Wednesday, June 8

CoffeeShop Photoshop/PSE Tutorial: "Surface Blur to the Rescue! Soften Skin and Remove Noise Quickly."

I have a digital pile of Photoshop/PSE editing tutorials on my desktop that I need to organize and get posted up here on my blog. Today I wanted to point out a few ways that I use the amazing "Surface Blur" filter in my Photoshop/PSE editing.

I find the "Surface Blur" filter an absolute necessity when I am trying to quickly edit a noisy image and smooth skin at the same time. I find the "Noise Reduction" filter in Photoshop hit-or-miss, so I usually prefer to selectively use the "Surface Blur" filter instead for more control.

Like most Photoshop editing techniques, there are several ways to go about it and you just need to find your favorite method.

Today I am going to walk you through how I smooth skin and reduce background noise quickly and selectively using this magic filter. This technique is very useful if you have low-light or lower resolution images.

CoffeeShop "Surface Blur" Skin Smoothing/Noise Reduction Tutorial:

This original image is from Adina Voice. It is a beautiful portrait.

But if you zoom in you can see there is significant background noise and her skin could use a bit of smoothing.

I have plenty of retouching actions that you can run on this image, but sometimes you don't want to mess with an action or you simply want to learn how to do it on your own.

Copy the image to a new layer (Ctrl-J). Work on this new layer instead of the original.

Go to the top menubar and select Filter, Blur, Surface Blur. This filter does a great job of softening without completely removing detail unlike "Gaussian  Blur" which makes your image look blurry.

Adjust the Radius and Threshold until her skin is flawless. Don't worry about the rest of the image, you will add a layer mask and selectively paint on this effect and also adjust the opacity to taste.

Alt(Option)-Click on the layer mask icon to add a black layer mask to this layer. Now the softened layer is hidden and you will have to selectively paint it back on.

Skin Smoothing: Zoom in and use a white brush at 50% softness and 100% opacity to completely paint the softened layer back on her skin. I usually do a quick job and then go back and use a slightly softened black brush at 100% to remove the effect off her hair, eyebrows, mouth, nostrils, and eyes.

To see the red tint to help in your painting, click on the "\" key. Click again to remove the red tint.

Reduce Noise: Now I will go and fix the noisy background.

I grabbed a 50% soft white brush and quickly painted over the background, making sure to avoid her hair. I don't add this "Surface Blur" layer 100% to the background because I over-softened that layer to make her skin really pretty.

The white and light gray areas have the "Surface Blur" layer added, the black areas are not blurred in any way. White shows, Black hides.

Now you can see her skin is very pretty and smooth and the noisy background has been corrected without loosing any detail.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. I am always interested in getting new ideas for actions, storyboards, digital designs, and tutorials; so please feel free to leave a comment on any of my posts with your requests!

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.

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  1. Thank you so much for this great tutorial! It saved one of photos from a recent session. :)

  2. Hi!
    I can't see the red tint, you said click on the "\" key, but nothing happens...

    1. I don't know what that isn't working, but you can also alt/option click on the mask and see the mask on your image too!


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