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How to Create a Vintage Portrait Photo Manipulation in Adobe Photoshop

Some of our greatest inspiration can come from learning about the past.

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a realistic vintage portrait in the old Victorian style. We’ll fabricate the entire scene from scratch by using a few stocks to establish depth of field as well as an authentic old-world mood.

Get inspired! Find more incredible vintage assets for your manipulations on Envato Market.

 

The following assets were used in the production of this tutorial:

 

You can find a lot of inspiration in vintage photography. From the style to the lighting and general setup, artists have always made the most out of their limited resources.

So today, I’ll show you how to create a realistic vintage portrait using just a few stocks. Let’s take a look at a before and after result.

 

Before and After Photo Manipulation

 

See the difference?

To get to the final result, we must study authentic vintage portraiture. Find inspiration on Google, Tumblr, and Pinterest by typing in keywords like “Vintage Victorian Portraits”.

Here are a few key details to keep in mind:

  • Victorian portraiture is usually darkly lit, with one major light source.
  • The old-school style of developing photos led to brightly blown-out areas reminiscent of high exposure in photography.
  • The style included elaborate Victorian/Edwardian fabrics that usually showed a person’s class or occupation.
  • Models rarely smiled and held more dignified poses.
  • With old photos, there’s usually some damage, wrinkling, or other aging effects present.

I’ve always loved this style! You may have seen me repeat it in other tutorials like this dapper Victorian cat.

  • DIGITAL PAINTING
    How to Paint a Dapper Victorian Cat in Adobe Photoshop
    Melody Nieves

Now that we have the essentials in mind, we can move on to the manipulation.

Let’s begin!

 

Open a New Document in Photoshop at 1074 x 1280 pixels.

Let’s start with the frame.

Open the Picture Frame image in a separate document. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to create a selection of the white area in the center of the frame. Hit the Delete key to remove this area.

Remove the white from the frame

Since the edges of the photo are white too, you’ll need to use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to remove them as well. Follow the same process to select and remove these areas.

 

Return to the previous document.

Add the frame and green background
  1. Create a New Layer and use the Paint Bucket Tool (G) to fill it with green #13272d.
  2. Next, Copy and Paste the frame onto the new document. Resize it to fit the document with the Free Transform Tool (Control-T).

Add the model.

Copy and Paste the Victorian Woman stock onto a New Layer beneath the frame layer.

Add the victorian woman

Generally speaking, the model’s picture is exactly what we need for this Victorian-inspired composition.

However, we need to separate her from the dark background so we can add a few more elements behind her. This will create depth of field and an interesting story.

So temporarily Hide the Visibility of the frame layer. Do this by hitting the Eye button on the side of the layer.

Hide the frame layer

Now make a rough selection of the model to make a copy of her.

Copy the model
  1. Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (M) to create a selection around her; it doesn’t have to be perfect.
  2. With the model selected, hold Control-J to copy the selection onto a New Layer. Feel free to change the layer name to ‘Model 2.’
  3. Here is how the copy looks with the original model layer hidden. Don’t delete the original.

Refine the edges of the model’s image. Temporarily Hide the Visibility of the first model layer.

Then select Model 2 and add a Layer Mask. Paint black onto the mask with a Hard Round Brush (100% Hardness/100% Opacity) to help mask away the harsh edges.

Do this until you get a result like the one below, where the edges are much cleaner and the background is no longer visible.

Mask the models edges

Now open the Painting image in a separate document.

Unhide the Visibility of the picture frame and model layers.

Add the painting

Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to select the painting image. Then Copy and Paste it onto a New Layer beneath the Model 2 layer.

Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to resize the painting and place it behind her as shown above. She should now appear in front of it to help build the scene.

For more depth, let’s blur the painting.

Select the painting layer and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

Add a Radius of 5 pixels and hit OK.

Blur the painting with gaussian

Looking great so far! 

Now let’s add the violin.

Add the violin
  1. Create a rough extraction of the violin with the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L)Copy and Paste it onto a New Layer. 
  2. Position this layer beneath the model 2 layer but above the painting layer. Add a Layer Mask to the violin and follow the same step as before to mask out the background using a Hard Round Brush (100% Hardness/100% Opacity).

Let’s blur the violin.

With the violin layer selected, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

Add a Radius of 2 pixels and hit OK.

Blur the violin

The next part of this tutorial will focus on aging the photo and creating dramatic lighting. Then we’ll finish by adding more shadow and texture to the entire scene.

Here is what we have so far for this composition.

Let’s take a look!

Composition so far

Create a New Layer beneath the model 2 layer.

Let’s add some dramatic shadow that affects only the background elements.

Create the shadow behind the model
  1. Select the Gradient Tool (G). Set it to Foreground Color to Transparent using a light gray tone as the color (#878787).
  2. Now create a Linear Gradient moving upwards at 100% Opacity. Set the Layer Blend Mode toSubtract for a nice shadow effect.

You may notice the gradient starts to peek out beyond the golden picture frame. Just use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to select these areas and Delete them for a clean finish. 

Now let’s fade and recolor the picture.

Fade the picture
  1. Create a New Layer above the model 2 layer. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to create a selection as large as the picture frame.
  2. Fill the selection with another soft Linear Gradient, this time at a slight angle, using the same gray #878787 as before. Set the Layer Blend Mode to Difference and lower the Opacity to 15%. This will help fade the picture.

Create another New Layer above the fade.

Again, create a selection as large as the picture frame. Fill it with gray #878787 using the Paint Bucket Tool (G). Then set the Layer Blend Mode to Color for a nice black and white effect.

Color the photo black and white

Let’s add a nice sepia tone.

Create a New Layer above the solid gray. Follow the same steps as before to Fill a selection with a solid brown color #6a4c31, using the Paint Bucket Tool (G).

Then set the Layer Blend Mode to Color and lower the Opacity to 37%.

Add a sepia tone

These next steps will help us create an authentic-looking vintage photo, complete with subtle blurs and blown-out details.

Let’s begin with the blur.

Select the Model 2 layer and hold Control-J to Duplicate it.

Early camera lenses from the Victorian era always had a way of distorting photos. Sometimes, the photo development process later on also resulted in blurred edges.

We’ll recreate this look with just a subtle blur.

Select the model copy and go to Filter > Blur Gallery > Field Blur.

Blur the model

Position the blur towards the model’s face. Then set the Field Blur to 3 pixels and the Light Bokeh to 18%. Diffuse any areas you’d like on the face and body using the Layer Mask and a Soft Round Brush (0% Hardness/50-80% Opacity).

Now add some more light to the photo.

Create a New Layer and set it as a Clipping Mask to the blurred model copy.

Use a Soft Round Brush (10-30% Opacity) to paint tan #d3b899 onto the model’s hair to diffuse the edges with light. Then follow up with a little white painted towards the bottom of her arms and dress.

Lower the Opacity of the layer as desired.

Diffuse the model with light

Now create a New Layer above the blurred model copy. Don’t clip this layer.

Use a Soft Round Brush and hold the Alt key to pick up the hair color as a Foreground Color #2d2218. Use this color to diffuse the harsh edges of the hair for a more natural look.

Blur out the edges of the hair

Create a New Layer underneath the fade layer.

Set the Layer Blend Mode to Linear Light and use a Soft Round Brush (0% Hardness/10-30% Opacity) to paint a tan color #c2a686 onto the photo to blow out the center with more light. Adjust the Opacity of the layer as needed.

Add more light

Now for the texture and scratches.

Old photos age usually due to chemical reactions over time and general wear and tear.

Copy and Paste the Paper Texture image onto a New Layer underneath the picture frame layer.

Add the paper texture
  1. Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to rotate the image so that it’s at a portrait orientation. Add aLayer Mask to the paper and use a Soft Round Brush to mask out her face.
  2. Then lower the Opacity to 48% and set the Layer Blend Mode to Divide.

Now for the scratches.

Open the Scratch Texture image. Go to Image > Adjustments > Hue and Saturation, and lower the Saturation to -100 to turn the image black and white.

Turn the scratch image to black and white

Copy and Paste the scratch image onto a New Layer above the paper layer.

Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to rotate the image counter-clockwise. Then add a Layer Mask to mask out areas where you don’t want the scratches to appear. Set the Layer Blend Mode to Lighten and lower the Opacity to 92%.

Duplicate this layer and repeat this step, this time rotating the image to place the scratches in another section of the photo. Diffuse the areas you don’t want showing.

Add the scratches

Let’s finish up by blowing out the light a little more.

Set a New Layer to Overlay. Use a Soft Round Brush and a pale yellow color #cfcfc2 to paint bright spots of light onto the photo. I chose to add some light to her shoulder and the background landscape.

Now set the Layer Blend Mode to Overlay.

Blow out the photo with light

For this last section, all we need is to correct some of the colors with Adjustment Layers before adding a dramatic vignette effect.

Here is our composition so far. Great work!

Image after aging

Add a New Adjustment Layer of Color Lookup underneath the picture frame layer.

Set the 3D LUT File to Candlelight.CUBE and the Layer Blend Mode to Darken, and lower the Opacity to 86%.

Now it’s looking super vintage!

Add a color lookup adjustment

Create another New Adjustment Layer of Color Lookup above the picture frame layer.

Set the 3D LUT File to Fuji F125 Kodak 2395. Lower the Opacity to 45%.

Add a second color lookup

Before we add the vignette, let’s create a shadow for the picture frame.

Right-click the picture frame layer and go to Blending Options. Create a Drop Shadow with the following settings.

Add a Drop Shadow to the frame
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Let’s finish with a vignette effect for more drama. This will help blend the overall picture frame with the original green background.

Create a New Layer above all the others.

Select the Gradient Tool (G) and set it to the Foreground Color to Transparent option. Now create a Reflected Linear Gradient using a dark gray color #282828. Set the Layer Blend Mode to Multiply and lower the Opacity to 88%.

Add a vignette

Feel free to add even more shadow on another New Layer. Use a Soft Round Brush (0% Hardness/10-30% Opacity) to paint more dark shadow along the edges for a rounder appearance.

I’ve also used this layer to paint subtle white scratches onto the picture for even more aging.

Paint more shadow

Be sure to check out the final result below!

And for more even fun, see how your manipulation would look hanging up on the wall. Here I used this Interior Room image from Envato Elements to try this look out.

Picture hanging on the wall

Creatives young and old always make do with what they have. And in this tutorial, we learned how to create authentic-looking vintage manipulations using modern stocks and weathered elements.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial! How’d you do? Share your comments and results below.

For more photo manipulation tutorials like this one, check out these links:

  • DAY OF THE DEAD
    How to Create a Glamorous Calavera Portrait in Adobe Photoshop
    Melody Nieves
  • PHOTO MANIPULATION
    How to Create a Wanted Poster Photo Manipulation in Adobe Photoshop
    Melody Nieves
Vintage Victorian Photo Manipulation Photoshop tutorial by Melody Nieves

Artist: Melody Nieves

How To Smooth And Soften Skin With Photoshop

Written by Steve Patterson.

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to improve your portraits by giving your subject beautifully smooth skin with Photoshop! We’ll start by learning how to remove pimples and other minor skin blemishes using Photoshop’s Spot Healing Brush. Then, after the initial clean-up, we’ll learn step-by-step how to smooth and soften skin without blurring important details, like the person’s eyes, hair and so on, and while keeping as much good skin texture as possible. I’ll be using Photoshop CC but this tutorial is fully compatible with Photoshop CS6 and earlier.

To follow along, you can use any portrait photo. I’ll use this image that I downloaded from Adobe Stock:

The original, untouched photo

The original image. Photo credit: Adobe Stock.

Here’s a close-up of what the young woman’s skin looks like initially:

A close up of the woman's skin before smoothing and retouching

A close-up of the original.

And here’s what she’ll look like after smoothing and softening her skin:

How to smooth skin in Photoshop

The final skin-softened result.

This tutorial is part of our Photo Retouching collection. Let’s get started!

How To Smooth Skin In Photoshop

Step 1: Make A Copy Of The Image

With the image newly-opened in Photoshop, the Layers panel shows the photo on the Background layer. Before smoothing the skin, start by removing any unwanted blemishes. To protect the original image, you’ll want to work on a separate layer. Make a copy of the Background layer by pressing and holding the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key on your keyboard, clicking on the Background layer, and dragging it down onto the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel:

Duplicating the Background layer in the Layers panel in Photoshop

Duplicating the Background layer.

In the Duplicate Layer dialog box, name the layer “Spot Healing” and then click OK:

Naming the duplicate layer 'Spot Healing'

Naming the layer “Spot Healing”.

A copy of the image appears on a new layer named “Spot Healing” above the original:

The image has been copied onto a new layer named Spot Healing

The initial skin cleanup will now be done on a separate layer.

Step 2: Select The Spot Healing Brush

Select the Spot Healing Brush from the Toolbar:

Selecting the Spot Healing Brush from the Toolbar in Photoshop

Selecting the Spot Healing Brush.

Step 3: Set The Spot Healing Brush To “Content-Aware”

Make sure the Type option in the Options Bar is set to Content-Aware:

Setting the Spot Healing Brush to Content-Aware in the Options Bar

Content-Aware should be selected by default.

Step 4: Click On The Skin Blemishes To Remove Them

Click on any unwanted skin blemishes with the Spot Healing Brush to remove them. Photoshop will instantly “heal” the blemishes by replacing the problem texture with good skin texture from the surrounding area. For best results, make your brush slightly larger than the blemish. To change your brush size, press the right bracket key ( ] ) on your keyboard to make the brush larger or the left bracket key ( [ ) to make it smaller. If the blemish hasn’t completely gone away on the first try, undo your click by pressing Ctrl+Z (Win) / Command+Z (Mac) on your keyboard, then resize your brush if needed and click on the same blemish to try again.

Example: Removing Skin Blemishes With The Spot Healing Brush

If we look at the woman’s forehead in my image, we see what looks like a large pimple just to the right of center. I’ll position the Spot Healing Brush over it, and I’ll make my brush slightly larger than the pimple itself:

Positioning the Spot Healing Brush over a skin blemish to remove it

Positioning the Spot Healing Brush over a skin blemish.

To remove the blemish, I’ll click on it with the Spot Healing Brush. Photoshop analyzes the area I clicked on, finds good skin texture from the area surrounding it, and then blends the good texture in with the problem area’s original tone and color. Like magic, the blemish is gone:

Clicking with the Spot Healing Brush to remove the skin blemish

Clicking to heal the blemish.

I’ll do the same thing with another blemish on her forehead, keeping the Spot Healing Brush just a bit larger than the area I need to heal:

Positioning the Spot Healing Brush over a second skin blemish to heal it

Positioning the Spot Healing Brush over a second blemish.

I’ll click on the blemish, and once again, Photoshop instantly removes it:

The second skin blemish is gone after clicking with the Spot Haling Brush

The second blemish is gone.

After a few more clicks with the Spot Healing Brush to clean up the remaining blemishes on her forehead, her skin is already looking much smoother:

The blemishes on her forehead and have been removed with the Spot Healing Brush

The blemishes have been removed from her forehead.

Removing Blemishes, Not Features

As you’re retouching the skin, keep in mind that while it’s okay to remove temporary problems like acne or other minor skin issues, it’s usually not okay to remove permanent features like moles or even certain scars, as these are part of what makes someone who they are. After all, the goal of image retouching is to help people look their best, not to make them look like someone else.

Completing The Initial Skin Cleanup

Continue working your way around the person’s face to remove any remaining blemishes. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of what the woman’s skin looked like originally (left) and after some quick retouching with the Spot Healing Brush (right). With most photos, this initial skin cleanup should take no more than a few minutes. I covered the Spot Healing Brush quickly here, but you can learn more about it in my Removing Acne, Skin Blemishes With The Spot Healing Brush tutorial:

A before and after comparison of the skin cleanup with the Spot Healing Brush in Photoshop

A before (left) and after (right) comparison of the initial skin retouching.

Step 5: Make A Copy Of The “Spot Healing” Layer

With the blemishes removed, we’re ready to smooth and soften the skin, and again, it’s best to work on a separate layer. Back in the Layers panel, make a copy of the “Spot Healing” layer by pressing and holding the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key on your keyboard, clicking on the “Spot Healing” layer, and dragging it down onto the New Layer icon:

Making a copy of the Spot Healing layer in the Layers panel in Photoshop

Duplicating the “Spot Healing” layer.

In the Duplicate Layer dialog box, name the layer “Smooth Skin” and then click OK:

Naming the new layer 'Smooth Skin' in Photoshop

Naming the duplicate layer “Smooth Skin”.

We now have the original image on the Background layer, the initial skin cleanup on the “Spot Healing” layer, and a new “Smooth Skin” layer above them:

The original image, the Spot Healing layer and the Smooth Skin layer in the Layers panel in Photoshop

The “Smooth Skin” layer appears above the “Spot Healing” layer.

Step 6: Apply The High Pass Filter

To smooth the skin, we’ll use Photoshop’s High Pass filter. Go up to the Filter menu in the Menu Bar, choose Other, and then choose High Pass:

Selecting the High Pass filter from under the Filter menu in Photoshop

Going to Filter > Other > High Pass.

Why The High Pass Filter Is Great For Smoothing Skin

If you’re familiar with the High Pass filter, it’s most likely because you’ve used it to sharpen images in Photoshop. Even though we’ll be using High Pass to smooth skin, not sharpen it, many of the steps are the same. The High Pass filter looks for edges in the image and highlights them. An edge is an area where there’s a big, sudden change in brightness or color between neighboring pixels. With portrait photos, the edges are usually along the person’s hair, around the eyes, the mouth, and so on. Skin texture, on the other hand, has relatively low amounts of detail with much smoother transitions. These areas are not considered an edge, so rather than highlighting them, the High Pass filter fills these areas with neutral gray.

If we were sharpening the image, the High Pass filter would allow us to sharpen the edges (the details) without affecting the skin. But for smoothing skin, we use High Pass for the opposite reason. We’ll detect the edges not so we can sharpen them but so we can smooth and soften everything except the edges. Let’s see how it works.

The Radius Value

The High Pass filter detects edges and highlights them, and the Radius option at the bottom of the High Pass dialog box controls the “thickness” of the edge highlighting. In other words, once Photoshop has detected an edge, the Radius value tells it how many pixels on either side of it to include as part of the edge. Low Radius values will highlight only the finest details in the image. But to make sure we don’t end up softening these important details, we need to highlight the areas around them as well, which means we need a larger Radius value. For a typical portrait shot, a radius of 24 pixels works well:

Setting the High Pass filter Radius value to 24 pixels in Photoshop

Setting the Radius value to 24 pixels.

If your subject is further back in the photo, or you’re working on a lower resolution image, a smaller Radius value of 18 pixels or even 12 pixels might work better. Why these specific values? It’s because it’s important for the next step that you choose a Radius value that’s easily divisible by 3. For example, 24 divided by 3 is 8, 18 divided by 3 is 6, and 12 divided by 3 is 4. Nice, easy numbers. Again, we’ll see why in the next step.

Click OK to close the High Pass dialog box. Your image will turn mostly gray. Solid areas of gray are the non-edge areas with little to no detail, like the skin, while large, high contrast halos highlight the edges:

The image after applying Photoshop's High Pass filter to detect the edges

The result after applying the High Pass filter.

Step 7: Apply The Gaussian Blur Filter

We need to blur the High Pass filter effect. It may seem counterintuitive, but the blurring will actually help to bring out more good texture in the skin. Go up to the Filter menu, choose Blur, and then choose Gaussian Blur:

Choosing the Gaussian Blur filter from under the Filter menu

Going to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

In the Gaussian Blur dialog box, set the Radius value to exactly one third of the value you used for the High Pass filter. In my case, I set the High Pass radius to 24 pixels, so I’ll set the Gaussian Blur radius to one third of that, which is 8 pixels. Click OK to close the dialog box:

The Gaussian Blur dialog box

Setting the Gaussian Blur radius to one third of the High Pass radius.

With the blurring applied, the High Pass effect now looks softer and less detailed:

The result after applying the Gaussian Blur filter

The result after applying the Gaussian Blur filter.

Step 8: Change The Layer Blend Mode To Linear Light

In the Layers panel, change the blend mode of the “Smooth Skin” layer from Normal to Linear Light:

Changing the blend mode of the Smooth Skin layer to Linear Light

Changing the layer blend mode.

This blends the High Pass result in with the image, creating a high contrast, over-sharpened effect. It may look terrible, but don’t worry. It will look even worse in a moment:

The image after changing the Smooth Skin layer blend mode to Linear Light

The image after changing the Smooth Skin layer’s blend mode to Linear Light.

Related: Photoshop’s Five Essential Blend Modes For Photo Editing

Step 9: Invert The Layer

Go up to the Image menu, choose Adjustments, and then choose Invert:

Choosing the Invert comand from under the Image menu.

Going to Image > Adjustments > Invert.

With the layer inverted, the image goes from being over-sharpened to looking like a weird, blurry mess with big ugly halos around everything:

The image after inverting the Smooth Skin layer

The result after inverting the “Smooth Skin” layer.

Step 10: Open The Blending Options

To reduce the halo effect, click the Layer Styles icon at the bottom of the Layers panel:

Clicking the Layer Styles icon in the Layers panel in Photoshop

Clicking the Layer Styles icon.

Choose Blending Options from the top of the list:

Opening the Blending Options in Photoshop

Opening the Blending Options.

Step 11: Drag The “Blend If” Sliders

In the Layer Style dialog box, look for the Blend If sliders at the bottom. There are two sets of sliders, one labeled “This Layer” and one below it labeled “Underlying Layer”. We need the top sliders (the ones labeled “This Layer”):

The Blend If sliders in the Photoshop Blending Options

The Blend If sliders.

Notice the slider below each end of the gradient bar. These sliders control how the “Smooth Skin” layer blends with the image below it based on the brightness levels of the layer. The slider on the left is used to blend the darker areas of the layer and the slider on the right blends the lighter areas:

Photoshop Blend If sliders.

The dark (left) and light (right) sliders.

Reducing The Light Halos

Start by reducing the lighter halos. Press and hold the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key on your keyboard, click the slider on the right and begin dragging it towards the left. Holding the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key tells Photoshop to split the slider in half so that as you’re dragging, only the left side of the slider moves while the right side stays in place. Watch your image as you drag the slider and you’ll see the lighter halos fading away. Drag the slider almost all the way to the left to reduce them as much as possible:

Blending the lighter areas of the Smooth Skin layer with the Blend If sliders

Dragging the left half of the slider on the right.

Here’s the result after dragging the first slider. Most of the lighter halos are now gone, or at least, they’re much less noticeable. Only the darker halos remain:

The image after reducing the lighter halos with the Blend If sliders

The lighter halos are gone after dragging the slider on the right.

Reducing The Dark Halos

To reduce the darker halos, press and hold your Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key, click the slider on the left and drag the right half of it towards the right. Again, you’ll need to drag almost all the way to the right for most of the dark halos to disappear. Click OK when you’re done to close the Layer Style dialog box:

Blending the darker areas of the Smooth Skin layer with the Blend If sliders

Dragging the right half of the slider on the left.

And here’s my image after dragging both sliders. Her skin is looking very smooth, but so is everything else in the image. We’ll fix that next:

The skin smoothing effect in Photoshop after dragging the Blend If sliders

The darker halos are gone after dragging the slider on the left.

Step 12: Add A Layer Mask

To limit the smoothing effect to just the skin, add a layer mask. Back in the Layers panel, press and hold the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key on your keyboard and click the Add Layer Mask icon:

Clicking the Add Layer Mask icon in the Layers panel in Photoshop

Adding a layer mask while holding Alt (Win) / Option (Mac).

A black-filled layer mask thumbnail appears on the “Smooth Skin” layer. This hides the smoothing effect from view so we can paint it back in only where we need it:

A black-filled layer mask has been added to the Smooth Skin layer

A black-filled layer mask has been added to the “Smooth Skin” layer.

Related: Understanding Layer Masks in Photoshop

Step 13: Select The Brush Tool

Select the Brush Tool from the Toolbar:

A black-filled layer mask has been added to the Smooth Skin layer.

Selecting the Brush Tool.

Step 14: Set Your Brush Color To White

Make sure your Foreground color (the brush color) is set to white. You can see your current Foreground and Background colors in the color swatches near the bottom of the Toolbar. The swatch in the upper left is the Foreground color. If it’s not set to white, press the letter D on your keyboard to quickly reset the colors to their defaults:

Setting the brush color to white

The Foreground color (the brush color) should be white.

Step 15: Paint Over The Skin

Before you begin painting, check your brush options in the Options Bar. Make sure that Mode (short for Blend Mode) is set to NormalOpacity is at 100% and Flow is also at 100%:

The Mode, Opacity and Fill options for the Brush Tool.

Making sure the Mode, Opacity and Fill options are all set to their defaults.

Then paint over the skin to reveal the smoothing effect. A soft-edge brush will work best. We already know that we can change the brush size from the keyboard using the left and right bracket keys. Add the Shift key to change the brush hardness. Press Shift and the left bracket key to make the brush softer, or Shift and the right bracket key to make the brush harder.

Example: Painting To Reveal The Smooth Skin

I’ll start by painting over her forehead. Since we’re painting on the layer mask, not on the layer itself, we don’t see the brush color as we paint. Instead, we reveal the smoothing effect in the areas where we’ve painted:

Painting to reveal the smooth skin in the woman's forehead in Photoshop

Bringing back the smooth skin in the woman’s forehead.

Next, I’ll paint over her nose, her cheeks, and around her eyes to reveal the skin smoothing in those areas. Adjust your brush size as you go to avoid painting over details that should remain sharp. If you do slip and paint over the wrong area, press the letter X on your keyboard to set your brush color to black, and then paint over the mistake to hide the smoothing effect. Press X again to set your brush color back to white and continue painting to smooth and soften the skin:

 

Revealing the smooth skin in the woman's nose, cheeks, and around her eyes

Revealing more of the smoothing effect, but just over the skin.

Finally, I’ll paint around her mouth and over her chin to smooth and soften those areas, while at the same time being careful to avoid her lips:

Smoothing the skin in the lower areas of the woman's face in Photoshop

Revealing the smooth skin in the lower areas of her face.

Viewing The Layer Mask

To see exactly where you’ve painted, press and hold your Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key and click on the layer mask thumbnail in the Layers panel:

Switching to the layer mask view in Photoshop

Holding Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) and clicking the layer mask thumbnail.

This switches your view from the image to the layer mask. The white areas in the mask are where you’ve painted to restore the skin smoothing. Black areas are when the smoothing effect remains hidden. It looks a bit creepy, but viewing the mask is a great way to make sure you haven’t missed any spots, and you can paint directly on the mask if needed. To switch back to your image, once again press and hold Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) and click on the layer mask thumbnail:

Viewing the layer mask in Photoshop to see where the skin smoothing is visible

Use the mask view to look for any areas you missed.

Step 16: Lower The Layer Opacity

At this point, we’ve smoothed and softened the skin, but the effect is too intense. To reduce it, lower the opacity of the “Smooth Skin” layer. In general, an opacity value of between 40% and 60% works best, but it will depend on your image. I’ll set mine to 50%:

Lowering the opacity of the Smooth Skin layer in Photoshop

Lowering the opacity of the skin softening effect to 50%.

And with that, we’re done! Here, after lowering the layer opacity, is my final result with her skin now looking great:

The final retouched image with smooth skin in Photoshop

The final skin smoothing result.

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