How to Use Photoshop’s High Pass Filter to Soften Skin While Retaining Texture

Here’s a Photoshop tutorial by Twin Cities Photography Group teaching how you can use Photoshop’s High Pass Filter to soften the skin on a portrait subject without losing the skin’s texture.

  • Metin fotografie

    You can make a action with al these steps and click on the checkbox on the left side of the step (Gausian blur).
    So if you start the action, you can adjust the filter settings of Gausian blur because the pop-up window will come automatically while the action is running.
    Sorry, my English is not so good..
    I hope that you can find what I am trying to say. :)


    P.s. I like your tutorial. :)

  • Dave

    How will the action handle the selective masking (or demasking if you will)? Or are you suggesting an action up to the point of editing the mask? Just curious.

  • RealRetoucher

    This is a terrible way to retouch skin. They is no need to ever blur a single pixel when retouching. Heal, clone at 100% and learn to dodge and burn. Less terrible retouching please internet.

  • Houseofwallace

    Your video made me plug my laptop in.
    Just saying.

    Also, nice tutorial. There are many different ways of softening skin, but this one gives some great results.

  • Leetta

    Nice video…but, you need to talk louder.  I had all my volumes up and still could hardly hear you with my ear to the speaker.  Thanks for the video.

  • Metin fotografie

    “an action up to the point of editing the mask?”
    Yes, that’s what I ment.

    Or you can also make a action for that I think.
    Make the action till the point you need to make a layer mask, next step:
    – ctrl + click (pc) red channel
    – ctrl + (shift +) i
    – ctrl + alt + d (CS3) values of … Uhm.. 10%? (This step is optional)
    – alt + click on the layer mask icon to make a layer mask.
    (- maybe also ctrl + I to invert the selection)*
    – end of recording the action.
    – adjust a little the layer mask with your brush.

    *I am typing this on my phone, while I am not sitting behind a computer with PhotoShop.
    It could be that I forget one step. So, just try it.

  • Steve-o

    i did not see the difference…

  • Giacomogb

    maybe zoom-in to show the before and after differences next time…

  • Anonymous

    now how do you fix those eyes? scary

  • HuxleyJ84

    great, informative.

    It’s actually not passing high spatial frequencies, its passing the low ones, so it’s actually a low pass filter (passage of low frequencies). No physicists worked for photoshop programming i guess

  • Stephan Zielinski

    The layer produced by the “High Pass Filter” code– the mostly-grey one– is the result of applying a high-pass filter to the source image.  It’s just that in this case, the tutor applied the high-pass filter not to the original image, but to the INVERSION of the original image. Using that data as an overlay on the original image had the effect overall of beating down some of the original’s sharp high-frequency peaks.

    So from soup to nuts, the final effect may be that of a low-pass filter– but the tutor is using the (correctly named by the Adobe guys) “High Pass Filter” in the process of getting it done.  (Incidentally, any The GIMP people out there: after watching the tutorial above, I installed the high-pass filter script at ; it works fine.)

    Having said that, I have to concur with “RealRetoucher” above; this is not the same kind of blurring as Gaussian blurring or focus blurring, but it is still blurring.  If it works for you, rock on– but don’t be surprised if after all is said and done, you look at it and say, “That was a lot of fooling around to get a slightly blurrier image.”

  • Jostein Roalkvam

    Although I agree with you, this method (well not exactly how he did it, but with apply image on 16-bit files only) can yield results very similar to that of dodging & burning, at a fraction of the time, while still retaining the skin texture – essentially just evening out the luminosity of the skin. Of course you can’t use the same radii for the entire image, and you obviously need to carefully mask in the IHP layer(s) only where needed. That being said, there’s really no substitute for the good old’ dodging & burning on both macro and micro level, which can be extremely time consuming.

  • Sara Frances

    Yes, this is easily done as an action with stops at each place you want to custom adjust. This is not older fashioned retouching that we all learned in film and then adapted to digital, but it is a good option to counteract the current push toward turning every face into Barbie-doll plastic – which is an offense to every retoucher as well as to anyone wanting a modicum of reality. However, just a slight blurring of the skin pores IS very valuable for high school and older people alike. This process, if kept to the minimum does make a difference in client satisfaction AND is so quick and easy that it’s financially profitable to studios who are all suffering with the faster/cheaper mindset of the public. We all need to adapt to contemporary expediencies.