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You must have a working knowledge of layer masks if you want to use this action. If you haven't used layer masks you don't realize what you are missing, so please read my detailed tutorial. When this action finishes you won't see a drastic change in your image UNTIL you paint on layer masks.
Action download at the button of this post!
Instructions for using CoffeeShop Perfect Portrait 3 Photoshop and PS Elements Action:
Original image, SOOC (straight out of the camera). Other than white balance adjustment and major skin issue repairs, you should be able to start this action with no other adjustment.
Start the action. The action will flatten your image (if it is in layers) and then a levels adjustment panel will pop up. Adjust the shadows, highlights and midtones using the little sliders under the graph. You can also select Red, Green or Blue from the pull-down menubar to adjust those individual channels if needed. Levels is a powerful editing tool and if you want some tips and tricks on using it effectively, please read Amanda's tutorial. I love holding down the alt key when moving the highlight slider to make sure I am not blowing out skin.
Now the fun part. ♥ Perfect Portrait 3 uses my new amazing method of auto skin smoothing. I have been wondering if this was possible for some time, so I sat down and googled- and found nothing... Then I had one of those "ah ha" moments and after a few hours of playing I figured it out on my own.
Unfortunately my first method worked brilliantly in Photoshop but did not work in PSE, so back to the drawing board. But as you know I am stubborn and a few more hours later I figured out how to do it. This auto skin smoothing works really well and in most cases you don't even have to paint on the layer mask at all. You have to love that improvement.
When the Replace Color panel comes up, simply use the eyedropper tool (it should be selected already) and click on the skin. The skin should turn bright white (as seen in this image). However, unless your skin is evenly lit, parts of it might not be selected.
If you want to select more skin, click on the eyedropper with a "+" by it (seen above) and click on an area of the skin that was not selected (parts of your image that are not white). Then dial the Fuzziness slider down to remove the selection from other parts of your image. You can also click on the eyedropper with a "-" by it to remove parts of your image from the selection. Don't be a perfectionist, you can always add/remove the skin smoothing by painting over the layer mask after the action finishes.
After the action runs, you should see 15 layers over your background. We will start from the bottom and work our way up to the top.
Remove red from skin layer: Make sure your brush is in Normal mode (top menubar) before trying to paint in layer masks! Click to select the black layer mask, and use a soft white brush at low opacity to brush on parts of the skin that are too red. You can also adjust the layer opacity if you remove too much red, or paint back over the layer mask with black.
Vivid Color: Click to select the black layer mask and use a soft white brush to paint over areas you want a pop of color. Adjust brush and layer opacity to taste.
Boost: Adjust Boost layer opacity to taste (it is preset to 15%) and use the layer mask if necessary. If you are working with a portrait with darker skin, try changing the blending mode from Overlay to Multiple for a soft glow. Otherwise the skin might look too light.
Sharpen: This layer is turned off, so if you want to sharpen your image click on the little box on the left to turn on the eye (as seen above). Use the layer mask if necessary and adjust the layer opacity to taste.
Brighten: Adjust opacity of this layer to taste.
White Teeth: Click on the black layer mask to select, and paint over teeth with a soft low opacity white brush. Adjust layer opacity to taste. Don't make the teeth too white!
Urban Grit: This layer will add a gritty feel to your image, and I love to paint over walls, clothing, trees, hair, basically anything that looks good with extra sharpening. Click to select the black layer mask and paint over your image with a soft white low opacity brush and adjust the layer opacity to taste. Don't use this layer on skin, it looks horrible.
White Whites: This layer is to make the whites of the eyes whiter. Click to select the black layer mask and paint over the whites of the eyes with a soft low opacity white brush and adjust the layer opacity to taste. Don't make the whites too white or it looks freaky.
Eye Define: Click on the black layer mask and then use a white brush to paint over the iris, eyebrows, and eyelashes. I usually use 100% on the iris and 25% or so on the eyelashes and eyebrows. Adjust the layer opacity to taste.
Bright Eyes: Use a soft white low opacity brush to brush over the iris to bring out the colors and brighten them. Then adjust the layer opacity to taste. Don't make alien-looking eyes, go light on this step.
Soft Skin: The skin should be soft already and you can adjust the opacity of this layer to taste (preset to 75%). You don't want the skin to look like plastic, so use this in moderation. To remove areas of softness on your image, click to select the layer mask and paint on the image with a black soft brush, and to add softness click to select the layer mask and paint on the image with a white soft brush. I usually don't have to do anything to the layer mask. I seriously love this action. :-)
Soft Glow: Click on the black layer mask and paint on the skin with a soft low opacity soft brush. Adjust the layer opacity to taste (preset to 25%). If you are working on a portrait with darker skin, change the blending mode from Screen to Overlay or Soft Light for an amazing glow.
Dodge/Burn: This is a wonderful layer to do final adjustments on your image. Click on this layer to select and use a soft low opacity black brush to paint on the image where you want it darkened (burned), like for a vignette. Use a soft low opacity white brush to paint on areas you want lightened (dodged). If you mess up, simply Edit, Fill the layer with 50% gray and start over or paint over the layer mask.
Vignette: This layer automatically darkens the edges of your image and is turned off. To turn it on click on the little box to the left until you see a tiny eyeball. Adjust opacity to taste, and try it in soft light or multiply blending mode to get the best result for you image.
B&W: This is a simple B&W conversion layer, but it can be invaluable if you want to quickly see if an image would look great in B&W. If it looks nice but not perfect, turn it off and flatten your edited image and then use your favorite B&W editing technique or action.
If you want to do your full B&W conversion in Perfect Portrait, turn this layer on before doing any other adjustments and then edit the layers. You can actually get stunning B&W's this way. You can also easily do selective coloring (as seen below). Turn on the B&W layer and then click the layer mask to select and use a soft black brush to paint over the image where you want to add color.
I know this sounds like a lot of work, but once you have run this action a few times you will find you can go from SOOC to gorgeous in just a few minutes.
Perfect Portrait 3 works great on all skin tones and also your basic snapshots. This action should run in PSE6 and up and all versions of Photoshop CS. I am coming out with a mini action that has the skin smoothing, boost and a cool define layer for those times you just need a simple action to fix skin.
Download the completely free Perfect Portrait 3 PS/PSE action at mediafire. And please leave a comment after you try it and let me know what you think. I hope you love it as much as I do. ♥
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For complete info on installing all of my actions, click here.