Beginners skin retouching tutorial

I plan to create several photoshop tutorials that will compliment my article about selling photos online.

This is the first tutorial, and it is step by step beginners guide to skin retouching. Other tutorials will appear as time will allow; and they will be published both in this blog and on my website.

The guide assumes that you have photoshop installed on your computer; and that you know at least basic operations with digital files and with photoshop.

Remark: I photograph in RAW format, and I convert RAW files to 16-bit TIFF files which I then process in photoshop. This allows maximum quality, but it is the subject for a separate article (which I plan to publish some day).

Another remark: Screenshots are shown small in this tutorial because of blog formatting limitations. You can click on any picture to see it full-size.

1. Start photoshop. We will be using default screen layout in this tutorial. You can always get back to default layout by selecting menu Window, Workspace, Default Workspace.

Open the file you wish to edit. In this example we can see that the skin isn’t ideal (no make-up was applied), and the form of nose might need to be adjusted a little.

2. We will make all retouching in a separate layer. That allows much more flexibility in case anything goes wrong. So first of all we need to create an empty transparent layer. Click the “new layer” icon in the bottom right corner, as shown on the picture:

3. Once you got new layer it will be named Layer 1. It is a good practice to give layers meaningful names – in case of complex editing you might get tens of layers, and giving each of them a meaningful name helps to understand later what have you done.

Double click on layer name for changing it, as indicated on the picture:

4. Then the old name will be highlighted, and you can type the new name

5. That’s how layers palette will be shown with the new empty layer created and renamed:

6. There are 3 main tools used for retouching. They are marked on the picture: 1 is healing brush, probably the most useful tool; 2 is Clone Stamp tool and 3 is Eraser Tool (which is helpful to clean some wrong edits; or make an edit subtle).

Let’s select the Healing Brush (by clicking on icon marked 1 on the picture)

After you selected the tool, make sure that the Sample mode is set to “Current & Below” as shown on the picture:

7. There are actually several tools under one icon. The default for photoshop is “Spot Healing Brush”, but we need “Healing Brush Tool”. To select it you need to click the icon in the toolbar and hold the mouse button pressed until the small menu will appear as shown on the picture. Then you need to select >”Healing Brush Tool” from the menu.

After you selected the tool, you need to define it parameters. Right-click anywhere on the picture and you’ll see the tool setting dialog as shown on the picture. The main parameter that we will change is the brush size; the other settings should remain as shown here:

8. How healing brush works? It takes samples from the picture – from the place you indicate – and applies those samples elsewhere. When it “applies” the sample, it tries to copy the texture from the original location, but to match the color with the color where the sample is applied.

It is usually a good idea to take samples from the place where color & texture are similar to the place you need to fix. For selecting the source of sample you need to press the Alt button, and click left mouse button while Alt is pressed. The cursor will look like a small target during that operation:

9. Now you can apply the sample. When you release Alt button, the mouse cursor will show circle as large as you defined in step 7. The size of circle indicated how big will be the sample taken and applied. To apply the sample at one spot move mouse to that spot and click left button once:

10. And here the result:

11. I usually prefer to do retouching with the photograph enlarged to 200%.

Bear in mind that you can click-and-move the mouse to fix large or elongated stains.
Sometimes it’s better to use Clone Stamp Tool instead of Healing Brush. I will not go too much into details, but basically Clone Stamp copies entire sample to a new location “as-is”, without changing any colors or anything. This is useful when you need to adjust the color of the spot; and most of the times I use with opacity 20-40%. Sometimes I use it with even lower opacity when I need to fix glares or skin color inconsistencies.

12. This is the result. I used almost exclusively healing brush here, with just a few touches of clone stamp:

13. You can compare “Before” and “After” by making the Retouche layer invisible/visible. You can do it by clicking a little eye icon next to the layer (number 1 on the picture). If you make background invisible (by clicking on eye icon number 2) you can see how the retouche looks like:

14. Now let’s adjust the form of the nose.

First, create a new layer and call is Nose.

Then select the Lasso Tool as marked on the picture, and make the selection around the part that we need to adjust. Allow some margin on the cheek that will fill the space later.

15. Now we need to smooth the edges of selection – either via menu Select, Modify, Feather or by pressing Ctrl-Alt-D on keyboard. Let’s use radius 10 in this case.

16. Now select menu Edit, Transform, Warp. You will see the grid as shown on the picture:

17. Click-and-hold the mouse at different points, and move to adjust the form of nose. Watch the points where edited part connects with un-edited nose. It’s not so easy to explain in words but it is actually quite simple operation when you try it. Just don’t try to perfom too complex form change… Click Enter when done.

18. And this is the result:

Don’t forget to save it! Keep in mind that many file formats don’t support multiple layers, so it’s usually better to save your edits in TIF or PSD file; and only export to JPG after all edits are finished.

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{ 1 comment to read ... please submit second! }

  1. photo retouching

    Good tutorial.
    This is absolutely very useful for beginners in image editing field.
    Thanks.

    Regards,
    photo retouching services

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