Mar 19, 2011

Photoshop - "Olive Eyes" with Noob

Hey guys!
So for this post, I got a guest to write for i2c! Enjoy!

Hello peoples!! Noob here, ready to impart some of my photo editing knowledge with you fellow Photoshop babies.

First things first, this is not a step-by-step tutorial. I expect you know most of the basics. The point of this tutorial is to show you how to smooth skin on just about any photo you may have in your comp. This could be your sister, girlfriend or child in a random photo that you think looked good but could use some tweaking.

So let’s get right on with it:


  • If you have RAW image files lying around, you get an extra step. Once you open your image in Photoshop, you’ll be greeted by the Adobe Camera Raw window that you can use to determine the most important thing about your image: whether you want it to be cool or warm.
  • Play around with the white balance and temperature slider for this. Set exposure to just enough to differentiate between your highlights and shadows.
  • Touch up on the tone curve tab to set your lights and shadows to balance out your image.
  • Jump to HSL/Grayscale to experiment with the colors you want to pop in your image. When you’re done, open the image.


  • Before you do anything, picture in your head how you want your final image to look like. I had already decided I wanted this to be soft and dreamy with a sort of glow around Olive’s face.
  • First thing I usually do is color adjustments. I play around with combinations of Levels, Curves, Color Balance and Selective Color to set the tone I want my final image to have. I did not really want to change much in this photo, it was beautifully taken and the warm tones worked with the setting and the model. All I had to do was bring out the warmth and yellow undertones from Olive’s natural skin color!


  • Now this is the part that’s every re-toucher’s nightmare, especially when dealing with darker skin. You may have already searched for tutorials out there on retouching skin but only about 90% of them cater to African skin. What you need to understand first is forget everything you’ve learnt so far: African skin doesn’t take in or reflect light like it does on Caucasian/Asian skin. What you should do is try to make it your own. It took even me almost 2 years and hundreds of tutorials to get it down.
  • So let’s get on with it. Olive isn’t wearing much makeup here, which is something I like actually. No concealer or foundation so I got to work with real skin on this one. Basically I had to pull out all the stops to make her smooth and modelesque without making her look like an alien.
  • First off let’s get rid of visible blemishes like dark spots and pimples. Since Olive was blessed with near flawless skin (unlike some of us) this process is much easier. For this step, the Spot Healing brush will do. Adjust the brush size according to the blemish and voila! Even skin!! (I bet you wish you could just carry around the spot healing tool in your bag right??)
  • Next is smoothing out the skin. I remember as a beginner I’d try all sorts of radical ways to get that perfectly smooth skin, but in the end they’d always make me 10 shades lighter, and absolutely unnatural. But thank you lucky stars, I found a solution!! Nick Saglimbeni’s Master Retouching DVDs tutorials taught me a quick fix trick: set your Clone Stamp Brush to 21% opacity and then do your thing!! (and no, I’m not going to explain cloning here)
NOOB TRICK: Never sample from the same spot. Pick your Cloning source from an area with the same tone as where you're going to clone. What I mean is, if you're cloning a part of skin with highlights, pick your source from a lighter part of the face. If you're clearing up the neck, don't clone from the face because the neck will always be in shadow; instead, just pick from a smoother part of the neck. Alt+Click, brush in one swipe, set your sample point slightly off then Alt+Click and brush again. And so on and so forth until you get smooth skin. I warn you however, your image will probably look quite obviously retouched at this point.

  • Right now, you might either be thinking “What the???” or “That looks perfect” depending on your personal tastes but THAT IS NOT IT!! Notice how her face has no texture? She looks like a weird mannequin. To get the texture back, just lower the opacity of the clone stamped layer. Anything above 50% is not going to look great, unless you were actually retouching a mannequin. And in that case, I declare you crazy :p. Lower the opacity until you see the natural skin texture starting to show, but not so much the blotches.
NOTE: Remember you’re just doing the face for now. No matter what, do not clone the eyes, lips, eyebrows or nostrils.
NOOB TIP: Follow the natural contours on the nose, eyes and forehead so as not to lose depth in the face.
  • However, even with the opacity lowered, there is still more to make it look believable. Before I found out this specific tweak, the most reliable tutorials advised me to Gaussian BluràNoiseàLess Gaussian BluràLess noise to reach a remotely natural look. Luckily, Photoshop has this fancy Blur filter I’d never looked at before yesterday when I started this project: Lens Blur.

  • Lens Blur will be found in the Blur section of Filters. Once you click on it, your screen fills with a window you’ve probably never seen before. What this filter did (for me) was shorten the skin smoothing process by around 80%. What you basically do is adjust the Iris to set the blur level. This mostly offsets any bumps or pores you get with skin. You can also change the brightness to pop the highlights (though if you composited your image well, you won’t need to). Furthermore, there’s the Noise bit in the filter which lets you add some graininess and restores the bumps you just took out with the blur. That’s because skin does and should have pores, we just rearranged them to look even and appeasing to the eye.
NOOB TIP: When you’re done, the lens blur will have affected your entire image. Add a layer mask (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All) and paint with black on the mask itself to erase the blurred out eyes, lips and hair. These are parts you definitely want to have detail. Completely mask out any background and jewelry and fabric in the photo. Lower the opacity of the brush to about 30-40% and run it over the edges of the face, jaw line, nose and eyebrows. This returns depth and form to your image. But don’t forget details should remain detailed.


  • This bit I’ll just gloss over for now, but will go in depth in another tutorial (hopefully). After you’re happy with how the skin looks, you can bother with the other little things to bring out your model’s (in this case, Olive’s) features. I gave her just a hint of orange lipstick and changed her eyes to a sort of olive-green (cheesy I know). And that’s just about it for this image!!


  • You could actually stop here and save your image as it is because it looks pretty awesome. If you took my advise that is. Remember however, the most important thing about any tutorial is not to follow the steps word for word, value for value; look at them more as guidelines. In my final image, I blurred a copy of the layer, changed the blending mode and added a vignette. And I love the golden glow effect. Again, it’s all up to you and whatever you had envisioned as your final look.
BONUS NOOB TIP: NEVER do a different step on the same layer. Color adjustments, spot removal, cloning, blurring, all of these should be on their OWN layers. I usually duplicate the layer I just finished with before I apply a new effect. This makes it easier for you to get back to the source

Thanks, Noob, for throwing some coolness into the blog, and thank you reader for checking this out!

What's your process for airbrushing!? What can you add to this to ease the process or enhance the image finally?
Drop your comment below, or like and comment on the Facebook page

See you guys on the next post!

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