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Photoshop CS4 for Photographers is an essential course for any digital photographer who wants to master the software's vast array of image enhancement techniques. Professional photographer and instructor Chris Orwig uses his own compelling images to demonstrate how the power of Photoshop can make photographers more passionate about their work. He covers many aspects of the application, such as working with RAW images, using curves and levels, making images snap, and enhancing bland photographs by converting them to black and white. Exercise files accompany this course.
In this movie we will be working on the file skin_softening.psd. Let's double-click that to open it up in Photoshop. I have to go to Full Screen View mode, double-click the Zoom tool to take the image to 100%. Now a quick note on this movie. What am I going to do is simply introduce an initial softening technique. Now this is just the starting point. There are a number of different techniques that we can use, and if you are interested in skin softening, here's where I recommend. Check out some of the other training titles I have on retouching, because there you will find an exhaustive amount of information on how to make skin look its best.
Now here let's just start the ball rolling. What we are going to do is copy our background layer twice. Press Command+J twice on a Mac/Ctrl+J twice on a PC. The top layer we are going to name Texture and then the middle layer we are going to name Soft and then we will turn off to visibility of the top layer, target the Soft layer and here we are going to navigate to our Filter pulldown menu, choose Blur and then Surface Blur. Surface Blur does a pretty descent job at maintaining some important detail. Now we are going to modify our sliders here until we get some nice amount of softening. Again we are going to go for a real intense amount of softening, meaning it just way over the top. There is too much softening here. But we are going to do that and then limit that softening nto these different areas of the image.
Well, let's find an area that's over the top. Your numbers will also be continued upon your resolution, so keep that in mind. All right so there is a ton of softening, looks horrible click OK, hold down the Option key on the Mac, Alt key on a PC, click on your Layer Mask. All right, I brought everything back to normal for a moment. That created a layer mask that was filled with black. Now we will grab our Brush tool. Now here's where it gets a little bit interesting. At this point what I'm going to actually to do is use my Wacom tablet in order to paint with pressure sensitivity. Let me show you what I mean. I'll just create a new layer for a moment. Here I can paint with different intensities of the black and you can see by my different amounts of pen pressure, I can add more or less black. So I have tons of control.
Well, I don't want to do that in this layer, but I do want to do that on my mask. I don't want to paint with black, but I do want to paint with white. So in this case what I'm just going to start to do is to begin to bring in some of that softness. So I'm going to go through the image and I'm going to add a little bit more white to the areas that need to be soften, now just to touch more and the areas that don't need it, I won't paint quite as much. Now I'm going pretty quickly here, yet we are going to already start to see that this has been built up just a touch here, and again I'm using that Wacom stylish tablet so I have this nice precious sensitivity.
Now if we don't have one of those, it's not the end of the world. You can come up with some good results without it, although it maybe one of those things you want to put on your wish list. I'm just going to go ahead and make my way through this image, looking to soften out the skin. Now the skin should have the appearance of being over soften at this point, because we are going to be adding some texture to this image. Although we want to be pretty careful about some areas, the nose needs to be sharp still and in particular the edge of the nose, the eyes need to be sharpened, the eyelashes. I'm just going to make my way through this image here, different brush sizes.
I'm slowly building this up. We can take a look at my mask. You can see I have different amounts of opacity here. The other thing that you can always do is if you are painting with your mouse and you want to blur your mask together, go to Filter > Blur, and then Gaussian Blur, that will then smooth that all out. Go ahead and bring that up so that we can just see how they are starting to be brought together, click OK and then that will smooth it out in a real nice way as well. All right, well we have our skin softening, here is our before and after. So far so good. Let's go to that Texture Layer that will remove all that softening. In that Texture Layer we are going to go to Filter > Other, and High Pass. What we are going to do with High Pass amount is we are looking to find the spot where we just have the detail of the image. I'm looking for the grain in the skin. Click OK.
Next navigate to Filter > Noise. I want to adjust a little teeny tiny amount of noise here. So we are going to keep this number really low. Now we will experiment with how much I'm going to add and then click OK to apply that. Now we have a little bit of noise here. We have a little bit of the texture. We will take this layer to a blend mode of Soft Light. Now this is pretty interesting. If we look at overall there is before and then there is our after, let me zoom in on the skin for a moment. This texture layer is bringing back some of that original texture, right? So if we turn this layer off and just have the texture layer, it's exaggerating texture. There is underlying layer softening, so we have a little bit of softening with some texture on top of it and now what we can do is find a perfect mix.
We will click in our Softening Layer and I'll go ahead and lower the opacity a bit. We will click in our Texture Layer, also lower the opacity of that one and that looks pretty good. In this image here is our before and then after, nice smooth and soft skin, but it's not over the top. Let me look at my before and then after. I think that looks pretty good. Softening actually needs to come down just a bit there. I'll look at my before and after. I don't want the skin to look fake, what I do want to have happen is I want to slowly just pull back the overall texture of the skin and I'm constantly evaluating that before and after clicking those layers on and off.
Now do keep in your mind that this is simply a starting point, yet it's a pretty good starting point and you can take this pretty far if you continue to work with this technique.
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