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Skin Retouching
Posted By: codiac2600, 05-26-2009, 11:18 PM

Hello Ladies and Gents!

I was helping on another forum I frequent with some of my retouching techniques for skin that give it that all natural look and thought I'd share with it with you guys as well.


QuoteOriginally posted by blaser321:
you have mail
Received and started.

My typical first step is to use nothing but the spot healing tool and fix simple blemishes like spot, zits and pimples. In this instance where I cannot rely as much on the auto feature of the spot healing tool I have to use my number one fix all tool the patch healing brush. You must carefully choose the right spots to remove and replace with the closest matching skin as the clone patch tool takes texture from the place you're taking from and blends it into the your trouble area.



The reason for this madness, which mind you on this type of derma will take nearly 30 minutes when you're fast and precise, is that when we soften the skin we need to have as little change in skin color as possible or it'll look like a blotchy fix. So we'll use this to even the tonality a bit as well as removing most of the trouble areas while replacing them with a better skin texture.

After we've fixed most of the trouble areas on the skin we need to begin to remove other distracting parts of the image which to me is the stray hairs on the face and fixing up the eyebrows. I used the healing brush to remove the stray hairs on her face knowing that her new skin would be able to cover it up nicely with an auto brush at this point. Now her eyebrow was more difficult as I had very little sample skin to play with since she covers it with her bangs. I may try another stab at trimming the brows but it may look patchy if I clone off more than it can digest. I was basically using the patch tool to remove sections of stray brow hair, but again it can be over kill so in this instance I'd back off making it perfect until later on in the process.

BTW, I'm only working on the the right side of her face to speed up this process so if you see some problems on the left side of the image it's cause I'm not messing with it for this tutorial.



After you've fixed the skin and removed anything you don't want in the photo it's time to make a texture layer. To select the skin without the lips, teeth, eyes and hair I typically use the Color Range tool under the Selection menu to capture the skin and nothing else. It's not perfect but I use the selection mask and paint in the areas I want and remove what I don't want.


Now that we have that last skin layer saved and hidden right now I'm going to patch up the eyes and teeth. I used the simple dodge and burn to fix the white of the eyes and brighten the iris then removed the second catchlight as I personally found it distracting but everyone has their tastes.



Now this is the critical step and the the step everyone is looking for. This is my old skin retouching technique that I've now simplified with the ON ONE software suite but it works great if you want a more NATURAL approach to fixing the skin.

We now go back to skin texture layer and hide all the other layers so we are only concentrating on one thing, the skin. Make a copy of this layer directly above it and hide that. I use Apple + J or on PC CTRL + J for this step then hide the layer. Use a gaussian blur to make the skin ultra smooth and yes you can go as crazy as you like in this step.

Blurred skin:

Now we have to put the TEXTURE back on. The simple way is to just unhide the layer we copied above the blurred skin and use the opacity of that layer to make us feel happy.

Slightly transparent texture layer over blurred soft skin layer:


Now we will bring back the fixed image from underneath our fixed skin section and we'll see that it looks good but it suck in some areas, specifically the areas of hard lines like under the eyes and the smile lines on the cheek and on the eyebrows as it blended into the hair strands. So we will have to mask out those areas. What I do is combine the fixed skin layers into one using merge down Apple + E or CTRL + E on a PC. With them combined I can mask out the problem areas.

The finished product looks very realistic and the tonality is much better than what we started with. I worked quickly on it but I think you can see the finished difference right here.


After initial fix:


100% comparison after a quick sharpening vs the Original.


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05-27-2009, 02:28 AM   #2
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werry nice work
05-27-2009, 06:46 AM   #3
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Nice work.

There's a great photographing and retouching book out there simply called "Skin" by author Lee Vargis. In the case of blotchy skin and uneven color, Lee demonstrates a technique in his book using the hue/saturation tool to isolate the skin discoloration and then alters the hue of the blemishes to match the surrounding skin. Works real slick and takes just a few moments.

Terry Wyse
05-27-2009, 07:56 AM   #4
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I concur, that's a pretty great result. Just the right amount of blurring to still look very realistic.

Seeing bad retouching in print is a pet peeve of mine. There are plenty of horrificly overdone examples around these days.

05-27-2009, 08:14 AM   #5
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Nicely done. I've done something similar a few times. I tended to use the Median filter, instead of a Gaussian Blur. Median is nice because it doesn't cause areas to "bleed over" into each other so much, but still smooths things out.
05-27-2009, 09:12 AM   #6
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very nice tutorial this
05-27-2009, 07:13 PM   #7
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Thanks so much... Just getting to this level of working in Ps and this helps me, inspires me...

I have a particular issue to deal with in retouching the faces of aerialist... They are spinning and grunting, straining and popping out big veins... Some of that left in is great... sometimes it is even fantastic... Still... There is my inspiration to learn how to tune those strains down... Almost feels like reconstructive surgery! Any suggestion?
05-27-2009, 08:10 PM   #8
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This is very generous of you to show this, Chris. Excellent and professional tutorial here

05-27-2009, 09:16 PM   #9
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More praise for you Chris.
Great tute and top results with your technique.
05-28-2009, 02:45 PM   #10
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Bookmarked for future use.

Great tutorial!

05-29-2009, 12:37 PM   #11
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Thanks for sharing! Good lesson for sure!
05-29-2009, 12:38 PM   #12
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Good stuff Chris.

I'm lazy and never have enough time to do this so I now use the Kodak GEM Airbrush and OnOne Photo Tools. Plug-ins make life a lot easier for me. I'm going to bookmark this and refer to it for future use...

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