How To: Portrait Retouching Techniques

Remember to work as non-destructivly as possible, use a background layer copy.
•Remove any background distractions.
•Global Color Correction.

Removing Blemishes
1) Choose Clone Stamp.
-Choose a soft edge brush slightly larger than the blemish you want to remove.
2) Change blend mode in the options bar to Lighten.
-With lighten selected the clone stamp will only affect pixels darker than the sampled area.
3) Choose a source point, Option Click (PC Alt Click)
-The source point should be close to the area needing repair.
4) Put cursor over the blemish click once (don’t paint)
You’re Done.
— If the blemish is lighter than the skin change the blend mode to Darken —

1) Choose the Healing Brush.
-Choose a brush slightly larger than the blemish you want to remove.
2) Set source point, Option Click (PC Alt Click) and remove blemish.
•At times the Patch Tool is the tool, give it a try.

Removing Wrinkles
1) Choose the Healing brush.
2) Choose a source point, Option Click (PC Alt Click)
-The source point should be close to the area needing repair.
3) Paint a stroke over the wrinkle, a second later the wrinkle is gone.

1) Choose Patch tool. Options Bar, Source.
2) Make a selection of the wrinkled area, slightly larger than the wrinkle you want to repair.
3) Click within the selection to drag it to a clean area that has no edges.
4) Release the mouse button and the patch tool does its thing.
6) Command – D (PC Control – D) to deselect the area.
Many times these techniques look unreal. Age is age. How old do you want to look?

1) Duplicate the Background layer Command – J (PC -Control – J)
2) Fix the duplicate layer using one of the techniques above.
3) Lower the opacity on the duplicate layer to bring back some of the wrinkles.
—A More Realistic Done—

1) Choose clone stamp
-Soft edged brush
-Size, what needs to be repaired
2) Options bar
-Lower the opacity to 10 – 30%

3) Option click source point
(somewhere near the area to be repaired)
4) Paint over wrinkles
-They are still there, but less visible

This works well on hot spots, shiny noses and foreheads

Use the BRACKET keys to adjust the size of your brush
-Left bracket key makes the brush smaller
-Right bracket key makes the brush larger


Skin Highlight Fixes (especially on nose, cheeks, and forehead)
• Create a New Layer.
• Choose the Healing Brush. Make sure “Aligned” and Sample All Layers” is checked. This time, change the tool blend mode to Darken.
• For more precise control, also try the Clone Stamp Tool. Again, check “Aligned” and “Sample All Layers”. Change the blend mode of the tool to Darken.

Remove Dark Circles from Under the Eye
OR Lessen Shadows with this technique.
1) Choose clone stamp.
-soft edged brush.
-size, half as wide as what you want to repair.
2) Options bar.
-lower the opacity to 50%
-change the tool blend mode to lighten.
3) Option click source point (just below the area to be repaired)
4) Paint over dark circles.
1) Choose clone stamp.
-soft edged brush.
-size, half as wide as what you want to repair.
2) Options bar.
-lower the opacity to 10 – 30%

3) Option click source point (just below the area to be repaired)
4) Paint over dark circles.
(this works well for facial lines also)
1) Choose the Patch Tool ( a flyout from the Healing Brush Tool)
2) Options Bar.
3) Draw a selection around one of the dark circles.
4) Click within the selection to drag it to a clean area.
5) Release the mouse button and the Patch Tool does its thing.
7) Command – D (get rid or the dancing ants)

Glamour Skin (Don't soften skin on men) - Tis is not my favorite but sometimes its good for a fast fix.
1) Duplicate the background layer
2) Go: Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur, enter
between 3-6 pixel blur in the dialogue box,
depending on how soft you want the blur.
3) Lower the opacity of this layer to 50%
4) next selectively bring back facial details:
add a layer mask to the Gaussian blurred layer
5) Paint on the layer mask to reveal the clearer image from below
-White reveals
-Black conceals
You can change the opacity of the paint on the layer mask

Overall Skin Clarity and Pores
– Lowers the skin pore intensity.
• Create a merge layer. (Stamp the Layer, or the CLAW) call this layer Skin_Blur.
- shift – option – command – “E”
• Duplicate your merged layer.(command “J”) Call this Skin_luminosity.
• Move the Luminosity Layer above the Skin_Blur layer. Turn off the eye for now.
• Click on the Skin_Blur layer. It is recommended to use Surface Blur for Portraits. In past versions of Photoshop, we used Gaussin Blur, Dust & Scratches, or
Median Filter. Just go strong enough to remove a little detail. Don’t create a fake looking plastic face. Use a layer Mask to hide the areas that you want to keep detail, like hair, eyes, lips, eyebrows, and edges.
• Now Turn on the eye for the Skin_luminosity layer. Change the blend mode of this layer to luminosity. Next, lower the opacity until you have the right amount of detail.

Whitening Teeth and Eyes
Make a selection of the white area that needs whitening (both eyes or teeth)
3) Feather by one or two pixels.
5) eyes: edit red, saturation -100, lightness to desired effect.
teeth: edit yellow, saturation -100, lightness to desired effect.

Tech2 (eyes)
-I use this technique frequently.
1) Open photo that needs retouching.
2) Create a curves adjustment layer.
3) Change blend mode to screen.
4) Press the letter “D” on the keyboard, Look for the foreground color to be black

5) Option – Delete (PC Alt – Backspace) This fills the curves adjustment layer with black,
changing the mode adjustments appearance back to where we started.
6) Press the letter ”X” This changes your foreground color to white.
7) Brush tool, soft edge, small size, paint over whites of the eyes.
-Painting will bring back the screen mode effect seen earlier.
8) Lower the opacity of the curves adjustment layer to look natural.

1) Stamp the layers –
-shift, option, command, “E”
2) Change the Blend Mode to Screen.
3) Option Click on the Layer Mask Icon (brings up the layer mask as black hiding the correction) paint with white over teeth or whites of the eye.
4) You will then want to lower the opacity of the layer to the desired look.

Enlarge the Eyes (a little) This works best when the subject is looking straight at the camera and not wearing glasses.
1) choose an image to enlarge the eyes.
2) make a selection around the eyes.
(select one eye with the lasso tool, hold down the shift key to add the other eye to the selection)
3) select – modify – feather (feather by 2-10 pixels depending on the size of your image)
4) copy (command “c”) paste (command ”v”) eyes to a new layer.
5) edit – transform – scale.
(if you have the link icon highlighted what you type into width will affect height)

6) type in 102.00 into the height box, with the link highlighted and the width will change also.
7) click the check box at the right on the options bar.
-a subtle enlarging of the eyes, no one will be able to tell, yet your portrait will engage the viewer in a positive way-

Lighten the Eyes
1) Select just the eyes.
2) lighten the eyes and added.
a bit of contrast to make them pop.
-try a curve.

Sharpen the Eyes
I look at the eye when I sharpen, this should be the sharpest point in the picture.
1) Stamp the layers –
-shift, option, command, “E”
2) Sharpen the Stamped Layer.
3) Option Click on the Layer Mask Icon (brings up the layer mask as black hiding the correction) Paint with White over eye to reveal sharpening.
4) You may want to lower the opacity of the layer to the desired look.

Change the Lip Color
1) select a new adjustment.
layer – color Balance
-drag the slider until you find the color you want.
2) Command “I” to hide the correction.
3) Using the brush paint with white to reveal your new lip color.

Change the Color of the Eye
1) Select a new adjustment layer
– Hue/Saturation
-Click the “Colorize” button on the panel.
-Slide the Hue, Saturation and Lightness sliders until satisfied.
2) Command “I” to hide the correction.
3) Using the brush paint with white to reveal your new eye color.

Lips – Increase Depth and Give Edge Definition
• Create a New Layer.
• Paint Black on the lips.
• Change the Blend Mode of this layer to SOFT LIGHT.
• Lower the opacity as needed.
• To Create stronger edges on Lips, create a new layer and just paint the outline edges of the lips. You may need to blur this layer. Again, Change the Blend Mode to SOFT LIGHT. Lower the opacity as necessary.

• Make a tight selection around the eyebrows.
• Change the blend mode of this new layer to Multiply.
• Lower the Opacity of the layer until it looks good.
• Use a layer mask to reduce the overall effect.

Unifying skin color using Solid Color adjustment layer with a blend mode of hue.
• Using the Eyedropper Tool, select mid-tone color from the skin that has the pigment that you want it the skin.
• Create a Color Fill Adjust Layer using the color you selected. Change the blend Mode to Color. Mask this layer to the skin only.
• Lower Opacity as necessary.

Colorize the Hair
1) Choose color balance.
-Change color - Explore and see what happens. The numbers below are just my exploration, find what you like for your image.

3) command “I” (inverse) the layer mask goes from white to black.
-from white to black, your color change will disappear
4) choose a soft brush and paint with white where you want the color change5) fine tune the image by changing brush size and opacity of white/black to get the desired look. (remember the eyebrows)
6) in the layers palette change the mode to “color”(or explore the blend modes for one you like) and lower the opacity of the layer for a more natural look.

Mask for the hair. To view this - Option Click on the layer mask in the Layers Panel.

Selective Sharpening for Portraits
• Use Selective Sharpening.
• sharpen a merged (stamped) layer.
• Create a layer mask, invert the layer mask, hiding the sharpening (Command I)
• paint back in the Hair, Eyes, Eye Lashes, clothes, other elements.
• Do not sharpen skin.

Try a Vignette on a dodge and burn Layer to finish the image. I use this all the time an all types of photographs.

Eyeglass Glare Removal
To start, you will need to make sure that there is one eye that is relatively clear of reflection, so that you can use it to copy to the other eye.

The clone stamp settings in the Options Bar should be:

    Opacity- 100%
    Flow- 100%
    Sample: Current and Below

To get to the Clone Source Dialogue, go to Window – Clone Source. This is where we can really get down to the nitty gritty details. Here, some helpful things to do are:

    Turn on “Show Overlay” to reveal a preview of what you are cloning
    Flip the Width so that the cloning is flipped horizontally

Then, clone from the left eye over to the right eye to take care of the majority of the glare. Be sure to match up the glasses as closely as possible. The preview is helpful. Then use the layer masks to fix any areas that were cloned improperly.

Also try using a lower opacity with the clone stamp (50%) to smooth out some rougher areas.


This is a start. Modify. Create your own checklist for different types of images.

• Make the image - Camera, camera phone, point and shoot, film, scanner.Shoot in RAW if possible. Shoot RAW and JPG if your camera has art modes you want to explore. There is no one answer, what works best for your desired outcome. Make the best exposure possible in camera.

Download your images to your computer. I use the Adobe Photo Downloader found in The Adobe Bridge. Create a Metadata Template to embed your Copyright and more when you download. You can also back up to a second hard drive in one step using this tool. I organize work in folders by date and location. Then each year is in its own folder.

Use Adobe Bridge to select and rate your images. Place the images in folders. Rename images. Move the images around.

Open image in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), RAW, JPG or TIFF files. •Layered files cannot be opened in ACR. If in PS with a layered file stamp the layers - Shift - Option - Control - E - Then go to the Filter menu to access the ACR filter.

Start by looking at the Histogram. Move the Black Slider to the left darkening the blacks, do not block up the shadows.

Next move the White Slider to the right, do not blow out the highlights. Now your image is looking much better.

You may need to adjust your Shadow and Highlight Sliders, remember to keep the detail if it is important to your image. (most of the time it is!)

With these steps first you usually will not need a Contrast adjustment, if you do it is usually minor.

Same thing with an Exposure adjustment if you made a good exposure in camera and adjustment will be minor.

Then use the White Balance Tool to adjust the white balance of the image. I find it is best to do the WB after the tonal adjustments. If your image is way off on the color balance I will start the workflow there and then tweak it again at this point.

I like my images to be a but warmer so I often use the Temperature Slider to warm up the image slightly, not so much as people will think it is the wrong color balance just enough to invite people in. What type of imagery do you shoot? You may like a colder image. There is no right or wrong, unless its wrong

Next add Texture or Clarity to the image. The amount is dependent on what you are trying to say with your work. What camera sensor and what lenses you use will also come into play with this tool. Pro lenses and cameras will need less clarity added here.

Add Lens Correction in ACR. distortion, vignetting, chromatic aberrations (You probably have this set to be auto applied when opening the file into ACR)

Now decide if you want to move into Photoshop or stay here a bit longer?
Stay in ACR if the image can be finished here or.

Crop, Straighten, Transform - ACR or PS

Spot Removal - PS

Red Eye Removal - ACR or PS?

Do you need selective enhancement? Adjustment Brush or PS?

Will the Gradient Tool here in ACR get the job done?

Do you need a layer mask for enhancements to look natural? Go to PS.

Should you Crop here or in PS? Most of the time I use PS.

The Grain works well in ACR.

The Post Crop Vignette looks good in ACR.

Do you have a Preset that gives a stylized look to the image you want to apply.

Split Toning works well in ACR.

I do my Noise Reduction here, do you?

What about Dehaze? This slider can add to the look of a photograph in many ways? Have you explored it yet? Set the white balance for the image before using Dehaze.

I do my output Sharpening in PS not in ACR.

Create your Panoramas in ACR

Start your HRD in ACR

What can you add to this list?

I always end up in Photoshop to finish my images. Total control for the control freak in me.

Now that we are in Photoshop Start with the crop. Decide if you want to keep the entire image or if a crop will help your composition. Crop out distractions and extra space. I believe in getting the framing right in camera so the only time I crop is if I am making a square image or if I am working on composites. Yes I do crop panoramas. Do what you need to do to make your image, but always strive to make the best image in camera before moving to ACR and PS.

Next retouch dust and distractions. Depending on your images - For portraits: blemishes, wrinkles hotspots and more. Landscape: power lines, debris, stray branches, what is takingaway from your image? Take it out of your image.

What Localized Corrections do you want to make?

Open up the shadows?

Add a color tint to a shadow?

Brighten someones eyes?

Blur the background?

Sharpen the hair in an image?

Add contrast to a part of the image?

Dodge and burn using a dodge and burn layer?

Lighten or darken with curves?

Think localized corrections to make the image shine.

Liquify/Warp.You must stamp the layers to be effective with these filters - Shift - Option - Control - E - Then go to the Filter menu to access the desired filter.

•Add creative techniques to make the image reflect your vision.

Add a dodge and burn vignette?

Run an action to stylize the image?

Drop a texture or two over the image? Explore the layer masks with this.

Create a diptych or triptych?

Make a composite image?

Change the perspective in your architectural photography?

What can you add to this list?

You get the idea, have fun here and push your vision!

•Make sure your whites are not blown out before printing. Pull back the RGB values to 250.

•What will your output be? Web, print, book, alternative process?

•Save your Master File as a .psd (Photoshop Document) This is your worked, layered, original size file.

Save As - You will now have a second file - I title these files with the name of the master file, then add an underscore and the longest size dimension so I can keep everything in order.

Flatten the file.

Size for output.

Sharpen for output. (Global sharpening)

Save this file as a JPG, PSD to TIFF, depending on your output needs or requests.

Upload to the web or print the file.

•Backup all of this work to your second hard drive and the cloud.

This is just a start to help guide you to a workflow that will work best for you. Modify this, add additional items that work for your vision. Shoot more, grow, explore!