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How To Edit And "Touch Up" A Human Face Using Photoshop

Updated on November 15, 2016

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Photo Re-touching

You've probably seen an article or FaceBook post about magazines and how their models' photos are edited to make them appear more attractive to readers. This is indeed true. In fact, walking by an Aerie store in a mall, I've seen posters state their models are not re-touched, edited, or changed with any photo manipulation program and are genuine. Today, we will be looking at several techniques and tools in Photoshop that will help achieve what we are aiming for in this tutorial - how to "touch up" a person's face. The Photoshop version that I am using is Photoshop CS4, however, some versions prior and all versions after CS4 will include the tools that will be used in this tutorial. So lets buckle up and dive in!

The Image

The image to the right is what we will be working with in this tutorial. You do not need to use this image; feel free to use your own! Everyone has their own sense of what beauty should look like, so do not be surprised your image is different from mine at the end of this tutorial.

There are a few flaws we can fix, or "touch up", in this image. There are also some enhancements we can make to bring out the model in the image.

Flaws: Baggy eyes, stray hairs, skin blemishes.

Enhancements: Eyes, Teeth, Hair.

First Steps

Before we begin being a wizard of photo manipulation, be sure to save the image somewhere where you'll be able to find it. Then, open the image in Photoshop and create a duplicate layer. This duplicate layer is needed in case there is an unhappy accident that occurs and the original version is needed. This can be done by simply right clicking on the layer in the layers palette (on the far right of your screen) and choosing "duplicate layer". A pop up box will appear asking if you'd like to rename the layer. I renamed mine "Model 1 Editing Layer".

Layers Palette
Layers Palette

Flaws: Baggy Eyes

Baggy eyes are considered an imperfection when thinking of modeling. This is the first thing we are going to change, because it is the most noticeable in our image. To do this, the are going to be using the spot healing brush tool and the patch tool. The spot healing brush looks like a bandage in your tools bar and essentially copies and replaces the pixels within its range with the pixels just outside its range. The patch tool looks like a bit of stitched fabric and essentially replaces a selected area (which you select) with another area of the image(again, which you select). These tools are located on the same panel in the tools bar. Simply click and hold on the spot healing brush icon and a small pop up window should appear which allows you to select more tools in that panel.

We'll begin with the patch tool. When editing photos, sometimes it is easier to zoom in to the area that you are working on. You can do this by using the magnifying glass tool (zooming in and zooming out options are located at the top left of your screen if using this tool) or by simply using the shortcuts Ctrl + and Ctrl -.Circle the area under the eye on the left. Once selected, drag the highlighted area down on another area of a skin and release. You should see the change immediately. Most of the bagginess is gone.

Now let's use the patch tool some more and touch up the rest of this eye as well as the other eye.

Possible mistake shown using the spot healing brush tool
Possible mistake shown using the spot healing brush tool

This is great. The eye bags are gone and our model is looking better with each edit. There is a problem we created though. Under the eye on the right, there is a darkened area that just doesn't seem right. Using the spot healing brush, we can adjust this area. By clicking and dragging along the edge of this area, a darkened grey line will start to appear. This shows you the area that you are highlighting. Once satisfied with your selection, let go and see the spot healing brush work its magic. If done correctly, the darkened area should disappear and be replaced with a lighter skin tone. If you are not happy or if something went awry, hit edit > undo or Ctrl Z. If you need to go farther back than one step, hit edit > step backwards or Ctrl Alt Z.

Flaws: Stray Hair

Notice around the outside, there are stray hairs that need to be managed. This may be a minor thing that needs to be edited, but it will make the model look cleaner in the end. The tool we will be using for this task is the clone stamp tool. The clone stamp tool allows you to select an area to copy and paste it by clicking and dragging. Around the outer edge of the hair, hold Alt and click to select an area to copy. Once selected, start clicking and dragging over the stray hairs and watch them disappear. Be sure that the setting aligned is unchecked. This setting can be found under the main menu bar and next to settings like Flow and Opacity.

Flaws: Skin Blemishes

There are only a few freckles and skin imperfections we can touch up. There are a few on the nose and chin. To fix these, I'm using the Healing Brush Tool. This is not the same as the Spot Healing Brush Tool. The healing brush tool requires you to chose an area first of which to draw the pixel information from (much like the clone stamp tool). Select an area on the nose that does not have an imperfection by holding Alt and then left clicking the area. After this is selected, start clicking on the imperfections!

Enhancement: Eyes

Now that the flaws and imperfections are fixed, we can add some enhancements to our model to make her really stand out. The first thing that we are going to do is to enhance her eyes and make them stand out. We will first make the whites of her eyes whiter and then we will give her green eyes some further saturation (more color).

We will be using the Dodge Tool to make her eye whites whiter. The dodge tool is just like a normal brush. The settings we will use to brighten the eyes will be highlights (which is selected from the drop down menu) and 21% exposure. I use a lower exposure setting because I do not want to drastically change the eye whites. Click and drag over the whites one to three times (avoid the iris and pupil) to gently brighten them.

Now we are just going to make the iris stand out more. For this, we are going to use the sponge tool. Click and hold on the dodge tool in the tools bar. A pop up list should appear where you can select the sponge tool. The sponge tool adjusts saturation in an image. It can saturate (add more color) or desaturate (take away color - add grayscale). Make sure the mode is set to "saturate" and click and drag over the iris. Same as with the dodge tool, I have my settings low at 21%. The setting is called Flow this time. Click and drag over the iris and watch some color sprung up.

Enhancement: Teeth

This next enhancement is very subtle. Using the Dodge Tool and the same settings as the eyes, click and drag the dodge tool over the teeth to slightly whiten them. Once to three times is good.

Enhancements: Hair

We are now on our final thing to work on in this tutorial and its an easy one! We can add a bit of flair to the hair on our model! We will be using the Sponge Tool again, but this time, change the Flow to 50%. Click and drag over the hair and watch as color springs out of the hair! Because we changed our setting to a higher amount, only do this once or twice.

Side By Side Comparison

Let's take a look at how far we have come with only a few adjustments!

Exit Question

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© 2015 Drew Overholt


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