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You can create beautiful, smooth skin tone effects using Nix Color Efex Pro. However, before we open up the photo into that filter its a good idea to see if there is any retouching that needs to be done. Let's zoom into this photo here and see if there is anything we get rid of before we send it off into the filter. There is a couple little spots on the skin that I'd like to clean up, for example a little dark spot here. So I'll go ahead and grab my retouching tool and I'll simply retouch that away. You have the choice if you're using Aperture to repair or clone and you also have the choice to automatically choose the source or not.
We can try it with just automatically choosing the source, click on there, and see what happens, looks great. Let's see if there's anything else we want to get rid of. Little spot on the nose, let's take care of that, and I believe there's a little spot of makeup under her eye here, there we go. Let's get rid of that too, great. Now, that we've gotten rid of those spots, we're ready to send this off to Color Efex Pro 4. I'll right-click on the image and choose Color Efex Pro. If you're working with Aperture, Aperture will automatically create the new PSD or TIFF file and open it up in the system for you. Of course if you're using PhotoShop you'll just send it to that filter. It's important to understand exactly how this plug-in works. So before we start exploring how to make the skin better, let's have a quick tour of the plug-in itself.
Over here on the right, you have a series of filter stacks. Currently there's nothing applied as you see we have an empty filter. All of your filters are here on the left and as you can see there are a variety of filters that you can choose from. Any one of these that you click on, is going to automatically be applied and you can see the filter is dropped into the stack. You'll notice next to each filter name is a colored stacked icon. And if you click on that, you'll be able to see all the different presets that are built in to that particular filter to try a preset, just click on it. If you want to replace that filter with anything else simply click on another filter.
And the previous selection will immediately go away and the new selection will be dropped in its place. However, if you'd like to add an additional filter on top of the one you have already selected, you need to go over to the Filter Stack and click on Add Filter. This adds a secondary filter slot where you can now add another filter on top of the first one. So once again, simply go through your stacks. Select one that you like. And once you have a filter that you like you can adjust that, or add another filter. You can continue to add as many filters as you like. It's also important to notice that you can rearrange the filters.
So for example, if I was to take the Vignette filter and move it to the top of the stack, the final resulting effect would be quite different. You can always rearrange these filters at any time, and they'll usually give you a dramatically different result. At any point, if you come up with a combination of filters that you really like. You can click on Save Recipe. That will save this recipe, or this combination of filter effects, for later use. So, let's go ahead and clear out the filters that are in here, and start from scratch. What we want to do here is make a nice smooth pleasing skin effect over our model.
You'll notice that there's a filter list selection of portrait effects. And if we look through here you'll find a few that are particularly suited to smoothing out skin, there's the classical Soft Focus, the dynamic Skin Softener, and the Glamour Glow. Let's start with the classical Soft Focus effect, and zoom into the image. I want to zoom into about 50% here. As you can see the overall effect here has pretty much just added a soft wash over the whole image, everything is softer but it's also a bit more washed out. At any point you can compare it to the original by simply clicking on the Compare button. This is not exactly the effect that I want to soften the skin here, so lets try something else.
Dynamic skin softener is quite a unique tool. And that it works off of a selected skin color. You'll notice, that when I first applied the filter, not a whole lot happened here. But if you look over in the Filter settings, you'll see that there's an eye dropper for skin color. If I click on the Eye Dropper, and then click on our models skin, you'll immediately see a dramatic effect applied over her entire face. However, I find that this effect is a bit too strong for most uses. This is something you'll see used quite often, an extreme glamour glow. However, for my taste, it's a bit too much. So if I'm going to use this, I'm going to use it quite selectively.
Let's see what else we have. The third option in here, is glamour glow. This is an effect that I quite like. Let's take a look at the presets in here, and see what we have to work with. A subtle glow is, well as you'd guess, quite subtle. There's a stronger glow, then a very strong glow. The other two presets for adding a cool glow, and a warm glow. I think that the strong glow is a bit too strong, but the stronger is somewhat in the middle and I think this is quite good. Of course, you can change this manually by grabbing the Glow slider and dragging that left to right to see the change. That's very strong, that's very weak, and here we have something in the middle. One of the advantages of this Glamour Glow filter is that it applies a softening, or glow to the entire image, yet it still retains the sharpness of the original photo.
A good way to check that is to zoom in close to the eye, which is our focal point here. I'll open up the loop, and with the loop open, I can point the mouse at whatever area I want to look at. But if I want to lock into that area, I can grab the pen, position the loop where I want it, and then click to Lock that into place. Now, as I continue to adjust the image, I'll be able to see a close up of the eye in here to make sure that I'm not dropping my sharpness too much. So back to the overall image. I like the glamour glow as it looks here however there are some parts of her skin that I could stand to do a little bit more softening on. Notably under the eyes on here and perhaps on the tip of her nose. To do that a really good effect might be to go back here and choose the dynamic skin softener.
However, of course if I just click on that I've managed to replace the filter I just worked so hard to put into place. So remember before we can add a new filter, you have to click on Add Filter to that. We can undo that by simply tapping Cmd or Ctrl+Z to undo the effect. Now, I'm back to my glamour glow, so I just click on Add Filter and now I can add the Dynamic Skin Softener. Once again, though this dynamic skin softener is going to be too much if I let it apply to the entire image. So what I want to do is take advantage of Color Efex Pro's control points so that I can control or limit the area that this filter is applied to.
First, let's go ahead and graph her skin color again. Make sure that we're applying this to the right skin color. In fact, what I probably should do is click right under her eye there, where the skin might just be a little bit more red to ensure that we're grabbing the correct area. So we'll grab that eyedropper and click right under her eye, there we go. Now we'll grab the control points and add one in. When I add the control point, I can make this as big or as small as I want. And to really see exactly the area that you're affecting, you should toggle open the control points, and then click on the Mask tool. This will allow you to see exactly what you're affecting. The white or bright area is what is being affected by this image. The whiter or brighter it is, the more it's going to affect. Now that I've narrowed that down to a very limited and controlled area. I can move this around to ensure that I'm selecting exactly the part of her face that I want to affect here.
Turn the mask back off, and now I can continue to work with my tool. You may want to play with the sliders to adjust them to get just the effect that you want. In this case, I'll take my large details and the medium details up a little bit, which is going to apply overall softening to this part of her eye here. I need to do the same thing under this eye. So, to recreate this effect instead of starting from scratch, hold down the Option key and then drag the control point over to here. Once again, if you want to monitor, or make sure that you're applying this to the exact area that you want. You can turn on the mask for just that control point, and position it exactly where you need to.
Let's add one more to the tip of her nose. Again, I'll option drag this down, maybe make this one a little bit bigger. And I'm also going to take the opacity down on this. I don't need quite as strong of an effect. So I'll take the opacity down a little bit. At any point, if you want to see a before and after of just this particular filter, you can toggle that on and off here. As you toggle that on and off, we can see that the area under her eyes and the tip of her nose looks ever so slightly better. Now let's zoom out and take a look at the whole image. So let's go ahead and add another filter by clicking on Add Filter and then I'll go back to my All Filter list which shows me all the filters that are in here, and I'll look for Levels and Curves. There it is, click on Levels and Curves, and it adds that filter to my effect stack.
This is an interesting tool because it looks like curves, and it does behave like curves. I can add control points and move them where ever I like. And to reset that by the way simply go over here, and click on Reset filter. But I can also work with this just as if it was a Levels dialog. If I grab this middle slider here, I can drag it left and right, just as I would with the levels control. It really comes down to whatever you're most comfortable with. I prefer to work with curves, so I'll add a control point here, darken the shadows, and another point here, and brighten the highlights. I quite like the way this has affected the overall image, except that her face has been a little bit over affected by my curves adjustment.
So, just as with any of the other tools, I can add control points to add the effect into a specific area. Or in this case, to remove the effect from a specific area. I'll click on the Add Control point zero Opacity button, which allows me to then add a control point on her face or wherever I like, and take the effect in or out on there. If I drag this up to 100% we bring the curves back in and then bring it down to zero we take it away completely. And once again if we want to ensure that I'm effecting just her face we can do the mask and see exactly what this is effecting, great. I like the overall look of this, I'm pretty happy with it so at this point I might click on Save recipie, so I can save this out. We'll call this My Glamour Glow and now I'll be able to apply that effect to any other image in the future, click on Save and your done. And there you go, let's take a look at the original and the new image side by side.
As you can see the original on the right and the new one on the left. Overall, the color looks better her skin looks softer and its a much better looking image.
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