The present study used a parametric design to characterize early event-related potentials (ERP) to face stimuli embedded in gradually decreasing random noise levels. For both N170 and the vertex positive potential (VPP) there was a linear increase in amplitude and decrease in latency with decreasing levels of noise. In contrast, the earlier visual P1 component was stable across noise levels. The P1/N170 dissociation suggests not only a functional dissociation between low and high-level visual processing of faces but also that the N170 reflects the integration of sensorial information into a unitary representation. In addition, the N170/VPP association supports the view that they reflect the same processes operating when viewing faces.