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Skin and Beauty Retouching Tutorial

Boris Scraba

New member
There are many ways to make skin look better and each retoucher has his own idea of how to do it. Below you have an example of skin retouching using two retouching techniques - using a healing brush tool and curves/layer adjustments.

First of all, the original layer needs to be duplicated, so you can work on the Background Copy Layer and keep the original background untouched. You can always compare the original image by turning off all other layers.

Some people prefer to do the colour correction first, but we don’t recommend this and advise you to do it at a later stage of retouching and adjust colors on the final image. This approach allows you to use the layers and the original colors for skin retouching. For more information about retouching please visit our section for retouchers

You can start removing general skin imperfections by using the soft healing brush tool. You can use this in both the ‘normal’ and 'replace' modes, clicking on different regions to retouch the skin. Use this tool to remove only the biggest imperfections.

All unwanted hair and large spots on the face can be removed with the healing brush tool. As you replace selected pixels with surrounding pixels, you must be careful not to create patterns or so-called soft blobs! This is the most important part of retouching and it requires a lot of patience. The results depend only on you how much time you are willing to spend on the image, and how detailed you are.

After removing all bigger imperfections you can create a new layer by darkening curves. This layer helps to highlight what is being done and what needs attention. This layer should be removed once this retouching stage is completed. This step is optional and depends on the picture, but generally it is good to look at the image with a darkening curve to see all places you may have missed. Please don’t forget to delete it after checking!

A good way to see all the spots is to magnify the image to 100% or 200% and shake the picture with the tool "Hand". While shaking the image your eyes will find all overseen spots that need retouching.

For more examples of beauty retouching please visit our:
retouching gallery

Another way to perfect the skin is to create two additional curve layers - one dark and one light. This is a different technique that does not use a healing brush tool, which might lose detail or skin structure (It can create blobs and blurred spots). The best way not to lose skin detail is to gently adjust those dark/light layers. Create masks on layers by adding a black mask and using the brush tool to select the area. Now adjust the dark/light layer curves and make the darker spots lighter and the lighter spots darker without retouching the skin structure. This is a very slow process which provides excellent results, although you may need some practice before you become a master!

Wrinkles under eyes are removed with the healing brush tool and the creation of a lightening curve layer. Then use the soft brush tool with about 10-30 pix capacity. Slowly move over all dark places under the eyes with the soft brush tool. From time to time check the image in 50% magnification mode to see if the result is satisfying. You can also switch all the layers above the background layers on and off to confirm the retouching results. It is good to do this stage on a separate layer, so afterwards you can try with different capacity or blending mode of this particular layer and choose the best result for you.

You should create a special layer for whitening the teeth and eyes. Create a mask and select the teeth and eyes area. Add a layer of lightening curves with high contrast on the mask layer to make the teeth and eyes look brighter.

When finished, you can do the color correction. Start by lowering the red color saturation of the skin.

All layers needs to be flattened before saving.

For more Information about retouching for photographers please visit our web about:

Look forward for your comments or ideas for next tutorials


Aida BGAgraphix

pro member
I think that the technique applied depends on the photo, but for a very good beauty retouch healing, cloning and d&b are combined.
I'm a fan of color correction from the first steps because blemishes are mainly caused by the magenta and red. So using curves and selective colors we can remove some spots from the start.
As you said, every retoucher has it's workflow. :)

Aida BGAgraphix

pro member
Thank you Asher !

I think masks are one of the most important features in Photoshop. At first I used the eraser, but now I don't use it anymore. I relly entirely on masks to add or erase.
Masks are quite simple( and I love simple things) :
Lets say we added an effect to a layer, but we want this effect to be visible only on some parts of the image. This is when we add a mask: I would start with a white one if I had little to erase, or with a black one if I thought to make the effect less visible.
Maybe the word erase is not perfect, I should say : " hide". So, a white mask makes everything on the layer visible and a black mask hiddes it all. (only on the layer linked to it.)Make sure you selected the mask and paint with a white brush to reveal or a black brush to hide. This is far better than with the eraser, because you can make as much changes as you wish, at any time, hide / reveal.

Well, about colors... I'm going to say a few words about skin. In RBG, a good skin tone is under this relationship Red>Green>Blue ( in general) . The most common problem is represented by " pink" areas, especially in hands.( because of the high levels of magenta). Lowering the magenta and maybe adding some yellow can improve the skin tone( remember it all depends on the photo).

Advice when using curves: don't go too far with the shape of the curve because you will get posterizations. Every file has it's limits, so try to know when to stop before it looks retouched.
When the color corrections are done right, the image looks sharper. It also makes the skin look healthier and more uniform. Start with a general removal of a cast( if there is one in the photo), then make small adjustment so the skin can have a uniform tone. What bothers in an image, are not only the spots, blemishes etc, but also portions there are pink, then yellow, then pink etc.

sherief mohamed

New member
i prefer retouching using the smudge , and some dodge and burn .. specially for models work it gives the skin a very cool looking ..
dodge and burn is a reall magic :)
Thanks for sharing, it was interesting to read. The only problem is that images are not visible. I think it'd be great to update this post...

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Thanks for sharing, it was interesting to read. The only problem is that images are not visible. I think it'd be great to update this post...

I will attempt to get updates. I have reached out to both Boris and Aida for you. These retouchers have been silent for some time. In the meanwhile, if you have any specific questions on retouching or tips you might share, let us know!

Instead of duplicating the background layer at the start (which significantly increases file size), just use a blank layer and set your healing or clone brush to "sample all layers". It'll do the exact same thing but without all the extra unnecessary data.

Also, the bit about zooming in to 100 or 200% isn't always necessary. Most of our work now is viewed at 15-20% at most on a computer screen or tiny phone screen. If you're not going to be printing large or you don't need the practice, the retouch will go much faster if you don't zoom all the way in and take care of things that nobody could see at the final viewing size.