Posted by Claire Wade

In part one of this series I showed covered cropping and cleaning up the background of a portrait image. If you have not seen this article and would like to, please click here.

In this part I’m going to cover brightening up the image and skin. Obviously skin is very varied. Younger people should need a lot less work, but that’s not always so. Also, varying skin colours and tones means that there is no hard and fast rules¬† as to photoshopping them and a lot of it is down to doing it by eye and personal preference. Also, if you are editing a group shot of people with varying skin colours, it is a good idea to do each person individually on separate layers. This is a setting to improve one person, it may turn another a little too red or yellow, etc.

I’m continuing this tutorial using the same photo of my husband (with his permission!!), although as stated before, I think he’s perfect as is ūüôā

So here’s where I left off last time:


The first thing do do would be to boost the colours. Go to Image РAdjustments РCurves  or press ctrl + m.

This will bring up the Curves dialogue box. There is a diagonal line, click on two points on the line and move the top one up a little and the other lower. The upper point should brighten the lighter colours in the¬† image and the lower will darken the darker tones. If this doesn’t seem to be what is happening, click on where it says Curve display options and make sure light is clicked.

This adjusment of the curve is known as the S shape. The more S shaped the curve is, the more contrasting it will be. Avoid over doing it, how much you do this is up to you. With paler people, be careful that parts of the face do not turn too red. With darker people, be careful of not losing any definition.

Once you are happy with the curves, click OK, or press Return. resizedimage500307-62

So after adjusting the curves, some areas are a little red. (Some people are already a bit red in places, so you may need to do this anyway.)

Go to the bottom of the layers palette and click on the symbol that is a half black half white circle. A pop up menu should appear, as pictured left, and click on Selective Colour.


The Selective Colour Options dialogue box will appear. The top area defaults at red, and this is where you should keep it. There are other options and it’s worth having a look at them and seeing how they affect your image as you may find this tool useful in other projects.

There are sliders for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Slide the red and yellow to the left. Don’t worry about the entire image being too pale, this will be fixed later.


A new Selective Colour layer will appear in the Layers Palette, already with it’s own layer mask. It will default to being white.

Click on the Paint Bucket tool as shown on the left, and press D on your keyboard to make black the foreground colour. Make sure that on the Selective Colour layer that the actual thumbnail of the mask is clicked on (there will be a fine line around it) and then click on the image with the Paint Bucket tool. This should turn the mask black.


You now need to click on the Brush tool which is pointed to on the left. Or you can press B.

Press X to swap around the colours, making white your foeground colour. You can see what the foreground colour is by looking at the two squares on the bottom left hand corner.

The Brush may be set at 100%, in photoshop, this setting is shown at the top. Try to knock it it down to around 30%. To enlarge or decrease the size on the brush, use the [ and ] keys on your keyboard, they are just to the right of the letter P. To soften or harden the edges of the brush, press shift with the [ or ] keys.

Make sure that you are still clicked on the mask and start gently brushing on any red areas on the image. They should start fading back.

Once you are happy that the red is faded enough, go to Layer – Flatten Image, and this will turn your image back into one layer.


Next you need to copy the background layer.

So go to Layer – New – Layer Via Copy, or press CTRL + J


Next you need to select the Patch Tool. The arrow on the left points to it. It should look like a curly loop. If you cannot see it, keep pressing Shift + J and it will appear (after going through other tools that also occupy that place on the tool bar).

Make sure that you are working on the top layer, as the right hand layer is pointing to.

And also make sure that the Source button is clicked, as shown by the upper arrow.

Now draw around any parts that show bags or wrinkles etc. As you can see by the dotted lines under Glyn’s eye, I drew around there. Then, keep the left mouse button held down and drag it to an¬† area of clear skin. Then let go of the mouse. The wrinkled or baggy area should now be replaced with clearer skin.

DO NOT worry at this point if it looks overdone. The effect will be made more subtle later!

Continue to do this over any other areas that you would like to smooth out. The patch tool can take some time to master, but is worth it. You can also use the clone brush instead, but I prefer the patch tool.

87Poor Glyn now looks like he’s been to a mad plastic surgeon. But worry not, we can fix this!


On the Layers Pallet, with the top layer still highlighted (this is the layer where you use the Patch Tool), click on the Opacity and you can either type in a value (from 1% – 100%) or a slider pops up.

Slide this up and down, you will see the layer beneath with all of the original wrinkles, showing through.

The more transparent you make the upper layer, the more wrinkles you will see. But by making the upper smoother layer a bit transparent, you keep the smoothness of the upper layer, whilst keeping some of the original lumps and bumps of the skin, so that the photo doesn’t appear overdone.

It’s up to you how transparent you make the upper layer.¬† In this instance, I did it at 55%.

Then Flatten your image: go to Layer РFlatten Image.


Again, you need to copy the background layer as before.

So go to Layer – New – Layer Via Copy, or press CTRL + J

1. So with the top layer highlighted, go to Filter – Blur – Gausian Blur. A box will apear, type in the value of 1.


2. So with the top layer still highlighted, go to Filter – Noise – Add noise. A box will apear, type in the value of 1.

Do Steps 1 and 2 two more times.


You will notice  that the top layer will have become rather soft and looking out of focus, especially on the hair and eyes.

With the top layer still highlights, go to: Layer – Layer Mask – Hide All.

This will hide the top layer with a mask, but it is still there.


On the top layer you will see within the layers palette, the black thumbnail that shows the mask. Make sure you click on this (you will see a little box appear around it.) The arrow on the right is pointing to it.

Select the brush tool. The arrow on the left is pointing to it. You can also select it by pressing B.

Make sure that white is your foreground colour (Press D then X). Then I would knock the opacity of your brush back to around 20%. The middle arrow is pointing to where you do this.

Then start painting on parts of the face where you would like to soften the skin.

When you are happy with your results, flatten the image: go to Layer РFlatten Image.


Another way to soften the skin is to create a new layer as before (Layer – New – Layer Via Copy, or press CTRL + J)

Then with the new layer highlighted, go to Filters – Other – High Pass. When the dialogue box pops up, type in a value of around 6.


The top layer will look grey and horrible, but worry not!

Go to Image – Adjustments – Invert (Or press CTRL + I)

Then in the layers palette, click on the arrow next to where it says ‘normal”. The arrow is pointing to it. A drop down menu will appear and choose ‘overlay‘.

Now you will have a softer version of your image.

Knock back the opacity of this layer to around 50%. Opactity is found to the right of where it said normal on your layers pallette.

If you think that the eyes and hair are too soft, create a layer mask, go to: Layer РLayer Mask РReveal  All. Then click the Brush tool (press B) and select black (press D). Then make sure that you clicked on the mask, then paint over the areas that you would like to be sharp.

Then flatten the image: go to Layer РFlatten Image.

95Ok, so this is where we are at right now.  The next tutorial will cover brightening eyes, removing spots and make up!!