Portrait Retouching. Making Nice Skin.

What makes that ‘perfect’ model look in magazine photos? The answer is: a) beautiful models with good skin; b) good makeup and c) professional lighting. But very often the final step – retouching and ‘digital makeup’ done in Photoshop is the most important one.

We will take a very common photo. Not a model. No professional makeup. No professional lighting. And we will try to make it more ‘perfect’ using simple and powerful Photoshop technique that makes skin look soft and nice.

Have a look at the example (‘before’ and ‘after’ retouching):

See also:

Photoshop Sketch Tutorials


All keyboard shortcuts are for PC. I don’t have a Mac, but as far as I know the main difference is use of the COMMAND key and OPTION key on a Mac instead of the CTRL key and the ALT key on a PC.

CTRL-J to duplicate
the background.
Duplicate the background.

Press CTRL-J to make copy of the ‘Background’ layer. Rename new layer to ‘Makeup’ (double-click layer name).

‘Background’ layer duplicated
and renamed to ‘Sky’.
Set blending mode of the ‘Makeup’ layer to ‘Multiply’.

The image should become much darker.

Click to see ‘Levels’ settings.
Apply ‘Levels’ adjustment layer to compensate darkening.

Select Layer – New Adjustment Layer – Levels.

Set Gamma value to 1.90 – 2.00.

Gaussian Blur settings.
Now we will hide most skin imperfections.

Select ‘Makeup’ layer.

Select Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur. Radius value may vary depending on the image size. Typically it is 5-20 pixels. Move radius slider and look at the large image (not at the image in the Gaussian blur window). Too small radius may result in over-contrasted image. Too large radius will ‘flatten’ your photo reducing contrast greatly.

After ‘Gaussian Blur’ the image is… too blurred :). We lost very important details in eyes, hair and other areas. To bring them back we will create mask for the ‘Makeup’ layer. That mask will hide areas where blurring is unwanted.

Layer palette before merging all visible layers.
One more step is required before making a mask.

Duplicate ‘Background’ layer once again.

Turn off ‘Background’ visibility (all other layers should be visible).

Select ‘Makeup’ layer and press CTRL-SHIFT-E to merge all visible layers..

Mask for the ‘Makeup’ layer.
Make a mask.

Select Layer – Layer Mask – Reveal All. Mask thumbnail should appear near the ‘Makeup’ layer name. Mask thumb should be completely white (it means that it doesn’t hide anything). White areas of the mask don’t effect image. Black areas hide underlying parts of the layer.

Paint over the mask to reveal the details.
Reveal the details.

Turn on ‘Background’ visibility.

Set foreground color to black. Take a soft brush, lower it’s opacity to 30-50% and paint over the areas where you want to reveal the details. Make sure that ‘Makeup’ mask is selected (not ‘Makeup’ layer itself).

  1. Bahman Moatamedi says:

    very nice

  2. sueca maluca says:


  3. Farhaad Saboori says:

    I just can say God bless you for this Very useful Site.Thank you

  4. Retoucher says:

    Nice, but… It would be very good – “before-after” example.

  5. very nise says:

    ijust can say – very useful site. thank you

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