Today I am really excited to post a new step-by-step retouching tutorial for Photoshop and PSE users. No little phone app (at this time) replaces a real editing program when you need to custom retouch a portrait. I have many really wonderful retouching actions available on this blog, and I have had many requests from readers to walk them through an entire retouch from the beginning.
Today I will show you one way I quickly adjust contrast, fix color casts (without using any actions), and remove minor blemishes. Tomorrow I will show you how I use one of my favorite retouching actions (and layer masks!) to make this portrait go from average to amazing.
CoffeeShop Retouching Tutorial for Photoshop/PSE, Part 1 (Color Casts and Blemishes):
I found this adorable image on Pixabay. Right away I noticed it had a reddish/yellowish tint, and the little scratch under her right eye is very distracting. However, both of these are easy fixes. If you want to edit along with me, you can download the same image here. You can read Part 2 of this tutorial here.
1. Fix Exposure: There are many ways to adjust the exposure of an image, and today I will show you how I do it using a level's adjustment layer. As you can see from the screen capture above, I added some shadow (black slider), lightened the mid tones (gray slider), and brightened the highlights (white slider).
Moving the sliders under the start of the curve on the left and right will usually add a nice boost of contrast to your image. Then move the middle slide to the left to lighten the mid tones and to the right to darken the mid tones. This has to be adjusted for each image.
Now we will work on the yellowish-reddish color cast.
2. Remove Color Cast: After adjusting the contrast I could really see that this image has too much red and yellow. If you can't easily tell what color cast you are dealing with but know the image is "off", it is easy to play around with a level's adjustment layer until you get a nice skin tone.
I added a new level's adjustment layer on top and selected "Blue" from the pull-down menubar. If you add blue you remove yellow (you don't have to trust me on this one, play with the sliders to convince yourself). I removed some of the yellow from the mid tones by moving the middle (gray) slider to the right. I also added a bit of blue to the shadows (black slider).
Now I need to deal with the reddish tint.
I used the same level's adjustment layer and selected "Red" in the pull-down menubar. I removed some red from the mid tones (moved the middle slider toward the right). Now I see a bit of green tint. Argggh.
I selected "Green" and moved the middle slider a tiny bit to the right to reduce the green in the mid tones, and then added a tiny bit of green to the shadows. Just eyeball these settings as you make the adjustments.
There is still a bit of red tint that is irritating me. I know this seems like a lot of adjustments, but it only takes a minute or two at the most.
I selected the "Red" again and moved the middle slider from 0.84 down to 0.75 to reduce the reds in the mid tones. Now I am pretty happy with the skin tone colors. At least for now. ;-)
This is something you will have to experiment with on your own images to get that perfect skin tone color. Don't be afraid to play around with the sliders under the curve. And make sure your monitor is calibrated.
3. Fix Blemishes: There are many ways to fix blemishes on portraits, but I wanted to show you my favorite "quick and dirty way" to do it.
As you can see in the screen capture above, this adorable girl has a scratch under her right eye and a bit of skin discoloration under her left eye.
Flatten your image after adjusting the exposure and color, and make a new layer over the background. Use the eyedropper tool (I) (set to 3x3) and click on an area of clean skin around the reddish area. Then select your brush (B) set at 0% Hardness and 20-30% opacity and click on the discolored areas until you remove them.
If you add too much skin tone paint you can erase it from the new layer and start over. I often find this "painting" method works better than the patch or clone tools. Don't worry too much about preserving all of the detailed skin tone as we are going to soften the skin some in the next tutorial.
Now you can see the skin is fixed and we are ready to run the portrait action to finish the edit. Part Two of this tutorial will be posted tomorrow, so please come back!
Below is the final edit I will walk you through tomorrow. Note: I usually overdo the retouching in "after" photos on my blog so you can see a difference on your potentially tiny smart phone browser. You can be as subtle in the edit as you want using my actions and tutorials. :-) But isn't she such a doll!
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.