Portrait photographers strive to achieve beautiful skin in their images. Getting beautiful skin that is also realistic and preserves natural skin texture is a portrait photographer’s Holy Grail. Expertly applied makeup and good lighting are the foundation for beautiful skin, but photo skin retouching is the polish.
There are three great techniques for retouching skin in Adobe Photoshop. Those are:
- Touch-Up Layer Technique
- Frequency Separation Technique
- The “byRo” Method
I’ll discuss about every technique one by one. Today I’ll discuss about Touch-Up Layer Technique. Let’s begin.
In retouching, a simple process will often achieve what you need, and this holds true when retouching skin. Using a touch-up layer is a simple way to deal with blemishes, marks, and spots. It also works well to remove flakes of makeup, lint or dust, as well as tiny strands of hair or, indeed, any rogue hair popping out where it’s not wanted.
I also use a touch-up layer to retouch makeup when it’s needed; for example, to clean up lipstick that’s bled into the surrounding skin, or to fill in gaps in eyeliner to get a nice, clean line.
A touch-up layer does not work well for retouching patches of skin or hot spots. It is also not the right technique for dealing with multiple tiny blemishes. Limit touch-up layers to photo skin retouching noticeable problems that are surrounded by unblemished skin.
To use a touch-up layer, start with your background layer in Photoshop and add an empty layer on top.
Set your tools. To do your touch-ups, you will switch between the Clone Stamp and the Healing Brush. I will sometimes use the Spot Healing Brush as well, if the area I’m working on is fairly uniform.
When using the Healing Brushes, be sure that the tool option Sample All Layers is checked. When using the Clone Stamp, you will want to ensure that the tool option for Sample is set to Current & Below. With all three tools, I like to start with a small brush at 50 or 75% hardness. A softer brush tends to result in an artificial softness to the touch-ups.
Begin with the Healing Brush. Select your new empty layer, zoom in, and set your brush size just slightly larger than the blemish. Sample skin in a clean area as close as possible to the blemish you is retouching. Pay attention to how the skin texture flows and where skin tone changes. You will get the best results if your sample is as similar as possible to the area you are retouching.
Place your brush over the top of the blemish and just click. Don’t sweep, paint, or make several clicks on top of each other. Move around the face, clicking away the obvious blemishes. Resample as you move over different areas of the face.
Some touch-ups will work best with the Clone Stamp tool; for example, cleaning up makeup lines or removing long, fine strands of hair. To touch up with the Clone Stamp, set your cloning tool at 20% opacity, sample as close as possible to the area you are touching up, and click or paint away what needs correcting.
The touch-up layer can work well for some wrinkles. If your subject has fine, blemish-free skin and you just want to lighten a few wrinkles, try using the Clone Stamp tool. You will achieve a natural looking result if you touch up the wrinkles a bit more than you want, then lower the opacity of the touch-up layer just until the wrinkles below show enough to bring back texture and restore a natural look.
Be adventurous with a touch-up layer; the beauty of this technique is its flexibility. If you’re not happy with a touch-up, simply select your Eraser, erase the correction off the touch-up layer, and start again. If the touch-up is a bit heavy, use your Eraser at a low opacity with a very soft brush and just wipe some of the correction away.
You can also reduce the opacity of the touch-up layer, or use a layer mask if you find that helps blend in the touch-ups.
For some photographers, this is as far as you need to go to achieve beautiful skin. Sometimes you will need to so more. Whether you do more or not, I recommend always starting with a touch-up layer. Any further photo skin retouching you do will be easier and more effective if you have done those touch-ups first. Hope you have enjoyed this post. In our next post I will discuss about Frequency Separation Technique.