Inverted High Pass (IHP) Retouching Tutorial


Using inverted high pass to smooth an area of skin (or anything including fabrics and seamless backdrops which we’ll also cover), is one of the most useful yet easy to overuse techniques in retouching.

It’s a fairly simple trick that smooths out a targeted radius in your image, allowing you to ‘blur out’ the shot while retaining a level of sharp texture that you control, then use masks to control the areas affected.


The best piece of advice I can give with IHP is keep it subtle. Using inverted high pass to smooth all visible skin will produce a blurry unrealistic look with texture that looks disconnected from the shot.


Simplified, the steps are;

  • Create a ‘Stamp Visible‘ layer above your working layers (Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+Alt+E). You can’t do this from a single Background layer with no work layers so simply right click the Background tab and ‘Duplicate Layer.’
  • Filter>Other>High Pass.
    • Choose a Radius and click OK (choosing a radius is covered below)
  • Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur.
    • The radius will be 1/3 of the High Pass Radius you chose
  • Invert the layer (Cmd/Ctrl+I)
  • Choose the Blend Mode. This is most often Linear Light or Overlay
  • Add a mask to the layer.
  • Black out the mask and use a white brush with hardness and opacity/flow set to your tastes to paint in the effect where needed.

The initial result (this example shows a radius of 30 High Pass/10 Gaussian Blur) will look something like this;


You’ll get used to scanning these pre-mask previews for where your IHP will work, and where it won’t.


A closer look shows that the texture (lower radius detail) remains untouched;


You’ll also see the areas to avoid. You won’t want your IHP mask to reveal any of that haloing around the hair at the bottom for example.


Choosing a Radius

A photograph’s low radii contain the sharp detail and texture you see up close, pores, individual hairs etc. So for example the results of a high pass/gaussian blur ratio of just 9/3 may not be apparent if you zoom way out or stand across the room, but close up the changes are dramatic.

A much higher radius, for example a 60/20 ratio, will have a much more apparent effect on the image when zoomed out, on the shadows of the bone structure, smoothing overall transitions between light and dark.

Here I’ve used a relatively mid-range 21/7 inverted high pass, masked out with the skin areas quickly painted back into the mask;


You can see that the results are quite dramatic when compared to the time it would have taken to dodge and burn.

You’ll notice there are a few sharper (lower radius) detail areas like those at the corner of the mouth that stand out, so we can approach those with a lower radius. In the version below I’ve created two further inverted high passes of 15/5 and 9/3, and painted the effect in with a soft brush. There’s also a ‘cleanup’ layer for a few stray hairs/marks. Click on the following image for a link to the 5k resolution original;


Click for full resolution attachment


In just a couple of minutes we’ve smoothed out most of the blotchiness. You’ll notice also that it’s great for catching greasy spots, demonstrated here on the middle of the nose. I’d really recommend clicking the shot above to see the full 5k resolution version as it really demonstrates what a powerful tool IHP is.

Moderation and restraint with Inverted High Pass

This footnote is absolutely the most important section of this tutorial. In theory, what we have sounds like a perfect tool, something that is lightning fast at smoothing skin and gives you control over how much texture to retain.

Unfortunately, stand a bit further back from the monitor, further back so you can’t be swayed by the impressive texture retention. It looks every bit as Gaussian blurred as if you’d actually Gaussian blurred it. Considering likely viewing distances in print, and the fact that ink on paper can’t reproduce the sharpness your monitor has no trouble with, the results from IHP as a fix-all technique are unimpressive.

As part of a professional workflow, one that’ll be in demand for advertising and editorial work, inverted high pass should be a supplement to your dodge and burn skills, one you use subtly and sparingly. It might fix a greasy specular highlight, balance out a patch of uneven makeup or even help to make a straight hairstyle appear straighter and glossier, but applying it liberally to skin as in the demonstration leads to poor results.

In Part 2, coming soon, I’ll cover other uses for inverted high pass, including proper application in skin, hair and backgrounds. I’ll also include my own IHP Photoshop Action set. Photo Credit Cristopher Lapp.


Paris Flood in 1910, Photographs

paris flood library books 1910

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I love history, so when I find one of those extraordinary moments in time captured beautifully in photography I get excited about it. The shot above shows library books carried through the streets of Paris after the flood of the River Seine in 1910. More shots follow; [Read more…]

Google+ Retouching Community

Google+ Retouching Community
If you’re on Google+ and reading this blog, you’ll probably want to become a member of the Google+ Retouching Community!

There didn’t seem to be a great deal around in terms of commercial retouching news, articles and discussion, so for photographers and retouchers of all levels we now now have a home on Google+. Click here to view and join us.


“Save the Future” Climate Week T-Shirt 2012 for EJF

Vaccines - Save the Future - Katharine Hamnett

The Vaccines


Hi all, last weekend I was asked to contribute to some of the shots for designer Katharine Hamnett’s Climate Week t-shirt for 2012, so I wanted to let you know a little bit about what’s happening with that. I’ve had little chance to blog much recently but it seemed a worthy cause to get behind and use my keyboard for something more useful than the shortcut keys I bore it with daily. [Read more…]

Dodge and Burn Tips

In the Dodge and Burn tutorial I covered the basics of D&B, using the curves and soft light methods, pixel level and carving. In this article I’ll cover a few extra tips that’ll help your eye make the right decisions and to avoid any unwanted colour shifts.

Enhancing the Problem (temporarily)

There are a couple of good ways to temporarily alter the image to show up the problem areas and help you dodge and burn what you otherwise might miss. The first is simple, add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and pull the saturation slider to -100. After all, we’re dealing solely with luminosity, colour can be an unwanted distraction. [Read more…]

Dodge and Burn Tutorial


Dodging and Burning is a method of lightening and darkening specific areas of an image, regulating local exposure to even out texture and contours. It digitally acheives (and with much more control) an old darkroom technique of witholding light (dodging) to keep an area light, or increasing the exposure to darken (burn) areas.
You’ll find the dodge and burn tools on the toolbar to the left of the default Photoshop setup, or by pressing ‘O‘.
The problem with using the standard tools is that they work destructively, they won’t operate on a blank layer so you’ll be making permanent changes to your working layer. This would be fine if none of us ever made an error or changed our minds, but to give us the option, we have a couple of methods available. [Read more…]

Daniel Meadows – High End Photo Retouching

Welcome to Daniel Meadows – High End Photo Retouching

Daniel Meadows is a British freelance retoucher with nine years of experience in digital retouching and has worked with award winning photographers and major fashion and cosmetics brands such as Chanel, L’Oreal Paris, Elle Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar. Daniel uses high end retouching techniques to achieve a subtle perfection without relying on common ‘blurring’ skin retouching methods which destroy pore-detail and clarity; strictly using non-destructive retouching techniques that look perfect at any resolution.


Please feel free to view the retouching portfolio section for examples of retouched images.

Daniel Meadows

DM Retouching Site Relaunch

Welcome to the new and updated version of my retouching portfolio and blogging site. I hope you’ll forgive the mess as I work to bring the new site into 2011 with a new look and a new mission for quality new content for photographers and new retouchers. My thanks go to Ian Cylkowski for the rebranding and further help with design elements.

It’s been an interesting year since I focused D Meadows Design into a dedicated freelance retouching service and the response from everyone has been extraordinary. I’ve cleared a lot of dead wood from the blog pages and I’m ready to focus on providing more tips and advice for anyone pursuing photo perfection. It’s been a long year with 16-20 hour days not uncommon to establish the freshly rebranded Daniel Meadows – High End Photo Retouching but it’s been worth it, and my thanks go to my clients and friends on this site and the others I frequent and write for. [Read more…]

Top 5 Photoshop Retouching Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Welcome to my top five list of Photoshop Retouching Mistakes. Aimed at the beginner retoucher (if you’ve been around a while you know all this) I’ve compiled five retouching crimes I see frequently.

I’m not going to go into massive depth with step by step tutorials, as I don’t believe in them. My apologies for quickly glossing over techniques I don’t have the space to go into in depth here, if as a beginner you’ve never used luminosity masking for example, consult Adobe’s help file, then use your imagination to play with your new selections, using various fills and adjustment layers. If any technique is new to you, go straight to that help file and then experiment before looking at any top ten Google tutorials. The single worst way to learn how to retouch is by looking through the millions of tutorials search engines throw up, because they’re simply saturated with ‘quick-fix’ ten step promises of perfection in under ten minutes. The truth is, perfection isn’t that simple, and neither is good retouching. So if you decided to add something to your Photoshop skill set today, make it what you take from this article. [Read more…]

20 Years of Photoshop Welcome Screens

Here’s a look back over 20 years of Adobe Photoshop welcome screens, I’ve now updated the article with Photoshop CS5. Every release of Adobe’s industry standard photo editing software prior to 6.0 is alien to me, but perhaps those horrendous 90’s splash screens will bring back memories for some of you.

[Read more…]