Glamorous portrait retouching with adjustment layers is an excellent way of making changes to an image, as the process is carried out on a separate layer, leaving your original image untouched. This has numerous benefits in that you can easily revert your changes if necessary through the non-destructive method, or make further adjustments based on the original image rather than adjusting an adjustment It’s not as confusing as it might sound, but see for yourself, by crafting an adjustment layer, through the icon at the foot of the ‘Layers’ palette.
Just remember that the adjustment layer will affect ALL layers beneath it.
It’s better to make adjustments through adjustment layers, as you can easily reverse them if you change your mind.
Download files for this project [portrait-retouching.zip 1.1 MB]
Step-by-step: Glamorising your image
Add a little polish to the image using basic Photoshop tools
1: Balance the image
The first thing that needs addressing is the light and colour balance so we can determine which areas need further attention. Open the ‘mainbefore.jpg’ file and duplicate the background layer. Change the blending mode to ‘Screen’ before reducing the opacity to ‘70%’.
2: Raise the curves
Create a ‘Curves’ adjustment layer to sit at the top of the stack, raising the highlights a little, and you’ll notice the image brightens considerably while balancing some of the inconsistencies found throughout the skin areas. Subsequent changes must now be made to the main background layer.
3: A quick facial
The model doesn’t suffer from too many skin blemishes, but dig out the ‘Patch’ tool to take care of the fine wrinkles found under, the eyes. Concentrate only on the actual wrinkles, because we’ll attend to any discolouration found under the eyes later on.
4: Bright eyes
To further bring out the whites of the eyes, create a new layer above the background and change its blending mode to ‘Colour’. Now select a suitably sized brush and set the foreground colour to ‘white’ before painting over the whites of the eyes directly onto this blended layer.
5: Keen pupils
To control the actual pupils, select the background layer and move into ‘Quick Mask’ mode. Paint over the eyes using a suitably sized ‘Brush’ tool and transfer back out of ‘Quick Mask’ mode, making sure the active selection has contained the pupils and not the remaining image.
6: Contact lenses?
With the selection active and the background layer selected, create a ‘Hue/Saturation’ adjustment layer and you’ll notice the related mask will reflect the original selection. You can now adjust the HSL controls to change the eye colour to your preference without affecting the rest of the image.
7: A bit of slap
We’ve used exactly the same process to select and mask the lips into their own ‘Hue/Saturation’ adjustment layer to bring out some of the colour and match the model’s bright top. If you’re having problems matching the colours by eye, make use of the ‘Info’ palette to gauge the correct tones.
8: Lose the bags
We can now return to the eyes to take care of the discolouration found underneath them. Use the ‘Zoom’ tool to increase magnification to get as much detail around the eye as possible and choose the ‘Magic Wand’ tool, setting a low tolerance of around’ 4′ in the ‘Options’ bar.
9: Make the selection
Click within the discoloured area to make an initial selection. Now, holding down the Shift key, continue to make selections beneath the eye until you’ve got a reasonable selection of the problem area. A rough selection will be fine, so don’t worry too much about precision.
10: Creating the mask
With the selection active, move into ‘Quick Mask’ mode and the selected area will convert into a patchy looking mask. Apply a ‘Gaussian Blur’ of around 10 pixels and things will smooth over. With the selection refined, return to ‘Normal’ mode to continue.
11: More adjustment layers
With your smoothed selection now available, create another adjustment layer but this time choose the ‘Curves’ option. Photoshop will base the ‘Layers mask’ around the active selection, allowing you to make the necessary adjustments to rectify the colour imbalance using the slider the tool provides.
12: Trim the hair
Before we continue to make adjustments to the hair colour, take a moment to trim some of the stray hairs from around the edges using the techniques below.
Tidying stray hairs
Prepare to start idle conversations with strangers about their holidays as you dip into the world of hairdressing…
Finding the problems
Open the ‘mainbefore.jpg’ file and zoom into the image at ‘100%’ to fully appreciate the task in hand. You’ll notice there are various stray hairs springing from around the perimeter of the model’s head, as well as a few wisps before the ear that need addressing.
Attack with the Clone
As the model is against a reasonably consistent background, we can make use of the ‘Clone Stamp’ toolset to take out the majority of the hairs around the crown of the head – for example, before reducing the brush size to achieve a neater finish.
13: Paint the town red
Create another ‘Hue/Saturation’ adjustment layer and configure the colour, concentrating only on the hair, from the original brown to a deeper red to match the model’s top and retouched lips. Don’t worry if she starts to look a little embarrassed at this point, because we’ll fix this next.
14: Manage the mask
Select the adjustment ‘Layers mask’ and fill this with black, effectively cancelling out the colour change, and now select the ‘Brush’ and paint over the hair area with white paint to modify the mask and allow the colour to be restricted to the hair only.
15: Soften the skin
For our cover shot results we’re going to make things a little softer and simulate some soft focus. Create a new ‘layer set’ and make two duplicates of the background layer, naming them ‘Noise’ and ‘Blur’, and stacking the ‘Noise’ layer above the ‘Blur’ in the layer set.
16: Mix and match
Apply the ‘Add Noise’ filter to the appropriate layer with ‘10%’ Gaussian distribution and checking the ‘Monochromatic’ option. Hide the ‘Noise’ layer and apply a Gaussian blur of ’15’ pixels to the ‘Blur’ layer. Bring back the ‘Noise’ layer and reduce the opacity to around 50% for softer skin.
17: Bring back the detail
Because this results in finer detail being affected, add a mask directly to the layer set and paint back any areas such as the hair, eyes, mouth, background and clothing that should remain sharp. You can also use this method to define the shape of the nose and jaw, for example.
18: The final results
Once all the changes have been carried out, you can review them in context of each other and make further overall adjustments overall to get the best balance. We’ve deliberately left a slight colour cast over the skin to complement the reds and enhance the contrast of the eyes.
Changing selective colours
There’s no need to retake the shoot if a model’s clothing doesn’t match the colour scheme – just use Photoshop to sort things out…
The end results are impressive considering the time taken. If selecting regions through the thumbnail proves too clumsy, use the ‘Eyedropper’ tools directly on the image instead.
The original image features the model in a lovely pale blue number which is fine for a children’s TV presenter, but we need something a little more sophisticated.
The ‘Replace Colour’ feature found under the ‘Image’, ‘Adjustment’ menu is just the tool. The ‘Eyedropper’ tools at the head allow specific colours to be selected and masked…
… while the foot of the interface provides the usual HSL sliders allowing you to replicate any colour you choose for application to the original image in a matter of seconds.