Great Techniques for Photoshop Beauty Retouching

By LaurenMarie

Hey look! It's me!Everyone wants to look good, but sometimes the camera doesn’t capture you the way you really are (right? *wink*).

Don’t you want your photos to look good, too? It doesn’t take very long!

Healing Brush to Get Rid of Unwanted Imperfections

The Healing Brush is your best friend in the world of beauty retouching. It gets rid of everything from blemishes to wrinkles. You have to be careful when using it, though, because if you get rid of too much, it will look like your subject has been airbrushed, and that’s not what we want.

Using the Healing Brush is easy! Its shortcut is J, and you Alt (Opt) click on an area that has a good texture and color to sample from. Usually cheeks or foreheads are a good place to sample from for faces because it they are large flat surfaces. You may want to clean up that sample area first, too, by removing small wrinkles or shine.

The first step is to get rid of blemishes that you absolutely don’t want people to see. These should be things like acne, but not identifying marks like moles or freckles–people will notice if those are missing.

After erasing those flaws, you should make a copy of the layer to begin the real glam work. You never want to make changes on the original layer, just in case you have to go back!

With the Healing Brush, go over all those things you wish weren’t there—wrinkles, under-eye baggies, and now’s the time to brush out those moles and larger freckles. Once all those nasties are gone, we need to bring them back in slightly to get a realistic appearance. Experiment with lowering the layer’s opacity; I find somewhere between 30% and 50% opacity are the best.

Turn Red to Rosy with Hue/Saturation

Red blotches on faces, especially cheeks, are a simple fix with a Hue/Saturation layer.

  1. Go into the Red Channel by selecting it from the drop down menu in the Hue/Saturation dialog box that comes up when you choose the Hue/Saturation option from the Adjustment Layers icon (Adjustment Layer Icon).
  2. Inch the hue slider a little to the right, towards the yellows.
  3. Click ok.
  4. Go into the mask and fill it with black to hide the effects of the adjustment.
  5. Now, preferably with a pressure sensitive stylus like a Wacom tablet, which will allow you to control opacity and brush thickness on the fly, paint back in the areas that need the red toned down.

You may need to blur the adjustment layer mask to avoid harsh transitions in the color. Manually do it with the Blur Tool (R, sometimes it’s under the Sharpen or Smudge Tool) or you can blur the entire mask at once with the Gaussian Blur filter (Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur). Adjust the radius as you see fit.

Make Them Truly Pearly Whites!

Along with getting rid of those blotchy red spots, you can quickly whiten teeth without making them look unnatural with the Hue/Saturation adjustment.

  1. Using the quick mask (Q), paint in the teeth (default is red)
  2. Hit Q again to exit the quick mask
  3. Invert the selection (Ctrl+Shift+I)
  4. Select Hue/Saturation from the adjustment layer menu
  5. Go to the Yellow channel and desaturate it all the way (Saturation slider in the middle).

If this has made the teeth look too grey, add some yellow back in. Then use Levels to brighten the teeth.

  1. Ctrl click on the mask to load the selection (so it’s the same for the next adjustment)
  2. Go to the Levels adjustment and in the RGB channel (default) move the middle slider a little bit to the left—but not too much! You don’t need teeth that will glow in the dark.

You can also use the above method to make the whites of the eyes whiter.

Woman, Before and After

Looking Younger

If you really want to spend a lot of time, you can make Gramma look at least 20 years younger! This is a lot of work and many times is not worth it.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking to make someone appear younger:

  • Make eyes brighter with levels and dodging
  • Enlarge eyes by selecting a large portion around each eye (do one at a time), copying to a new layer and using transform (Ctrl+T) to make them slightly larger. Blending the layer will most likely be required and using a layer mask is your best option.
  • Decrease the size of the nose and ears and thin the face using the same method as above
  • Lower the shoulders and hairline, again with the copy-pasting and masking technique
  • Straighten crooked smiles with the same methods described above.
  • Pay attention to the hairstyle—people tend to make it poofy to hide hair loss and thinning. Also experiment with lighter or darker color and highlights.
  • Tan the skin. It always looks good whether making someone younger or not. Using levels, increase the reds slightly (middle slider in the Red channel), lower green and blue, to create an over all tanner look. The amount of tan will vary with each individual (and monitor!), so use an adjustment layer so you can always go back and fix it if you want.

Man, Before and After

  • You want to create a smooth skin tones with Levels (several adjustment layers–mainly one for shadows where you drag the middle RGB slider to the right, and one for highlights, where you drag it to the left), but don’t make it so smooth that there is no depth (see below)
  • Remember that shadows and highlights are what shape everything we see. To make someone look a little thinner, increase the shadows under their chin and on their cheeks, close to the ears with the Burn Tool (try it!!).

Much of this beauty retouching is up to personal tastes; it really is an art and not a science. Knowing some basic drawing or painting techniques and paying attention to details like the shadows and highlights will help you improve your skills at identifying changes that need to be made. And it may be wise to check with your subject to make sure they want this work done!

While it’s fun to do this glamour retouching, it’s important to keep it real. Sometimes people can get a little extreme, especially in the fashion industry! Check out The Twisted Reality of Fashion Advertising from David and this interesting breakdown for Girl Power by Forsman & Bodenfors (can you believe this model is only 14 years old??!). Click on the link that says Retouch Ad at the bottom of the page to see the step by step before and after of this retouch.

Remember to check out the previous posts on color correction with levels, advanced but simple tools for color correction and using various techniques to retouch a photo.

And why not sign up for the RSS feed? If you subscribe, you’ll get a free gift–a PDF download of some useful Photoshop shortcuts we’ve talked about right here on Creative Curio to help you with your retouching! Subscribe today!

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