Sunday, November 23

CoffeeShop "From Blah to Beautiful" Portrait Editing Tutorial for Photoshop and PSE!

Today I am really excited to post this Photoshop/PSE portrait editing tutorial called "From Blah to Beautiful".  I am going to show you how I would edit a portrait using my actions and additional editing layers.  You will learn many tips and tricks that the professionals use in their portrait editing and hopefully have some fun.  :-)

I also want to point out that you don't have to pay big money to rent Photoshop, even if you are a professional photographer.  I used PSE (only $50 at Amazon for Prime members today!) for this edit and I think the results are gorgeous.

If you want to follow along with this tutorial you can download the stock image here.  I ran it through LR to remove some noise but everything else was editing in PSE.  If you don't have them yet, you can download the CoffeeShop 2 Minute Miracle Plus and Aphrodite actions (also included in my Action Download Pack).  Now on to the editing!!!

CoffeeShop "From Blah to Beautiful" Portrait Editing Tutorial for Photoshop/PSE:

Open your image.  This is a beautiful portrait I found on Pixabay, but it needs some editing magic.

1.  I ran the CoffeeShop 2 Minute Miracle Plus action on the image.  This action starts with a Level's adjustment layer prompt, and I use this to adjust both contrast and color in my image.

Contrast Adjustment:  Make sure the RGB channel is selected and drag the sliders under the curve to adjust the contrast of you image.  In this case I brightened the midtones and added some shadow.  Don't be too picky at this step, you can make additional adjustments later if needed.

2.  Color Adjustment:  I think this image is too green so I selected the Green Channel and adjusted the middle and left sliders.  You will have to play with these settings for your own images.  I usually make some final adjustments at the end of my edit, so don't get too worried about perfection at this step.

I selected the Red Channel and added a bit of red using the sliders under the curve.

Finally, I selected the Blue Channel and removed some blue (added some yellow) with the middle slider.

When your colors/contrast look acceptable, press OK.

3.  Skin Smoothing:  Select the skin when prompted by the action.  I usually love my auto-skin smoother but it doesn't work well if your model is wearing light colors as in this case.  But don't worry, you will fix this after the action finishes running.

The action is done and my image is not yet perfect.  Now I will start working on the layers (layer mask tutorial) and adding additional editing layers where needed.  I took screenshots as I worked on this image in PSE, and I am editing quickly "on the fly" so I am going to be skipping around and might appear a bit spastic. ;-)

Skin Smoothing:  I usually soften the skin first.  Click on the Smooth Skin black layer mask to select it.  The auto-smoothing feature was a disaster this time because of her white dress, so I took a soft black 100% brush and completely painted over the entire image to remove all of the layer's effect.

Then I zoomed in and clicked on the layer mask holding shift/alt,option so I could see where I was working (see scary red in screenshot above).  I used a soft white brush at 100% and painted over her skin making sure to avoid her eyes/nose/mouth/hair/clothing/etc.  Switch between a soft black and soft white brush (press X) to make final adjustments, then press shift/alt,option  again to remove the red.

Edit Eyes:  Use a white soft brush to paint over the iris on the Bright Eyes and the Eye Define layers.  Here is a tutorial that explains these layers and how to edit them in case you need some help.  Please don't overdo the eyes and make them look alien-freaky!

Boost Layer:  I reduced the Boost layer to 26% for this image.

Add Color Saturation:  I wanted to make the color more vibrant. If you have Photoshop you can add a Vibrance layer on top which usually doesn't affect the skin.  Since I am using PSE to do this edit I added a Hue/Saturation layer on top and moved the Master Saturation slider up to 12%.

If this makes the skin too red, just select the layer mask and paint over the red areas with a soft low opacity black brush to remove the extra color.

After all of this editing I realized the image was still too dark so I added a Level's adjustment layer on top and added some brightness to the mid tones (middle slider to 1.30).  This is also a great time to make final color adjustments by using the Channel's Red, Green, and Blue drop-down menu.

This new Level's adjustment layer was not kind to her white dress and blew it out, so I clicked on the layer mask and painted over her dress with a soft black brush to remove the extra lightness.

Warming the Image:  I usually prefer warm portraits, so I added a Photo Filter layer on top and set the filter to Warming Filter (85), Preserve Luminosity checked and adjusted it to 29%.    I love the background but I think it added too much orange to her skin and dress.

I used a 50% opacity black soft brush and removed some of the Photo Filter layer from her skin and dress.

Brighten Skin:  This is a nifty trick to really make the skin glow.  Click on the Soften Skin layer and then add a Solid Color adjustment layer set to peach (fae6d9 in my edit).

Put the layer in Soft Light blending mode for light skin and Multiply blending mode for darker skin, and group that layer with the Soften Skin layer.   Adjust the opacity to taste.

Because you have already painted on the layer mask on the Skin Soften layer, the peach layer will only affect the skin once it is grouped to that layer.  I also reduced the Soften Skin layer from 60% to 40% in this edit.  I think her skin looks gorgeous now but I noticed that her arms were a bit red.

Reduce Red:  To remove red tint from skin, click on the "Remove red from skin layer" and use a soft white brush to remove the red where needed.  Ah, better.

Corrections:  I realized that I had removed my vivid color saturation from her eyes when I painted it off her face, so I clicked on the Hue/Saturation's layer mask and grabbed a white soft 100% brush and painted the effect back on her eyes to enhance their blue color.

Simple Slimming Trick:  I wanted to share a really simple trick to slightly slim a portrait.  Make a new blank layer on top and click four keys at once (Shift, alt/option, cmd, E) and this will make a copy of the image with all enhancement layers added to it.  Then Ctrl-T that layer and slightly pull in the side (leave the height at 100%, but make the width approximately 97%). Then crop the image so you don't see the extra bit left on the side.  

This enhancement is very subtle, but it will make many of your female clients quite happy.  :-)

Optional Matte Effect:  If you want to add the very popular Matte Effect, add a Level's adjustment layer on top and move the shadows (left slider) in a bit and the Output Levels slider on bottom to the right.  Adjust for your image.

Using "Arty" Action:  Once your image is cleanly edited you might want to add an artistic editing effect using an action, and lucky for you I have over a hundred of them posted on this blog. ;-)

I did not add the Matte Effect above and instead ran the Aphrodite action on my image and adjusted the layers to taste.  I really love the soft vintage effect of this edit.

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.

Below I have posted larger versions of my edits using this tutorial. If you have any questions please post them in the comments on this post.  And please post your before and after's on my Facebook page, I love seeing your work!!!  I hope you enjoyed my newest editing tutorial!

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. Maybe I missed it, but I can't seem to find a link for downloading just this action for PS. I see the links for all your actions, but I already have most of them... :)Thanks!

  2. Jeff, there is not a new action for this tutorial, I just used ones that I have previously released. I just wanted to show how I use the actions and also the fact you can combine the actions. :-) Rita

  3. Thank you very much for the actions, lessons and tips/tricks. I will be putting this to use over the holidays! Wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  4. Ahhh. I thought it was a new one. Digging through my actions, I see now that I already have Aphrodite, and I can see that it is a tutorial. I was confused there. Thanks for clarifying!

  5. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Rita! I love checking in with your great blog every morning. I learn so much and send lots of friends to visit, too!

    THANKS for all you do!!!!

  6. Thank you Jill, you always make me feel so good!!!


Thank you for taking the time to leave a message, I love reading them! All comments are personally moderated by me and I will post and answer them them as soon as possible.