Tutorial: Retouching skin in Photoshop

by Guest Writer

This tutorial came in from Chris - IZA Tuto - and shows some savvy technique all beginner to intermediate Photoshop users should know. Chris writes . . .

Free Photoshop Tutorial - Skin retouchingIn this tutorial I am going to teach you how to clear oily and shiny skin (often referred to as hotspots) from a photo without making it look unrealistic.

Oily or shiny skin is a problem that comes up often for non-professional photographers. We can't walk around with the artificial lighting and make-up that eliminates these problems all day, so we settle for editing the photo in Photoshop. Photoshop's toolset enables us to remove the oily and shiny effect without making the person look like a plastic doll.

There are many difficult and wrong ways of clearing the skin, we're going to show you the easiest and most effective way of doing it.

Firstly I would like to state that the photo we are using for this tutorial has both of the oily and shiny skin effects, however, this was the photographer's desired effect and is a bit more extreme than you would normally find in a photo. We use it to show you that even with effects this extreme, it's still possible to easily clear oily and shiny skin without making the photo look unrealistic.

original image showing shineFor this tutorial we're using Photoshop CS3 on a Windows 7 machine. Also, the 'Alt' key on a Windows is the same as the 'Option' key on a Mac so when we say press the Alt button on your keyboard, Mac users can press the Option button on their keyboards. (Click the image for enlargement)

Step 1. Open your photo in Photoshop by either double-clicking the empty grey background or going to 'File' -> 'Open' or by pressing 'Ctrl+O' on your keyboard. Select your file and click 'Open'. We've chosen a face only but the techniques in this tutorial can be used on any part of the body on skin.

drag layer to new layer button in layers paletteStep 2. First we need to duplicate our image to ensure we don't destroy it with our work. In the bottom right corner of Photoshop you'll see the 'Layers' pallet. Inside this pallet is a small image of your photo with the name 'background'. Grab this layer by clicking and holding your mouse on it, then drag it to the little page icon to the left side of the trash can icon. This will duplicate the image in another layer. You can now work on this layer without affecting the normal image.

Please Note: you don't have to dupilcate the image itself, you can simply create empty layers and work on them. Create an empty layer by clicking once on the little page icon beside the trash can. When using empty layers you can work on different sections of the image like the nose or the mouth seperately inside each layer. This is especially usefull when you are new to Photoshop and not yet confident enough to do everything on one layer. We are though so if you prefer this method, simply create a new layer each time when your correcting a different part of the face, the rest is the same.

Set the opacity of the new layerStep 3. In the top right hand corner of the layers pallet you will see a little slider box, this sets the opacity of the layer. Set the opacity of the new layer (or your empty one if you've opted for that route) to 75. The opacity for the layer can be changed at any time you want so feel free to play around with it.

the eyedropper tool Step 4. We're going to be using the eyedropper tool later on so we want so set a specific setting for it. Click on the eyedropper tool in the tool panel on the left hand side of Photoshop or simply press 'I' on your keyboard:

Set the eyedropper sampling range Just below the menu bar you'll see the settings panel for the eyedropper tool. In the 'Sample Size' dropdown box select either 3 by 3 average or 5 by 5 average. This is the amount of pixels the eyedropper tool will use to grab a colour with. Again, it's your choice which one you want to choose but we've opted for the 3 by 3 this time.

Select the Brush tool Step 5. Now select the paintbrush in the tool panel on the left hand side of Photoshop or simply press 'B' or your keyboard.

Again, we are going to configure some settings for the brush tool. The brush size is not important at the moment, so we'll skip it for now. Select a round brush and set the hardness of the brush to zero (0), this is so when we clear the skin the paint blends in nicely. To the right we set the opacity for the brush itself very low, you can experiment with the opacity but we recommend 25.

This is the Brush Settings Palette

If you want, you can enable the airbrush effect as well. This is a personal preference and is not required so play around with it a little. In this tutorial we are not going to use it but we recommend setting the flow of the airbrush to 40 when using it.

Step 6. Now we're ready to start cleaning up the skin. Choose one of the oily or shiny spots, now press and hold the Alt / Option key on your keyboard and click somewhere on the skin (preferably next to the oily or shiny spot where the skin is just a little bit darker). Let go of the Alt / Option key, you've just chosen the colour you're going to paint onto the skin. Now set your brush size according to the oily or shiny spot, so it's easy to paint on it, by pressing either the left or the right curly braces {} on your keyboard. The left is to make the brush smaller and the right makes it bigger.

Now we begin sampling the flesh tones using brush sampling Now start to paint over the oily or shiny spot with the brush, depending on the level of oil or shine you may need to paint several times on the spot. You'll see the spot become less oily or shiny, be careful not to overdo it though because it will look like plastic if you paint too much. Do this for the whole face where the skin is oily or shiny. Take your time and even zoom in if you have to.

painting over the oily sections of the skin Please Note: if the skin is extremely oily or shiny, we recommend that you choose a colour on a darker part of the face or a shadow perhaps and paint over the oily or shiny part.

Then you can choose a slightly lighter colour to blend in the oily or shiny spot, take care to blend the edges of the spot. Lastly use a light colour to blend it in perfectly or to your liking and once again take care to blend the edges of the oily or shiny spot.

Step 7. You should now have something similar to this. . .

The finished image ... nice dry skintones

Step 8. Finally, if you want you can do the hair as well (we did because the model in our picture had some oil in her hair). You can also play around with the layer's opacity setting, be careful to have some shine on the photo to keep it realistic, we've set our final opacity setting to 65.

Last Note: We hope you've enjoyed this Photoshop tutorial about cleaning oily and shiny skin easily and realistically.


Again, thanks to Chris at IZA Tuto in South Africa, for submitting this free tutorial for DTG readers! Catch up with Chris at tuto.iza.co.za

thanks for reading

Fred Showker

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