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Basic Tutorial On Improving Portraits In Photoshop

See how a little work in Photoshop can turn a good portrait into a great one.

|  Portraits and People
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This tutorial was updated Jan 2012.

Chloe looks great as she is but we'll show you how a few easy steps can make the image look even better with the help of Photoshop.

We have more portrait editing tutorials online here: Portrait

Step 1: Healing Brush Tool

Healing toolsFirst we want to remove any blemishes from the face with the Healing Brush tool. This looks a little bit like a plaster and can be found in the tools' palette with all the other 'healing' tools such as Spot Healing and the Red Eye tool.

To use the tool, select it, and adjust the brush size so it's easier to use. You can do this by going to the tool bar towards the top of the window or by right-clicking on your photo and adjusting it through the menu that appears. It also helps if you zoom in on your portrait with the Magnifying tool or by clicking Ctrl and + on your keyboard. Then sample from an area on the skin close to the blemish you want to remove by holding down the Alt key and clicking your left mouse button then simply work your way around the face removing any marks, spots etc.

Brush Size Brush Size
Healing Tool

Step 2: Remove Dark Circles

Clone Stamp ToolTo remove dark circles from under the eyes you can use the Clone Stamp tool and sample from an area near to the dark circles, reduce the opacity (you do this in the top tool bar) and brush away. The other way to remove them, and one we feel is slightly easier, is with the Brush tool. Change the opacity of the brush to around 20%-30% then hold down the alt key to sample skin colour from just underneath the dark circles then click and drag over the dark circles to paint over them.

Brush Tool

Remove dark circles

Step 3: Blur your photo

This may sound a little odd but trust us, it does work! Duplicate your layer (Layer>Duplicate Layer), rename it to 'blur' then go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. When a new window opens, change the radius to around 3 pixels and click OK. Your top layer should now have a slight blur to it.

Now, before you move on to the next step, switch the 'blur' layer over with the portrait you were originally editing so the 'blur' layer now sits under it. You need to do this as we are going to 'brush' some of the blur back through so the skin appears to be softer.

Gaussian Blur

Step 4: Air Brush the skin

You need to create a Layer Mask on the top layer by clicking on the rectangle that has a circle in it. This Layer Mask will let us 'paint' some of the blur back through the layer under it so the skin gets the airbrushed look.

Layer Mask

The left side shows the skin before 'airbrushing', the right after the brush was used on the nose area.

So, make sure the coloured squares in the layers palette are black & white then select the Paintbrush tool. Reduce the opacity of the brush to around 20-30% then working on small parts of the face at a time, begin to paint some of the 'blur' back in. Don't go over the top with this as we don't want it to look like we photographed a doll.

Once you've finished zoom back out to see how your new portrait looks.

Portrait after editing

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JackAllTog Plus
13 6.4k 58 United Kingdom
22 Feb 2012 5:56PM
Thank you this swap layers air brush bit is cool.

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