Monday, September 6

CoffeeShop PowderRoom After Dark Free Action!


I have had so many people email me that they would like a retouching action that would work great on darker complexion/eyes. So here is my new version of PowderRoom, PowderRoom After Dark (named by Tanisha). This action will work on all portraits, but it is perfect for enhancing darker skin and eyes.

You can download the free action at the bottom of this post,
but now I will walk you through a step-by-step tutorial on how to use the action. If you are new to my retouching actions or haven't used layer masks before, please read the tutorial before running the action! This action is very easy, but if you are new to using Photoshop or Photoshop Elements you will need the instructions.

This beautiful image was taken by Morgan.  I did some very basic adjustments in Photoshop ACR and then decided to use the spot healing brush tool to remove a few pieces of lint and dark spots on the skin.  You can also use the cloning brush or any method you prefer.

I circled a few areas I touched up in this "after" . I then ran the CoffeeShop PowderRoom After Dark action.  It will automatically flatten your image BEFORE starting the action.

Now you can see all of the layers.  I usually start on the Skin Smooth layer.  Select a soft white brush and make sure it is in Normal Mode (see top menubar in PSE or Photoshop). 

You can soften skin two ways.  I  am lazy so I usually make the brush 100% opacity, click to select the black layer mask on the skin smoothing layer, and then brush over the face, trying to avoid the eyes, eyebrows, lips, and nostrils.  Then I can lower the opacity of that layer to taste so my skin won't look like plastic.

The other method is to start with a lower opacity brush and gently brush over areas that need softness, and continue to brush over them until the face is smooth and then adjust the final opacity.  This takes more time but can be more realistic.

You can see I have the soft brush tool selected, white as my foreground color, and my brush mode is Normal and my opacity is 100% (see top menubar).  You can see where I painted on the face if you look at the little black layer mask next to the skin smooth layer.

I worked very quickly and ended up softening some areas I don't want soft (circled).  This is easy to fix!

I quickly switched my foreground color to black (press X) and then made my brush smaller and painted back over the image to remove the unwanted softness from her lips, nostril, eyes, hair and eyebrows.  Make sure the black layer mask is still selected before painting on the image.

Now her skin looks like plastic.  Not a great look, but very easy to fix.

Simply adjust the Skin Smooth layer's opacity until the skin is smooth but retains some texture. I always try to make sure the skin still looks like skin since I am not a fan of over-processed retouching.

Then I move on to the eyes.

Click to select the Eye Sharpen black layer mask and use a soft white brush (opacity to taste) to paint over the eyelashes, iris, eye brows, nostrils, lips, and/or hair.  You can use a 100% opacity brush and then lower the opacity of that layer if needed, or use different brush opacities on different parts of the image. I prefer to use a lower opacity brush on the eyebrows than I do on the iris, so I usually adjust my brush opacity as I edit.

When you are finished sharpening your eyes, then click to select the EyePop black layer mask and grab your soft white brush at 100% opacity.  Zoom in and gently paint over the iris, ignoring the pupil.  If you find the eyes are overdone, then lower the opacity of that layer.  If you want more EyePop then you get at 100% opacity, make a duplicate of that layer and adjust the opacity of that new layer to taste.

The final adjustment is called Bright Skin.  This is just a contrast pop layer, but it looks lovely on darker skin and eyes. You can mask out areas that have too much contrast by using a black brush on the white layer mask, or simply adjust the opacity of that layer.

This action can be run on any portrait, but it might add too much contrast to lighter skin.  In that case you can mask out the skin in the Bright Skin layer or lower the Bright Skin layer opacity.

I hope you enjoy using this action! 

NOTE:  After this action runs you won't see any difference on your image other than a slight contrast pop because you have to paint on the black layer masks.  If you don't see any changes while painting on the image after selecting the mask, you are probably doing one of two things:

1.  Make sure you click to select the layer mask and use a white brush on a black mask or a black brush on a white mask.
2.  Make sure your brush is in NORMAL Mode!  This is the most common mistake and happens to all of us at one time or another.

Download the free CoffeeShop PowderRoom After Dark PSE and PS action HERE!

Do you want to download my favorite CoffeeShop Actions 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. Thank you for sharing, I thought this was a really nice tutorial in addition to a free action! Thanks again!

  2. Love the name of this action, Rita!

    Thanks again for sharing your incredible talent and to Morgan for such a beautiful image for the tutorial!

  3. Yeah yeah yeah!!!!!! I am so excited! I feel like a kid with a new toy! Glad you liked the name! I'm still smiling from ear to ear right now! I can't wait to try it on all my pictures.

  4. Thanks for another great action!

  5. Love this, Rita! Makes a huge difference even in casual snapshots.

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I cannot wait to try this out tomorrow with some pictures of my daughter!

  7. Yay!! thank you, thank you, thank you! my son is from Ethiopia and it has been difficult to retouch his skin. Can't wait to try this action!

  8. THANK YOU! I am just getting into photography. I often wondered if there were actions for African american skin types. Thanks, this is cool!

  9. I've just discovered your website and am overblown by how great your actions are! Thank you for bringing these into the public domain - and for free! I promise I will donate! Thanks you!!!!!

  10. I am struggling with this action. On the Smooth Skin layer I am doing everything you show. Most parts of her skin turn out great but on some brighter spots it turns white. How do I fix this?

    the rest of your instructions worked great.

    When you say white brush and black brush do you mean your forground colors?

  11. Thank you so much for creating and sharing this action! So many of the portrait actions out there (free and paid) are desingned to bleach out light skinned clients and about 50% of my portrait clients have medium to darker skin. Thank you thank you thank you - can't wait to try this out.

  12. Thank you so much for providing this tutorial! I'm having the same problem Sissabug is having. When I use the soft white brush to smooth skin, it paints the lighter areas white. What am I doing wrong?

  13. Wow- your tutorial was great & the action AMAZING!!!! Thank you for sharing, it's a great addition!!!

  14. Having difficulty installing this one. Once I open Photoshop Elements 10 nothing happens. Could there be a compatibility problem with Elements 10?


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