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With this photograph, we are going to explore how we can soften skin using Lightroom's Adjustment brush. First, let's go ahead and zoom in on this photo. To do so, I am going to go to the Navigator panel and click on 1:1 to take this to 100%. Now in this case, the skin looks really good, yet let's say that what we want to do is just take the edge off of the texture of the skin. We want to add a bit more of a smoothing effect in order to make a beauty enhancement. Well, here what we can do is press the K key in order to select the Adjustment brush, and then from the Effect pulldown menu, we can choose Soften Skin.
Now what Soften Skin, or what this preset will have is negative clarity and a little bit of increased sharpness. Now why is that? Let's deconstruct how these two controls work together. First, let's experiment by adding clarity. Now this isn't going to look good, but I am going to do this for demonstration purposes. Here I will increase my f low a little bit. I have a nice big brush. And I am just going to paint across an area of the image. You can see that as I paint across this area, it becomes more textured. Let's zoom in even further.
Here is before and then after. Okay, well that's positive clarity. It add some mid-tone contrast. What about negative clarity? When I drag this down to negative what happens is we have this nice softening effect. It looks really good. Take a look. Before and then after. Nice smoothing. You can see when I painted over the hair over here, the hair doesn't look very good, but you see what's happening is it's removing contrast. It's removing texture. The skin, on the other hand, looks really nice. Okay, well that's clarity. What about sharpness? Why increase sharpness when you want to soften an image? Well, if we zoom out a little bit and if I decrease my sharpness for a moment-- and let's exaggerate here-- you can see I have this weird patch where everything is just completely blurred out.
So when I have that negative clarity amount, what's happening is as I am adding a lot of blur to this area. And that could look good, but sometimes you need to bring back just a touch of detail, so that it looks realistic. Keep in mind that when you're retouching, you don't want to overdo anything so that's exaggerated; rather, you want something to look realistic and nice. All right, well let's then reset this image and do some skin softening for real. To reset the photo, press Shift+Command+R on a Mac. Press Shift+Ctrl+R on Windows.
Next, let's go ahead and go back to our Effect pulldown menu and here just choose something else and then go back and choose Soften Skin. And I am doing that just to make sure I have those default settings dialed in. Now in regards to our brush size, we want a size that's relatively small. I am kind of hesitating with that, because not too small. We want something that can cover over areas, and we also want a flow that's typically 50 or less. We don't want to overdo this as we are working on skin smoothing. Next thing that we are going to do is just start to paint over some of the areas of the skin that we want to soften up. And what you will notice is as you do this, it's going to do something kind of interesting with your highlights and your shadows as well; and what I mean by that is it's going to soften those out a bit.
Now here I have made a few brush strokes, and on my monitor at least, this is looking nice. Press the Backslash key. Here is my before and after. And there you can see where it's softening out, like that shadow there and the corner of the mouth over here. So it's removing the contrast, actually brightened up that dark spot right there, and that's kind of a nice adjustment. You just have to watch out for the situations where you don't want this. All right, I will make my brush a little smaller by pressing the Left Bracket key, so I can get into some of the edges here, and get into some of the smaller areas. And as I am working on this, I am not really sure if I am missing any areas.
I am not sure if I am going in a good direction, or if I am overdoing this. Well a great technique that you can use is to turn on your mask overlay. First though let's hide the Pen. Press the H key. That pen now is gone, which was right there. Then press the O key, and this shows me my overlay. Now when I see that, I all of a sudden realize, oh my gosh! I missed this entire area right here, and up here on the forehead, I missed that as well. I was pretty heavy handed over here on this side. And sometimes this overlay can reveal to you problems.
For example, I don't want to soften out that shadow, so I hold down Option or Alt. That changes my brush, takes me to the Eraser tool, and then here I can go ahead and paint back and forth across this. And you can see that what I am doing is erasing that effect from this area. Or what I could do is perhaps I have a little bit less flow, a little bit bigger brush, and just soften up some of these adjustments along the edges, or in certain areas where I felt like I was perhaps a little bit too heavy handed. I am just trying to equalize things up a bit. I can also use my normal brush-- let's go with a touch bigger size-- and just work on these areas that I missed. And you can see that as I am painting on these areas, it's filling in this mask overlay with red, so as to have a little bit more continuous effect across the skin, so it's not quite so splotchy or overdone in any one area.
I also completely neglected the chin because I had zoomed in too close. And those kinds of things happen to all of us, right? Where we make mistakes. And this overlay can really help us see where we are going. Now the problem with the overlay of course is that it's overdone, right? The red is too strong. It's too much. So what we want to do is press the O key to hide that again, so we can see how we are doing in regards to the image. It's also helpful I think here to zoom in closer. I will go to 3:1 and then press my Backslash key.
Here is before, and here is after. It's a subtle adjustment, but I am looking for something subtle yet significant. You should see a little less texture in this area. Now whenever you work on this, experiment with your sharpness. For example, I am going to take this down a little bit. So I am going go down let's say to 15 or 10 or something along those lines, and then see what happens when you do that. Press your Backslash key. Or for that matter, take it even further. You can go past zero, if you want a little bit more of a softening effect, and then zoom out, so we can see that. Here is before and after, and we have a little bit more soft beauty type of a look.
Now what I find with these two sliders though, is that you want to experiment with your clarity amount, with your sharpness amount, and just be careful to not do something like this, where skin is smudged. So the sharpness one is just--you think of moving this in small increments. Clarity, you can get away with a lot. I mean if you increase that really high or decrease it quite a bit, it's not making huge, drastic, horrible adjustments, where sharpness really can. So again, you want to work with both of those controls together, and by doing that and then by painting in this adjustment into particular areas, you can come up with some really stunning skin-smoothing enhancements.
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