Thursday, April 3, 2014

CoffeeShop Portrait Retouching Photoshop/PSE Tutorial Part 1: Removing Color Casts

I wanted to show you a step-by-step portrait edit on an image that has an unfortunate color cast and really bad lighting.  I downloaded this image from Pixabay and it has a yellowish/greenish tint and really bad under-eye shadows.  But we can save this portrait and make her look as beautiful as she does in real life with a bit of makeup and decent lighting.

This tutorial will be in two parts. Today I am going to show you a little trick to remove color casts using Levels adjustment layers.  Tomorrow in Part 2 I will show you how to quickly clean up her skin, reduce under-eye shadows, and use one of my new retouching actions to complete the edit.

CoffeeShop Portrait Retouching Photoshop/PSE Tutorial Part 1:  Removing Color Casts

This is the image I selected for this tutorial. This is a portrait of a beautiful young woman who unfortunately was photographed in bad lighting.  The skin has too much yellow and her hair has a green tint (especially on the right side) from some type of reflection.

Remove Yellow Tint:  There are many ways to fix color issues on an image in Photoshop, and today I am going to show you how I do it using a Levels adjustment layer.

Add a Levels adjustment layer and pull down the menubar and change the setting from RGB to Blue.  Then move the middle slider to the left to add more blue (and reduce the yellow tint).  As you can see, her skin is starting to look normal.

I also noticed that the blonde streaks in her hair have a greenish tint.  I assume this is from some type of reflection and not due to swimming in chlorine-treated pools.  :-)

Removing Greenish Tint from Hair:  The best way I found to remove the greenish tint in her blonde streaks was not adjusting the Green setting in Levels, but to add some red instead (Fred).

Add another Levels adjustment layer and set the drop-down on Red.  Then add some red (move the middle slider to the left) until you see the green tint disappear.  Don't add too much, you don't want her to look like Raggedy Anne!  Then click on the Levels layer mask and fill it with black (Click Cmd or Control and I as in Invert).  You will paint this layer back in where needed (hair, not skin).

I used a soft white brush at different opacities on the black layer mask and added some red over the green streaks.  She still has some reddish tint on her forehead hairline, and I went back and painted them out after this screenshot was taken.

I also wanted to slightly brighten her streaks, so I changed the pull-down menubar on the Red Levels layer and change it to RGB and moved the middle slider to the left until her hair was a bit lighter.  These are all settings you will have to play with on each image, so don't worry about using the same settings I used in this edit.

Here is a before and after.  As you can see, her skin is not yellow and her hair is not green, so I call this a success.  Tomorrow in Part 2 I will show you how I will fix her skin imperfections and finish this retouching job using one of my favorite actions.

Do you want to download my favorite CoffeeShop PSE/Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets or Design Elements in one convenient zipped file AND help support this blog? Just click here for my action pack or here for a download of some of my most popular design elements, storyboards, and textures. 

For complete info on installing all of my actions, click here.


  1. Rita, I'm excited that you're doing this tutorial as I've been wanting to learn using the levels more. I'm stuck in one part and am hoping you could help me, please??? I'm not understanding this statement: "Then click on the Levels layer mask and fill it with black. You will paint this layer back in where needed (hair, not skin)." I clicked on the Layers tab where the mask is and it's white, double clicked it and selected black and clicked OK. I don't think this is what you're wanting me to do, could you please explain how I can fill the mask black?? Thank you!

  2. Michelle, just click on the white layer mask and go to a Edit, Fill and select black.

  3. I'm with Michelle, I still don't get it. I'm in PSE 11 and have clicked the white box next to Layers and don't know how I get Edit, Fill and select black. I'm so stumped!

  4. PSE users can make the layer mask black by clicking on it and holding down Cmd (control)-I (I as in invert).

  5. “ I have been waiting for most of these tips since years. As I don't use photoshop design regularly, I never really bothered to find a solution to all these things. Awesome, thank you! “