Photoretouching for the lazy

I’m a vain creature and I like self portraits.
But I’m not a photographer and I don’t have hours and hours to dedicate to photoretouching (and I hate what is usually meant by photoretouching – the kind of things you’ll find in PhotoShopDisasters). There’s also another problem: the higher the resolution of your camera, the bigger you look, and this involves that you see every detail blown up – i.e. you buy a DSLR and you suddenly realize you look like a swamp monster.

Self

Here’s my workflow. I take no credit about it: if you speak Italian, you can follow the original video instructions from Francesco Marzoli (Digital Post Production) here.

Before I forget this: save often. And also another thing: save often.

Here’s the original pic (you can enlarge any image by clicking on it – this pic is reduced in size to 1000×1500 for obvious reasons: the original raw file is around 10 MB).
Original

1. Open your high res file (better if RAW) in Photoshop. I use PS CS5 – you can download it for a free 30-day trial here. Try and ignore the fact that if you enlarge your pic your skin looks like Alien’s.

Swamp Monster
The Swamp Monster

2. Duplicate the background layer by dragging it on the Create New Layer button

Duplicate layer

3. Select the new layer and choose Filter > Blur > Box Blur

Box Blur

4. In the dialog that opens, adjust the value so that the skin looks more or less homogeneous (it depends on your photo – for this one I’ve chosen 15)

Box Blur

5. Set the layer blending mode (1) to Darken (2)

Blending Mode

6. Press CTRL or CMD + ALT + SHIFT + E on your keyboard – this creates a new layer in your layers palette. Delete the previous “Background copy” layer by selecting it and dragging it onto the Recycle Bin.

Delete Layer

7. Select Layer 1 again, enlarge your view of the picture (50% or more, you can change the zoom percentage from the bottom left of the screen), then select Filter > Other > High Pass

High Pass Filter

8. In the dialog that opens, choose a low value, usually around 1 (you should be barely able to distinguish main face features)

High Pass Filter

9. Go to Image > Adjustments > Threshold

Threshold

10. In the dialog that opens, lower the default value (128) a bit – in this case, to 126 – considering that the black dot areas are the ones to which the change will be applied

Threshold

11. Invert the black and white values (press CTRL or CMD + I on your keyboard)

12. Select Filter > Blur > Box Blur and apply a slight blur with radius 1

Invert Box Blur

13. Select the channels tab, press and hold CTRL (CMD) on your keyboard and click the RGB option – you’ll see marching ants around the white areas on the picture (hey, that’s some awesome technical language!)

Channels

14. Go back to the layers tab (1) and click on “Create new fill or adjustment layer” (2), then select “Curves”

Curves

15. Delete Layer 1

16. Select Curves 1 Layer (1). You’ll see that when you pass your cursor in the curves pane that has opened on top of the layers tab it turns into a little cross.

Curves

Place your cursor exactly at the center of the Curves pane in the Adjustments tab, click and hold, lifting the curve very slightly. Check your pic on the left and see the darker bits of the picture blend in with the rest.

Curves

17. Press and hold ALT on your keyboard and click the dark rectangle on the Curves 1 layer. You’ll see your mask again.

Mask

18. Zoom out the picture (you can use ALT + scroll the mouse up or down for that), select the brush tool and make sure it’s set on black.

Brush

Then select a biggish standard brush.

Brush size

19. Paint with it on the non-skin parts of your pic. You don’t need to be too careful. Be sure to delete hair, eyes, clothes, background, eyebrows.

Paint

Black

20. Hide Curves 1 level (click on the eye icon on the left of the layer name) – now let’s do this for the highlights (there’s no screenshot for repeated instructions).


21. Duplicate background layer by dragging it on the Create New Layer button

22. Select the new layer and choose Filter > Blur > Box Blur

23. In the dialog that opens, adjust the value so that the skin looks all homogeneous (it depends on your photo – for this one I’ve chosen 13)

24. Set the layer blending mode to Lighten

25. Press CTRL or CMD + ALT + SHIFT + E on your keyboard – this creates a new layer in your layers palette. Delete the previous “Background copy” layer by selecting it and dragging it onto the Recycle Bin.

26. Select Layer 1 again, enlarge your view of the picture (50% or more, you can change the zoom percentage from the bottom left of the screen), then select Filter > Other > High Pass

27. In the dialog that opens, choose a low value, usually around 1 (you should be barely able to distinguish main face features)

28. Go to Image > Adjustments > Threshold

29. In the dialog that opens, increase the default value (128) a bit – in this case, to 131 – considering that the black dot areas are the ones to which the change will be applied

Threshold

30. Select Filter > Blur > Box Blur and apply a slight blur with radius 1

31. Select the channels tab, press and hold CTRL (CMD) on your keyboard and click the RGB option (you’ll see marching ants around the white areas on the picture)

32. Go back to the layers tab (1) and click on “Create new fill or adjustment layer” (2), then select “Curves”

33. Delete Layer 1

34. Select Curves 2 Layer (1). You’ll see that your cursor turns into a little cross. Place it exactly at the center of the Curves pane, click and hold, lowering the curve very slightly. Check your pic on the left and see the lighter bits of the picture blend in better with the rest.

35. Press and hold ALT on your keyboard and click the dark rectangle on the Curves 2 layer. You’ll see your mask again.

36. Zoom out the picture (you can use ALT + scroll the mouse up or down for that), select the brush tool and make sure it’s set on black, and then select a biggish standard brush.

37. Paint with it on the non-skin parts of your pic. You don’t need to be too careful. Be sure to delete hair, eyes, clothes, background, eyebrows.

38. Click somewhere on the layers to see your image again. Reactivate Curves 1 layer (click on the eye icon in the layers pane).

39. Time for some dog business. Press again ctrl (or cmd) + alt + shift + E on your keyboard. This creates a new level out of all the others.

40. Now enlarge your pic to at least 100% and select the Spot healing brush tool

Healing brush tool

41. Use it to correct spots, blemishes and so on (I have a chickenpox scar between my eyebrows and a kindergarten battle sign below my left eye, and usually a few freckles – I take away the scars and leave the freckles). The size of the healing brush tool should be just above that of the defect you wish to correct.

Scars and blemishes

42. Some of the defects can’t be fixed with the spot healing brush tool. Use the Clone stamp tool (you’ll find it just below the brush tool) for those.

This is the basis. After that – use your imagination.


Here’s what I did.

While still in Photoshop, I created a new layer and with a soft, white brush deleted some of the hair on the right of my face. (If the background wasn’t white, I would have used the Clone stamp tool instead.) Then I created a new curves level, painted white around my irises and then lifted the curve slightly upwards so that by increasing the contrast I wouldn’t look black-eyed. The rest is just contrast and black levels interplay.

Other funny things I’ve obviously never used but that you might find handy:

Liquify – your personal aesthetic surgeon. Create a new level in Photoshop and apply your image to it (I guess that by now you know how to do it, right? CTRL + ALT + Shift + E), go to Filter > Liquify and play! Don’t be late for dinner.

Clone Stamp (#2 in the screenshot below) – it can help you move things that appear in the wrong place right to where they belong (for example, the higher part of your thigh, or that nasty little nose bump).

Plain old selection + copy + paste – Use the Lasso selection tool (#1 in the screenshot below) with a certain amount of feather to select a biggish area of the pic you wish to enlarge, reduce, rotate or move (for example, an eye, a year, your mouth – it depends on your pic).

Tools

Here’s the final image.

Finish skin

Here’s also a rollover.

And now, to the lightroom! Open Lightroom (Library module), drag your PSD into it, move to the Develop module and create more than one virtual copy (right click on the pic preview below the main area > Create Virtual Copy) and play with it.

Lightroom

Practice for some time. I hope I haven’t forgotten anything. Happy summer!

123Self

Sono nata in Bulgaria e sono cresciuta in Italia. Mi occupo di traduzioni e revisioni creative, pignole e attente alla qualità per importanti clienti internazionali. Vivo in Olanda con il caro D. Lavoro con l’inglese, l’italiano, occasionalmente con il bulgaro.

Comments (4)

  1. That’s very sweet of you. I take photographs but I really don’t know anything about retouching 😛 That’s the exact stuff I’m trying to learn these days.

  2. Really O_O’

    😀

    Glad to be useful!

  3. Tnx for the credits 😉

  4. Grazie a te, e anzi – scusami per lo scempio 😀

Leave a Reply