Believable Retouching

While some fashion and advertising images are heavily retouched, the best way to practice the techniques are to learn how to retouch naturally, with your aim to make the retouching undetectable unless compared to the original RAW image.

session 11

There is blotchiness and redness in the skin, there are spots, and there are areas of shininess/oily skin and also, being an available light photograph, some areas are high in contrast and result in deep shadows that are emphasising wrinkles and folds. While there is no one way to retouch, the main tools used are generally Clone Stamp, Heal, and Spot Heal. We will be using a combination of these three to remove the spots and stray hairs etc. As usual, we’ll make a copy of the background layer by pressing CMD+J or by dragging the layer to the new layer icon Once copied, rename the layers as original and Working Copy, or names that at least make sense to you. Next step is to create a layer purely to contain the retouching we will be doing. Click the New Layer icon, or use Shift+CMD+N You will now have a blank layer to retouch on. Call this layer Retouch. Whichever retouch tool you are using, check at the top of the screen in the context menu that you have set “Current & Below” set. This will ensure that nothing above the retouch layer is included in the sampling. It is important that you do the retouching first before the next steps, and that the retouching layer is directly above the image layer, as “spot healing” tool only has a context option for “Sample all layer” and this will include the other layers we will be creating shortly. As these layers effect colour, it’s very important retouching is done first. If possible, avoid using “spot healing” tool. If you DO need to go back in and retouch again, you can only use retouching tools that have “current & below” as in the context menu. Go ahead and retouch using whichever method you want, but make sure that you have the retouch layer selected, and “Current & Below” set in the context menu for sampling. When using the Heal tool, be careful not to go near edges of differing colours or contrasts, or the colour may be “pulled” out of the area like below. When going close to edges, use the Clone Stamp tool instead, or make sure the heal tool is aligned (as demonstrated in session) All your retouching should now be on one layer. Before and after. That’s all the retouching done, and it’s all on one layer. There are still issues with the skin however. There is redness, blotchiness, and lines/wrinkles. For natural looking retouching, these should not be removed using the retouching tools, as it makes the skin look too perfect. It may be ideal for a highly stylised fashion shoot, but the purpose of this exercise is to create utterly believable retouching. First we will deal with the redness of the skin, and coloured blotchiness left be spot removal. Step 2: Removing Redness and colour blotching. First of all, select what looks like a healthy skin tone from the image, using the Eyedropper tool from the main toolbar, and make sure this is the selected foreground colour. Create a new Solid Colour Fill layer by clicking the “Create new fill or adjustment layer” icon. And select Solid Colour. This will create a solid colour layer the same colour as the skin. It will completely hide the underlying portrait. Change its name to Skin Redness. Change the blending mode to “color” and you should have a monochrome image the same colour as the skin tone you selected. However, only want this colour to affect the skin tones. As the Solid Color layer is an adjustment layer, you will notice it has its own layer mask already added. If we invert this, by selecting the layer mask and pressing CMD+I it will invert the layer mask to black and restore the colour. Ensure your foreground colour is white (it should automatically do this when selecting the layer mask) and you can paint the new skin colour from the Solid Color layer back in with a paintbrush. Only paint in the skin. Do not paint on eyes, hair, clothes or lips. Only flesh. If the colour appears wrong, as shown here… Double click the Solid Colour in the layer itself, and a new colour picker will appear. Click on another part of the face until a healthy skin colour is found. Click back onto the layer mask, ensure white is the foreground colour, and carry on revealing the colour through the layer mask. Once completed, you should have an image that appears to have only one skin tone colour present. This obviously looks strange, but you’ll notice the redness is no longer present. Note how I have avoided the eyes, lips, hair, and clothes when revealing the Solid Color layer with the layer mask. To restore a more natural looking skin, we can now fade back the Solid Color adjustment layer by reducing opacity to around 50%. Already this is a massive improvement from where we started. Step 3: Dodging and burning. We’ve discussed dodging and burning on a layer in previous sessions, and we used a grey layer set to overlay to influence the underlying image. Previously we’ve used overlay to make quite dramatic changes to the image, which works well with very punchy, contrast images, or images with very hard lighting. However, the disadvantage with using a grey layer with Overlay as the blend mode, is that while it’s great to add dramatic effects, a portrait like this, where looking natural is required, Soft Light can be a more effective layer blend to use. Last session, we also recapped how to create mid grey by using R:128, G:128 and B:128. There is a quick way to do this, but I wanted you to understand what mid grey was. Now you do, feel free to use this quicker method. Click “Create a new layer” icon. Then go to Edit/Fill Then select “50% Grey” from the “Use” menu. You will now have a grey layer at the top of the stack. Rename it “Dodge & Burn” Set the layer blend to “Soft Light” and use the Dodge and Burn tools to lighten and darken areas that appear heavy, or light accordingly. Please remember to alter the size, and hardness of your brush. Ideally a graphics tablet should be used here, but it is perfectly possible to achieve god results with a mouse, providing size and hardness is used appropriately. Wrinkles and folds can be reduced using this method, but you must zoom right in, and use very small brushes. Here is my Dodge & Burn layer.(next page) Notice how I have used a big, soft brush to adjust large softer areas, and then used very hard, small brushes to adjust wrinkles and small details. Here’s a zoomed in look at the lines around the mouth and nose. The results of this can be seen below. The overall effect is shown on the next page. Finally, check for colour balance and colour casts with a Levels adjustment layer.

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