Image patches of different spatial frequencies are likely to have different perceptual significance as well as reflect different physical properties. Incorporating such concept is helpful to the development of more effective image retrieval techniques. We introduce a method which separates an image into layers, each of which retains only pixels in areas with similar spatial frequency characteristics and uses simple low-level features to index the layers individually. The scheme associates indexing features with perceptual and physical significance thus implicitly incorporating high level knowledge into low level features. We present a computationally efficient implementation of the method, which enhances the power and at the same time retains the simplicity and elegance of basic color indexing. Experimental results are presented to demonstrate the effectiveness of the method.