How to Retouch Skin
Skin retouching is one of the most vital techniques in a retoucher's portfolio. However, skin retouching can also be one of the most difficult skills to learn. In this tutorial, I will show you how to make skin look both flawless and natural.
I have three techniques that I use to touch up skin. These three techniques are complimentary - your image will look better if you use all three, rather than just one.
The photo I will be working on is from the Editable Photos Collection. Click to see a larger version:
Technique 1: Channel Manipulation
Channels are grayscale images that store color information. They can be accessed in the Channels tab (usually next to the layers tab - else, you can find the Channels window in the "Window" dropdown).
Usually, the most useful channel for skin retouching is the red channel. It works especially well for light and medium-toned skin. Channel manipulation can significantly change the appearance of your image.
1. Go to the channels menu, and select "red".
Now, go to the layers tab, create a new layer, and paste in the greyscale image. You should get something like this:
Go into the blending mode dropdown and go through the options until you find a setting that you like. Feel free to change the opacity and to add multiple layers.
For this particular image, I chose to make two copies of the red channel greyscale image, and set the bottom one to a "divide" layer with a 50% opacity, and the top to a "soft light" layer with a 100% opacity.
Technique 2: Spot fixing
Spot fixing is a very easy task to learn, and it can produce amazing results. The two tools used for spot fixing are the patch tool and the healing brush.
Observe: Here, I use the spot healing brush tool to fix a small blemish on the model's face.
Use the healing brush/patch tool to fix the largest blemishes on your model's face. There is no need to use it for everything, and the next technique will fix many of the smaller blemishes.
Technique 3: Selective Blur
This is the most dramatic skin smoothing technique, but also one of the most commonly abused. There are many different levels of selective blurring - it all depends on how you want your model's skin to look. I prefer a more natural blur.
1. Go into quick mask mode