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Another way that you can soften and smooth the skin of your portraits is by working with the High Pass filter, in combination with a blending mode, and also a mask. Typically, what we do is we use the High Pass filter to sharpen, yet what we're going to do here is kind of flip-flop the way that this filter works, so that we can also use it for really effective and great skin softening. Well, first what I want to do is I want to zoom in on this image to 100%, so that we can see the detail, and the texture that we have to work with.
To do that, we'll double-click the Zoom tool, then press the Spacebar key to click, and pan around. What I'm noticing with this photograph is that, because we have this interesting light here, there are areas that are going to need to be softened more than others. You can see, like, this area here, this texture; it'd be nice to soften it, as well as some of these other bright areas in our picture. Well let's explore how we can do that with this technique. First copy the background layer by pressing Command+J on a Mac, or Control+J on Windows. Let's name this new layer high pass / soft light, because Soft Light, that blending mode is the one that typically works best with this technique.
Next we'll navigate to the Filter pulldown menu, we'll go down to Other, and then we'll select High Pass. Once we go to this High Pass filter, we're going to see this really strange gray view of our photograph. Yet, what we're looking for here in this view is to see texture. If you click and drag this up too much, you are going to all of a sudden start to see the image, and that's not going to work. If you have your Radius too low, you're going to barely see any texture at all. So you want to bring this up until you see the kind of texture that you think you might want to remove.
With this picture, it looks like about 1.2 might work well here. I am just clicking and panning around the photograph to look at the different areas of the texture. I think that looks pretty good. Next click OK. Now, whenever you're applying this High Pass filter effect, what you need to do next is desaturate this layer. A quick way to do that is to press Command+U if you're on a Mac, or Control+U on Windows to open up the Hue/Saturation dialog. So go ahead and press Command+U or Control+U. The reason why this is essential is that there's a lot of color in this layer, even though you can't see it.
If I increase the Saturation, and exaggerate that, you can really see how all that color is there; it's kind of buried though. So what we need to do is to desaturate, 100 points. We need to make this completely grayscale; black and white. After having done that, we click OK. So far, to reiterate the steps we've taken, we copied the layer, we applied the High Pass filter, then we desaturated by pressing Command+U or Control+U to open up the Hue/Saturation dialog, and then we removed all the color from that layer.
The next step is to change the blending mode. We have three blending modes which will work well; Overlay, Soft Light, or Hard Light. Let's start off with Soft Light. Now, when we apply this blending mode in this layer, what we'll see is that it's actually sharpening the photograph. It's adding more texture or detail to the picture. If we choose a blending mode, say, like Overlay, we are going to see even more texture or detail show up. Take a look at this area here as I click on the eye icon; the before, and the after. Well, we don't want to sharpen our image, we want to soften it, so in order to soften it, all that you need to do is to invert the layer.
To do that, press Command+I on a Mac, or Control+I on Windows. Here we can now see the softening effect, and we can then go back to one of our other blending modes as well to see how that might look. I think Soft Light will work best. After we've done that, we then need to create a mask, and we want to create a mask which is filled with black. To do that, hold down the Option key on a Mac, or Alt key on Windows, then click on the Add layer mask icon. So again, these last few steps, what we did was we took this layer, and changed the blending mode.
Then we inverted the actual High Pass filter. We press Command+I on our layer to do that, then hold down Option on a Mac, Alt on Windows, add that layer mask, so we have the mask filled with black, concealing all of the softening effect. After we've done that, we simply need to select our Brush tool by pressing the B key, or clicking on that. We want to paint with white, and we can paint with a pretty high Opacity here; pretty close to 100. Next we'll go ahead and just start to paint over the area that we want to soften.
This type of a softening technique is really easy, once you get the hang of how you can create those different layers, and oftentimes, the results: they are stunning. So here I am just painting over these different areas. And the risk is, is that with movies like this, that once they become compressed, it's kind of hard to see these subtle details, but on my monitor, this is looking amazing. And you know, you want your skin softening to be really subtle. You don't want to have this overdone skin softness, otherwise, the photograph just won't look good.
The eye doesn't trust it. We know when we've seen pictures that are over-retouched, or over-softened; it just isn't very appealing. So in this picture, I am just painting around into these different areas where I need the softening most. You know, we don't always need it everywhere. So we'll go ahead and just paint around the picture here, being careful to maintain detail in some of the important areas of the photograph, like the eyes, the eyelashes, and whatnot. Next, after we've painted through this, what we'll want to do is we will want to use that Masks panel in order to soften out the edge of our brush strokes.
So I think I've done enough of that painting there. Let's double-click the mask, and then increase the Feather, just to soften all of our brush strokes. And then, of course, we want to click on and off the eye icon to see that before and after. To really show this, I need to zoom in way past 100%. Here, I'm zooming way into this textured area here. As we get really close, and as I click on and off this eye icon, what I am hoping that you can see is, in this area, that before we had a lot of contrast, so we had these little specular spots, and also these dark shadows, and now the after is showing how we can diminish that.
Well, by using this technique, what you can do is you can apply some really nice skin softening. And, you know, the trick with skin softening is that there isn't one technique that always works best. Rather, it's good to know a few different techniques that you can use, so that you can then select the technique which will work best for your particular picture.
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