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Effective Portrait Photo Retouching in Photoshop

By January 7, 2014Photography

Learn step by step how to retouch portraits in Photoshop

In this step by step Photoshop tutorial we will see how to achieve realistic and impressive portraits in Photoshop. First we will see how to remove blemishes and soften skin. Enhance the portrait, re-sharp the image and fix color tones. The key is to achieve realistic portrait photo retouching.

 

Summary:

1) Remove Blemishes and other unwanted pores.

2) Soften skin and enhance portrait.

3) Fix color tones.

4) Final touches.

Tutorial Details and Resources

Difficulty: Intermediate

Apps Used: Adobe Photoshop (CS5 or later)

Estimated Completion Time: 20-35′ Minutes

Resources: Girl with fur cap by catalin82

Step 1 > Open the Image

Open the portrait you want to retouch in Photoshop. For this tutorial i used the large version of my example at 4000 x 2667 pixels.

 

photo retouching step 1

Step 2 > Clean the Face

Before we start go to Layer > Duplicate Layer to duplicate the first layer. In your toolbar pick the Spot Healing Brush Tool (J) with a small-sized brush, 50% hardness and Content-Aware type. Paint over the blemishes and Photoshop will automatically remove them for you. Remove everything unwanted before we process to the next step.

 

photo retouching step 2

photo retouching step 2b

Step 3 > Soften Skin

Duplicate your layer again by going to Layer > Duplicate Layer. Next, go to Filter > Blur > Surface Blur and add 25 Radius, 20 Threshold and press OK. To add layer mask go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All. Finally, pick a soft Brush (B) with 0 hardness, 120px size and 40% Opacity. Paint over the face but leave eyes, nose edges and lips.

 

a) Go to Filter > Blur Surface Blur.

photo retouching step 3a

 

b) Add 25 Radius and 20 Threshold.

photo retouching step 3b

 

c) Create layer mask.

photo retouching step 4c

 

d) Pick a soft brush and paint over the face.

photo retouching step 3d

photo retouching step 3final

Step 4 > Merge Layers

Merge all the layers except the first by using the old method (Ctrl + E) or while pressing (Alt + Ctrl + Shift) go to layers tab options and press Merge Visible. This will create a new merged layer but will leave all the rest.

 

photo retouching step 4

Step 5 > Face Shape

To improve the shape of face and lips go to Filter > Liquify. Pick Forward Warp Tool with tool option: Brush size > 350, Brush density > 51, Brush pressure 68. Push the lips up to make them look smiling. Push the face to look more thin and when you like the result press OK. Ignore this step if you don’t want to change the face shape.

 

a) Go to Filter > Liquify.

photo retouching step 5a

 

b) Use Brush size 350, Brush density 51 and Brush pressure 68.

photo retouching step 5b

 

c) Push under the face and lips to change their shape.

photo retouching step 5c

photo retouching photoshop tutorial step 5d

Step 6 > Improve Exposure

In your toolbox use Dodge and Burn to improve the portrait exposure. Use Dodge Tool to add light in specific parts and Burn Tool to darken parts of image. Dodge and Burn will give the flat face a more 3D look. Try to follow the natural light conditions by adding more light in bright areas like eyes and highlights and darken the parts where the light is less like eyebrows or under the face.

 

photo retouching step 6

Step 7 > Fix Color Tones

To fix color tones and add contrast go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves and add the follow settings:

 

RGB Channel: Input 67, Output 62 or make it look similar to my s shape.

photo retouching step 7a

 

Red Channel: Input 185, Output 191 or make it look similar to my s shape.

photo retouching step 7b

 

Blue Channel: Input 58, Output 62 or make it look similar to my s shape.

photo retouching step 7c

Step 9 > Face Light

To add a nice face light, create a new layer and the pick the Brush Tool (B). With a soft large brush paint over the face. Change the blending mode to Soft Light and lower the opacity to 60%.

 

photo retouching step 9

Step 10 > Image Sharpening

To sharpen the image we need to merge all the layers. A better technique is to press (Alt + Ctrl + Shift) and at the same time in layers options menu press “Merge Visible” like the example. This will create a new merged layer but will leave untouched all the rest. We used this technique in step 4. If is still to hard for you, select all layers except the first and press (Ctrl + E). Next, duplicate the layer and go to Filter > Other > High Pass. Use 2 Radius and press OK. Finally change the blending mode to Soft Light.

 

photo retouching step 4

photo retouching step 10

Conclusion

To make the portrait photo retouching look realistic you need to avoid adding to much contrast or surface blur. To sharpen the image you can use other tools other than high pass. Change color toning based to your image colors or preferences.

 

photo retouching tutorial

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