How to clean up a photo using Photoshop

Remove flaws and shed a few pounds digitally

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  • Face clean final Intro
  • face1 Step 1: Start with the pimples
  • face2 Step 2: Removing spots
  • face3 Step 3: Removing lines
  • face4 Step 4: Tuck in face
  • face5 Step 5: Warp and move
  • face6 Step 6: Slice and move
  • face7 Step 7: Mark out the area
  • face8 Step 8: Move and blend
  • face9 Step 9: Mask it in
  • face10 Step 10: Powder puff
  • face11 Step 11: Retouch other skin areas
  • face12 Step 12: Tidy up eyes
  • face13 Step 13: Whiten the teeth
  • face14 Step 14: Select the skin
  • face15 Step 15: Blur skin surface
  • face extra Bonus Tip: Go super glossy
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Intro

After a photo-shoot there’s always things that need cleaning up in portrait shots. Hopefully the model in the agency book does actually look that way in reality, but pimples, lines, bags under the eyes are always a danger.

The more extreme case of this is where you book someone off-agency on the basis of their portfolio, which then turns out to be a few years old. Instead of those sleek lines and shining skin you have someone who has clearly seen better days.

The usual response to this is to send them packing, but if it happens when you are on a deadline, or perhaps have run out of budget, then the shoot goes ahead anyway with the mantra that, ‘Photoshop will sort it out later’. Well, now it’s later and here’s some of the ways to fix all those problems that really should have been avoided in the first place.

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Next Prev Face clean final

After a photo-shoot there’s always things that need cleaning up in portrait shots. Hopefully the model in the agency book does actually look that way in reality, but pimples, lines, bags under the eyes are always a danger.

The more extreme case of this is where you book someone off-agency on the basis of their portfolio, which then turns out to be a few years old. Instead of those sleek lines and shining skin you have someone who has clearly seen better days.

The usual response to this is to send them packing, but if it happens when you are on a deadline, or perhaps have run out of budget, then the shoot goes ahead anyway with the mantra that, ‘Photoshop will sort it out later’. Well, now it’s later and here’s some of the ways to fix all those problems that really should have been avoided in the first place.

 

Step 2 of 17: Step 1: Start with the pimples

The key to a process like this is to tackle one kind of flaw at a time and then duplicate the finished layer and work on another flaw on that. Start with duplicating the background to make the Pimples layer. Select the Spot Healing Brush with a 25px brush.

 

Step 3 of 17: Step 2: Removing spots

Use the Proximity Match mode. Go around the image and remove everything pimple-orientated you can. If the removal doesn’t work, Undo it. The tricky areas are near the edges. For these switch to the Clone Stamp tool, 100% Opacity, Lighten blend mode. Sample from near by and remove.

 

Step 4 of 17: Step 3: Removing lines

Duplicate and create the Lines layer. To remove the lines on the forehead, stick with the Clone Stamp too using Lighten blend mode. Make the brush small at 20px and sample from nearby in a smoother area. Then trace along the line. For long lines, change the sample point half way along and also if any repeated patterns show up.

 

Step 5 of 17: Step 4: Tuck in face

Duplicate and create the Tuck left layer. Go to Filter> Liquify. Put a tick in the Advanced Mode so you can then put ticks in the Show Mesh and Show Mask boxes. On the left click on the Freeze Mask tool (F). With a size of around 100px, paint onto the face, adjacent to the left side edge.

 

Step 6 of 17: Step 5: Warp and move

Click on the Forward Warp tool (W) and set the brush to 150px. Use this to push in the face on the left. Use the grid as a guide to avoid over-distortion. Change down to a 42px brush to do any minor retouching and toggle the grid off to see the result more clearly. Click OK when done.

 

Step 7 of 17: Step 6: Slice and move

For the sagging jowl on the right a different solution needs to be used as the warping process causes distortion to the area moved from. Here that would be the hair and neck and would be obvious. Duplicate and call this layer Tuck right. Select the Polygonal Lasso tool (L).

 

Step 8 of 17: Step 7: Mark out the area

Make a selection, starting, halfway through the chin, moving between the edge of the face and the lips, up into the shadow area of the face and into the hair. Stop short of the edge of the curl of the hair, select down and loop around, encompassing the neck until it reach the chin again.

 

Step 9 of 17: Step 8: Move and blend

Press Cmd-C to copy and Cmd-V to paste as a new layer. Click on the Move tool (M) and put a tick in Show Transform Controls. Use the corner control carat to rotate the section of face anti-clockwise. Line it back up on the centre point of the chin then click on the tick to apply.

 

Step 10 of 17: Step 9: Mask it in

Add a layer mask to this piece of face and select the Brush tool at around 77px with 17% Opacity and black as the Foreground colour. Use this to paint on the on mask, over the edges of the joins to make them blend in together. Care needs to be taken over the bottom hair area to avoid obvious duplication.

 

Step 11 of 17: Step 10: Powder puff

Right-click on the Layer 1 layer and mask and select Merge Down to merge into the Tuck Right layer. Duplicate and call Powder. Select the Clone Stamp tool and set the Opacity to 17%, blend mode Normal. Use a 100px brush with 0% Hardness. Sample near the areas of bright flash and dab them away on the nose and under the eyes.

 

Step 12 of 17: Step 11: Retouch other skin areas

Using multiple-touches over the same area, smooth out areas of the skin that are particularly rough. This includes the lip and some of the cheek, nose and forehead. The idea is not to completely smooth the skin out at this stage but to make it look less uneven.

 

Step 13 of 17: Step 12: Tidy up eyes

Create a new layer called Eyes & Mouth and zoom right in to the eyes. Select the Clone Stamp tool and set it to 50% Opacity, Lighten blend mode and a small 7px brush. The idea is not to whiten the eyes as this can look ridiculous, but to remove the more obvious vein traces. Sample close by and carefully brush over them.

 

Step 14 of 17: Step 13: Whiten the teeth

Make a selection around the teeth area. Then select the Dodge tool at 5% Exposure. Brush the teeth to brighten them up. This may also increase colour noise on teeth in shadow. Go to Image> Adjust> Hue/Saturation and decrease the Saturation by about -36, or enough to reduce the effect without turning the inside into mono.

 

Step 15 of 17: Step 14: Select the skin

Create the next layer called Skin blur. The face is looking good, but the rest of the skin isn’t. Go to Select> Color Range. Click on select and choose Skin Tones. Click on Detect Faces. Under the Selection Preview box select Quick Mask and you can check the image to see what it’s picked up. Use the Fuzziness slider to adjust. Click on OK.

 

Step 16 of 17: Step 15: Blur skin surface

In the Layers Palette, click on Add Layer Mask. This will convert the selection to a mask. Click on the Skin blur layer itself and go to Filter> Blur> Surface Blur. Set the Radius to 3 and the Threshold to 10. This will give the right amount of smoothing for the rest of the skin. To reduce the effect on the eyes and lips, paint onto the layer mask with black.

 

Step 17 of 17: Bonus Tip: Go super glossy

As things stand at this point, that should be plenty of flaw-removal, digital dieting and skin cleanup. If you feel that there’s a little too much and you want more facial texture back in then either use the layer mask on the Skin blur layer to mask it out, or add some grain to it. To go in the opposite direction and make it super-glossy then Merge Down the Skin blur layer. Apply a 50px Gaussian Blur to this new Glossy layer and change the blend mode to Soft Light. This will increase the colour saturation, make the shadows richer, the highlights brighter, without softening the result. For a much lighter result use the Overlay blend mode but you will need a layer mask to control the highlights as otherwise they will be lost. Hard Light is an alternative option to Overlay and has the same kind of effect but also brightens up darker elements as well so there’s less overall contrast.

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