Photoshop Tutorial: Inverted High Pass

February 10, 2014

New updated version of this tutorial here!

Hey all how's it going? Today I'll be showing you how to retouch skin using a really quick method called the Inverted High Pass. I also call this technique the Digital Mud Mask. It's a great little technique for a quick retouch of the skin. You can get it all done in just a few clicks and using only 2 layers.

Also this'll save you money if you've ever looked into buying Portrait Pro. It's basically the same thing when regarding the skin side of things.

Basically you use a high pass to blur and a blur to sharpen. Yes...you read that correct haha.

Anyway you ready? Got a cup of tea next to you? Good...let's start learning.

First Steps:

Firstly open your document that you'll be using for this tutorial. Once it's opened duplicate the layer by pressing Cmd+J (Ctrl+J for you windows people):

Duplicate the original layer

Next step is to then invert the layer by hitting Cmd/Ctrl+I and we'll need to set its blending mode to Vivid Light...and if you wish you can change the layer name to Inverted High Pass.

Invert it

Rename it Inverted High Pass and set blending mode to Vivid Light

Once you've done this you then need to right click on the Inverted High Pass layer and choose Convert to Smart Object.

Right click and Convert to Smart Object

By converting it to a Smart Object you can then add filters and adjustments to a layer which you can then go back to and adjust the settings as needed.

Smoothing the Skin:

Now this is where we use the High Pass to Blur and the Blur to sharpen!

With your Inverted High Pass layer selected go to Filter>Other>High Pass. For this particular image I used a radius of 6. It will vary from image to image.

Add the High Pass filter

What we're looking out for when applying the High Pass filter is fine edges. They'll start to look like they are in the picture below. I've marked it out with a brilliantly drawn green arrow. Once they start doing that you know you've applied enough radius. Once happy click OK and we'll move on to the next step.

Add enough radius so you begin to see the edges glow:

Next we are going to sharped the image using Gaussian Blur. There's a tiny little bit of math involved here regarding how much blur to use. Don't worry you won't need a calculator haha. Basically whatever the radius was for the High Pass filter you want to divide it by 3. So we used a radius of 6 in the last step...that means we'll want to use a radius of 2 for the Gaussian Blur.

So go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and put the amount you got from what your High Pass settings were. We used a radius of 2.

Add a Gaussian Blur

Radius should be the total of the High Pass radius divided by 3

Adding the Mask:

This isn't finished yet. We only want to apply this to the skin area of the photo. The best way I've found to see what you're doing is to then temporarily change the Inverted High Pass blending mode back to Normal. 

Add a mask and temporarily change blending mode to Normal

Add a mask and fill it with Black. Now using a soft brush with the Flow set to around 30-40% with the main colour White paint over the mask to reveal the grey. Remember to keep this off sharp edges like the chin, jaw line, nostrils etc. Also I shouldn't have to tell you but don't put it on the lips, hair or eyes. If you've just done that, quit photoshop, punch yourself in the face, sell your computer, go find a mirror and have a word with yourself.

If you've been following along correctly you should be looking at a picture something like this and the layers should look the same as mine below. This step is why I call it the Digital Mud Mask:

Paint on the mask over the skin area with a soft brush

Now for the bit where we can see how the skin smooth looks. Change the Inverted High Pass layer back to it's proper blending mode Vivid Light:

Change layer back to Vivid Light

Blending it Together:

Double click the Inverted High Pass layer in the Layers Pallet to bring up the Layer Style box. On the bottom you'll see "Blend If", under that again there's "This Layer". What we need to do here is hold Option/Alt and click to split the triangle apart. We need to split the triangle on the left hand side and drag it around about 80% to the right as shown in the picture below. This blends the Inverted High Pass layer with the one below and helps create a more natural look. Once done click OK.

Use "Blend if" to help the layers blend better

Recover the Pores:

Next we are going to bring back the pores of the skin. We need to Stamp All by holding down Cmd+Option+Shift+E (Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E windows). This stamps all the visible layers onto a new layer above all the others in the Layer Pallet. Once you're done we need to apply another High Pass filter. This time at a much lower setting. I chose a setting of 1.5. Change this layers blending mode to Linear Light.

Another High Pass this time for the pores

Because we only need this on the skin..particularly on the area we've retouched we need to add a mask. The easiest way to do this is with your new High Pass layer selected, Cmd/Ctrl+Click the mask on the Inverted High Pass layer. This will create a selection of the mask. Next apply the mask to your new layer. There you go, perfect copy of the mask below. If you've gotten a different mask where it looks inverted to the one below simply select th mask on the layer and press Cmd/Ctrl+I to flip it.

Set to Linear Light

Finally we need to reduce the opacity of the layer so the pores aren't so strong. I set mine to 35%.

Copy the mask of the layer beneath and reduce opacity to around 30-40%

Ta da!!!

That's it! Pretty long winded reading it on here but when you remember how to do this you can do it in just a few minutes. Here's my version below. As you can see you have pretty smooth skin and we've managed to keep all the pores too:

My final piece.

Hope you enjoyed and learned something from this tutorial. Please use the social media buttons at the top and bottom of this tutorial to share and like. I'd really appreciate it!!!!

Until next time....Seeeee yaaaaa!!!!!!

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