a little more, angled. You can do that with this, and then all I have to do is on the gray copy, or let's call it gray retouch. Go in and maybe use the heal tool. Please, please, please, please do not have it set to all layers. Please have it set to current layer. 'Cause then I can clone out, what I'm doing is cloning out those lines that are on the detail layer. If you have it set to the default of like all layers, you're gonna get something like that. So please, please, please don't do that. All right, so this is pretty basic stuff here. We just did a light painting thing. I'm gonna go to history just to reopen what I did before, and then I'm gonna open up another file. All right, before, and after, what did I do? I have my blur, I have a blur smudge. I show this 'cause a lot of people use it. I don't care for using the smudge personally. I'd rather just paint it. I did a little paint on her lower back, I did a little paint on her upper shoulder, and then I cloned it out, that's all it is. And that would take me about, what, two, three minutes? Now, can you imagine if you're cloning, what a pain in the heinie it would be? So, let me close that out, and let's move on to something a little more advanced. Same idea, you guys the principle here is always the same, it's always the same function. So let's say you have a wedding or a catalog shoot, and you have this horrible seamless that you have to deal with. You can clean this in minutes. In absolute minutes. So let's deconstruct the file, then we're gonna build it again together, okay? So what I have, it's the exact same formula. I have the blur that you've made, and I have the gray. What I then did is went in and painted out, I have this masked out by the way, and we'll talk about that in a second. There's the blur layer, with the gray. That's me painting. It's literally just paint. Hopefully you can see that on the screen. And then I thought the shadow behind him needed a little more shadow. There's the gray layer, on the gray layer, and gang you're gonna have to bear with me. It's a little tiny bit hard to see this stuff up close. Ah, you can see that pretty good. On the gray layer I went in and started cloning out. So now, I'm gonna go in, I left a whole bunch here, and I'm gonna click with the heal tool. Same one we used before, and I'm gonna start cleaning the seamless out. I cannot tell you how long this takes if you're trying to clone on a regular file. Can you imagine for a second if you are doing a regular method, how long this would take? It would take forever, now the only difference about this one is, his cast shadows. So let me turn the mask back on. So there's my frequency separation, but look how flat. He looks like he's floating, right? So on this situation what you wanna do, is you want to put in, let me turn this off, little teeny cast shadows, can you see that? So, I basically copied the red channel, I'll show you that in two seconds and then I painted a little cast shadow. I'm gonna turn this off and on. I'm gonna turn the mask off for a second, so you can see it. There's my frequency separation. There's the red channel copied. Now I'll show what that is in just a second. And then just a little paint, just a little, you know, black paint, nothing exciting. The red channel, let me talk to you about what the red channel is. When you have an image like this, you can go into your channels, there we go. So see this red channel? There's red, green, and blue. And what I did is I grabbed the red channel, made a copy of it, did a levels move on it, Command + L, and I said, "Hey, all that nasty "stuff on the side, I don't want that, "let's make that white." You can also do it with the sliders, and then I may or may not bump up the blacks. Command + A to copy that channel. Go back to your layers, go back to your frequency separation, Command + V to paste. Command + A, Command + C, you have to hit the C a little hard, my computer. (mouse clicking) Did I say hard? I meant really hard. There we go, and there's my red channel, copy. It's all within the frequency separation model. I'm gonna put that on multiply. I'm gonna take the old one off so you can't see it. I'm gonna put a black mask on it, and then I'm just gonna paint in, on the mask, with white, the cast shadow. It's very subtle you only need to paint in on the bottom. And then you put your mask back on, and now he's not floating as badly. Hopefully you understand that. I'm gonna do this again. We are gonna do a different project. But, here's the big takeaway from this. You can quickly paint out a background, quickly, and you can quickly clone out the detail, you can even put a pattern in there. We're gonna talk about that in just a minute. So, the key to this one versus the tan one is I masked it, okay? So a lot of people don't do this, they don't mask in their frequency separation. So when you have this formula, and you have it, I don't wanna have to be really careful around his legs to clean it up. So paint broad, and then just mask it in. And again, if you don't know how to do a layer mask, if you don't know how to do a layer set, you do not want to be taking this class right now, all right? This is just not for you. Shall we move on? Awesome, let's talk about products. So product photography, and again I don't see a ton of people using this for product shooting. And I think it's absolutely amazing. It's the exact same thing we just did. Only, instead of a man's leg and it's seamless, it's a cup of coffee. And who doesn't love a cup of coffee in Seattle? So when I do a lot of work for a photographer named Dana Hersey and he does Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and often times the product gets changed. So when they shoot it, they had the specks, they had the cinnamon specks in there, and then they decided they didn't want those specks in there anymore. So we had to clean it up. Could you imagine for just a minute, how long that would take to clone all of this out? You're crying already, right? Everyone should be crying. (Audience laughing) All right, so I'm gonna open up the folder and talk about what I did. This is all the exact same stuff only done on a different image. You have your basic frequency separation, okay? The blur and the gray, nothing has changed and then I went in and I started running a filter, what? I ran a filter, so what I did, is I took that blur layer and I ran the filter called dust and scratch, and then I painted it in on mask. So let me show you how you do that. Command + J, dust, scratch. I'm gonna spell it, abbreviate it. It's under the noise by the way, isn't that weird? It's a blurring filter but it's under noise. I think it's 'cause they want you to get rid of noise. And I just did a whack-a-doodle little blur. Now why do I sometimes use dust and scratch? I use dust and scratch because it will hold the highlight and the shadows separate, as much as possible. Whereas when you do gaussian blur, so take a look at that for a second, I'm gonna undo that, now I'm gonna do gaussian blur. This is a really big distinction, in fact, let me just for giggles do it a lot so you can really see the difference, it can look subtle. Gaussian blur, what happens, is everything blurs into each other, so if you have darks they blur into the lights, and the lights blur into the darks. Whereas when you have surface blur, it will try to hold the lights and darks, this is a very big distinction, okay? So on product photography I often use dust and scratch, instead of a regular blur. Now, in the end I ended up painting 'cause it's my favorite way of doing this. So I just painted out, let me show this, I just painted it out those blobs, that's just paint. La la la, it's easy, you don't have to clone nothing, it's just a paintbrush. I'm not a great painter and I don't have to be very precise. And then in the end, we did that round first and then they came back and were like, "Ah, that big swatch of the shadow, "we decide we don't want that." All right, done, it's just paint, it's just a paint blob. And one of the things that you'll see on the files that I do often, is I paint broadly, and then mask it out. Paint broadly, 'cause when you try to paint like that you get streaking or it's just not quite as accurate? And then the only thing left to do on this job is go up to the gray retouch, and retouch out the lines that are left behind. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. Turn that on, I even left some there. Oh, can I show you something good? How do you know what to clone out or what's left? Or how do you know if it's on your gray layer or if it's on your paint layer? Turn the gray layer off, when you turn it off you can see, well, it's all right got a little bit of banding, but that's okay. When I turn the gray layer on, what's gonna happen is you'll see those lines show up. Do you see this, right there? And now all I have to do is go in and clone 'em out. It's two seconds, it really is. Charge appropriately though. Charge appropriately for your work. You're paying for your education. Sorry my mouse is, it's alive, it's alive! Sorry my mouse is wanting to be part of the show. Maybe you wanna clone out some of the bubbles. You can do it with this. It's so easy, if you wanna add bubbles you can take the texture of these bubbles and move 'em over here if you want. So for product photography, it's amazing. How do you know that? Because if I turn this layer off, where are the bubbles? They're not there, right? Bubbles are on the gray layer. I really want you guys to think about this, let me just turn the gray layer on. Can you see that? That's where the bubbles live. Look, one of the things you guys will notice about my classes is, is I don't do a lot of step one, do this, step two, do this. What I'm really trying to do is get you to think about the program. So I would love it if you were to look at me and go, "Oh I need to clean up her wrinkles, what would I do? "Oh, blur that out and then just clone the texture." I want you to be able to solve your own problems.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Frequency Separation Presentation & Notes
Frequency Separation Photoshop Actions
Leather Skin Texture

Ratings and Reviews


Wow, what a great class, another one by Lisa Carney! This one kind of blew my mind in places, all the clever methods she shows. After watching the first couple chapters I paused the video because I suddenly realized I could use this method to fix a problem I had in one of my composites (removing some kids' sidewalk chalk patterns from some pavement) Lisa Carney is fantastic about showing the way she thinks, how she goes about solving problems. I personally find this very empowering, it makes me inspired to think creatively about tough photoshop issues I'm grappling with in my own projects. She says she does not provide a cookie cutter formula for solving a problem, the reason is the problems we'll be solving are different. What she's providing is way more valuable, it's the way of thinking about attacking a problem. I found the course to be paced perfectly. It assumes some base knowledge which is covered elsewhere. But she provides all the information you need here, you just may need to watch the videos a few times (and you'll pick up new stuff on each watching). I ended up joining the CreativeLive annual subscription, literally because I wanted to watch all of Lisa Carney's classes - I find that she packs in so much extra useful information, it almost doesn't matter what she's "officially" speaking about, I have found I will always come away amazed and enriched with her insights!

Mick van Meelen

Lisa is all over the place but in a good way. I love her enthusiasm, she clearly loves her job and she makes you want to be a better photoshopper. Just see it, try it and see it again, that worked for me.

a Creativelive Student

Fast paced and great education! Not for the beginner, but definitely worth your time to learn these techniques and speed up your editing. I love Lisa's handouts, very visual and detailed. And I love being able to rewatch Lisa's videos when I get stuck.

Student Work