Tips & Tricks for Retouching Skin in Photoshop

Make sure your portraits look professional every time. Use these tips for retouching skin in photoshop to create the best images!

Even amateur photographers currently have the tools to give their portraits a professional makeover, and they don't need the best computers for photo editing to do it! If the subject of your portraits feel insecure about their skin or have blemishes you’d like to correct, you can make those corrections. Check out these 10 tips for retouching skin in Photoshop to maintain the natural skin look.

Enhance facial features with Brush tool.

You can add depth and definition to your subject's face with certain tools on Photoshop. Use selective lightening and darkening to accentuate certain features on your subjects, like their cheekbones, chin, and more.

Start by choosing Soft Light Mode and select Fill with Soft Light Neutral Color. With the Brush tool, hit D. This resets your colors to black and white. Then, click one to set your Brush Opacity to 10 percent. Now, you can paint with black over the shadow areas on the face, then paint with white over the areas you want to highlight.

Smooth out the skin.

The tool that can help you immensely with skin smoothing is the Clarity slider. When you drag it to a positive value, it increases mid-tone contrast. This can help tease out detail in images. When you drag it to a negative value, however, you’ll get a softening effect that works well over skin.

You can find the Clarity slider in the Basic Panel, but you can also use it with the Adjustment Brush to confine softening to the skin.

Remove odd bright spots.

When light reflects off of someone’s skin, it can create distracting bright spots. It can make the person look sweaty, even if their face is dry. To alleviate this, start by Duplicating your Layer. Use the Patch tool with Normal settings selected in the Options bar.

Next, make a rough selection around the hot spot on your subject’s face. Then, drag it to a clean area that has a similar tone to remove the hot spot. Pressing Ctrl+H will hide the “marching ants.” Last, go to Edit, Fade Patch Selection. There, you can lower the Opacity to around 40 percent to see the toned-down hot spot.

Give them beautiful eyes.

To achieve beautiful eyes in portraits, you'll want to first avoid portrait retouching mistakes all amateurs make. You can also use simple tools to get rid of red-eye. However, you can take it a step further to make the eyes pop. Start by editing the four main elements of the eye: the pupil, whites, iris, and lashes. Each requires its own set of tools for retouching.

You can boost the tones inside the iris. Then, darken the pupil and rim of the iris. You can also lighten the whites and sharpen the lashes.

Use High Pass tool for skin smoothing.

A fast skin smoothing technique to remove blemishes and other imperfections on the skin is the High Pass tool. It gives your subject smooth skin, while also retaining a realistic skin texture and detail.

The High Pass tool can generate realistic results when retouching skin in Photoshop. If you’d like to control the strength of the retouching, apply the Gaussian Blur filter. Here, you can choose the radius of the tool to make sure you’re cleaning up the area you want.

Crop and tilt.

Often when photographing people, there can be movement, or there can be extra unnecessary subjects in the background that take away from the portrait. That’s where cropping and tilting comes in handy.

In Photoshop, crop out unnecessary details to make a portrait more close up and engaging. You can also use the Tilt tool to correct any awkward angles in the photo and align a photo better.

Alter body shapes.

Small changes to the body like correcting a double chin or reducing underarm fat can improve a photo and help the subject of your portrait feel a little more confident. You can make the face appear thinner, get rid of unforgiving shadows, and more small adjustments to help your subject look their best in the portrait.

Using the Liquefy filter, apply the Forward Warp tool to move pixels around. Make any corrections that work for your particular photo.

Get rid of under-eye bags.

Another easy Photoshop hack all photographers should know is to help get rid of dark circles under the subject’s eyes. The idea is you want to tone them down, as opposed to getting rid of them completely. You don’t want your photos looking fake.

First, zoom in to view the eyes better. Then, Add a Layer. Use the Clone tool and choose Mode: Lighten. This allows you to replace areas that are darker than your clone source. Set the Opacity to 20 percent, and set Sample: All Layers. By holding Alt, sample a clone source on the cheek right below the dark circle. Make a couple swipes with the Clone tool to tone down the darkness.

Eliminate stray hairs.

It’s sometimes easy to overlook but fine details like stray hair, but those are the things that can make or break a high-quality photo. Start by making a new layer. With the Clone tool, check Sample: All Layers in the Options bar.

Then, with a hard-edged brush tip, set your Opacity to 100 percent. Zoom into the loose hairs and click Alt, then click to sample a spot in the background next to the stray hair. Now, you can paint over it. Continue making corrections around the head. You can also use the Spot Healing Brush tool and paint over any hairs on the face.

Make small retouches.

After all these tips about retouching skin in Photoshop, there are three tools you should always keep in handy if you forget everything else, and those are: Spot Healing Brush, Clone, and Patch tools.

These three tools can correct scratches, blemishes, or other skin marks. You can go over the spots that you want to correct, and these three tools can work well in combination with each other.

Now Reading
Tips & Tricks for Retouching Skin in Photoshop
Read Next
Nostalgia