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We've all seen covers of fashion magazines where the models look like they've been sculpted and airbrushed to within an inch of their lives. We may also have seen some of the more aggressive retouching jobs posted on blog sites like Photoshop Disasters. It's possible that the magazine buying public has become tired or cynical at seeing faces and bodies that look other-worldly, unbelievable, and unattainable. When it comes to retouching, my preference is to use a light touch.
You have to find your own comfort zone and work within it. Personally, I think if the blemish wouldn't on a good day be there, then retouch it. Pimples, stray hairs, unflattering creases in clothing should be retouched. A subtle smoothing of the skin, if necessary, that's okay, but I have no interest personally in plumping lips, reconstructing cheekbones, or removing every last wrinkle and character from the model's face.
Make your model look good, but don't make them look unreal. Here are some suggestions for retouching with a light touch. On the right-hand side, this one here, as we look at the screen is the un-retouched version, and on the left is the retouched version. So, the following has happened: The eyes have become sharper, the skin has become softer, some very minor blemishes have been removed, and the color temperature of the image has been warmed up a bit.
So I'm now going to come to this, the beginning version, and just run through those steps again. And I'll come to Arrange and Consolidate All to Tabs, so we're seeing just this one image. So firstly, I'm going to come to the Channels panel and Command-click or Ctrl-click on the RGB Composite channel. That's going to load the Luminance selection, so it's everything that's 50% or brighter. And then I'm going to copy that to a new layer, Command+J, and come to the Filter menu, Blur > Surface Blur.
It's very similar to Gaussian Blur, but Surface Blur has a Threshold slider, which by moving it up, we can retain some of the edge detail. So the higher the Threshold, the more pixels are protected from this filter. So, I'm going to use these values, 15 and 15, which I found to work well. If we look at that layer by itself, that's what it looks like. We can see that we do have some of the teeth in there, which we probably don't want to blur. So I'm going to add a mask to that layer. Press B to choose my Brush tool, and making sure I'm working with an appropriately-sized brush, I am then going to just paint over the mouth area to protect that area from the surface blur.
Next, let's do some spot healing. So, I'm going to zoom in-- And actually, when we zoom in, I realize that this surface blur is too much. I need to turn the Opacity of that layer down. I'm going to turn it down to about 60%. Now, we might see just a very few minor blemishes or sun spots, and we're going to remove those.
I'm going to do this on a separate layer, and I'm going to do it with the Spot Healing tool, making sure I have Sample All Layers checked and Content Aware as the source sampling type. So now, I'm just going to adjust the size of my brush so it's big enough to cover the blemish and do nothing more than just click and move around the image. Wherever I see any minor blemish, I'm just going to click on it to remove it like so, and let's just zoom out.
Now, if I turn that off--there is the before-- you see there is a few over there. There is the before, there is the after. Next, I want to sharpen the eyes. I'm going to come to the background layer and convert this layer for Smart Filters. That's going to enable me to apply a filter to this layout non-destructively. Back to the Filter menu, Sharpen > Smart Sharpen, and I'm going to use a very high Sharpening value here, much higher than you would if you were sharpening the whole image Ultimately, we're only going to be sharpening the eyes, and perhaps the mouth.
I'll adjust my preview so that I'm looking at the portion of the image that's relevant-- in this case the eye--an Amount of 20 and a Radius of 40. Now I'm going to come to the mask that comes with that smart filter and fill it with black, Option or Alt and the Backspace/Delete key, so it's as if that was not applied in the first place. Now I will zoom in on the eyes, and switching my foreground color to white, and if necessary, adjusting the size of my brush. I'll press B to go to my Brush tool.
I'll just paint over the eyes themselves just to make them a little bit sharper. If we turn off that filter, that's how it was, and that's how it is. Now, in doing that we gain something, but we've also taken a bit of a step back because that sharpening has made some of the redness in the eyes a bit too pronounced. So we are going to add one more layer.
I'll call this layer healing, and then for this, I'm going to come and choose my Healing Brush tool I want to make sure that I'm working with an Aligned Sample, and that I'm sampling All Layers I'm at 100% view. And now I have a 10-pixel brush, and it's a soft brush, in very small strokes. Don't try and do too much with any one stroke.
I'm just going to paint over some of that redness in the eye. And if necessary, I'll be resetting my Sample Point as often as I need to. Okay, sp let's just see what's happened there. We'll turn that layer off. There is the before, and there is the after.
And then to finish the whole thing off, I'm going to add an adjustment layer, Color Balance, and with this, I'm going to move slightly towards red and away from cyan and slightly towards yellow and away from blue, overall just warming the whole thing up. And if we turn that off, there is the before, there is the after. All in all, I think very subtle changes, but it does result in a slightly better image.
Those are some things that you might want to consider when retouching your cover image but doing so with a light touch.
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