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Retouching this Bright Candy-Themed Portrait in Adobe Photoshop

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Here I used a lighting setup very similar to the one I used for this shot: a speedlight through an overhead octabox. Right outside the frame, I used a portrait reflector kit to create a kind of beauty look with light reflected from all sides. The reflector kit is a stand with special attachments to hold 3 reflectors, which make it possible to create a kind of clamshell lighting with only one light, because silver reflectors are reflecting the light from below and from the sides as if there was a second light from below.

Before / After:


1- Skin retouching

First let’s remove a few skin blemishes, apply a skin smoothening effect and reduce the darker areas around the eyes and nose. For this portrait, I could have gone without any extra skin smoothening effect, because the model’s skin was already very smooth and this kind of lightning is perfect to get beautiful skin.

  • Duplicate the background layer Cmd+J Ctrl+J to have a backup copy.
  • Use the Spot Healing Brush Tool J to remove major skin blemishes. I could have left most of them in there for a more natural look, it’s just a matter of preference really and the desired look for the final image.
  • Select the Clone Stamp Tool S.
  • Set the Mode of the Clone Stamp Tool to Lighten to ensure that it only affects darker pixels. This makes things much easier and you don’t have to be as precise.
  • Reduce the Opacity of the tool so that the effect is subtler.
  • Sample Alt + Click a light area under the eyes, then go over the dark areas.
  • Go over multiple times until you’re happy with the result.
  • Do the same thing to reduce the shadows around the nose.
  • To smooth out the skin ever so slightly, I used a plugin for Photoshop called Portraiture. I makes it easy to apply a blanket effect that smooths out the skin tones only. In a future tutorial, I’ll go over techniques that can be used for skin retouching without a plugin. Oftentimes however, I find myself using a tool for it, because I’m lazy and it saves a ton of time.

2- Brightening up the eyes

Now let’s brighten up the eyes with a curves adjustment:

  • Create a Curves adjustment layer.
  • Raise the lower left anchor point slightly. This will brighten up the whole image.
  • Click on the layer mask associated with that adjustment layer and hit Cmd+I Ctrl+I to invert the colors and effectively conceal the whole effect.
  • Using a Soft White Brush B, paint around the eyes to reveal the adjustment.
  • Apply a Gaussian Blur ( Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur ) to the layer mask, so that the effect blends more naturally.

3- Paler skin

I wanted a final image where the skin would be very pale, so I reduced the red and yellow saturation:

  • Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.
  • Instead of being on the Master channel, select the Reds.
  • Bring down the Saturation to something that looks good. -30 in this case.
  • Now also reduce the Saturation for the Yellows. I used a value of -40.

4- Selective color adjustment

I wanted to get more blue/purplish tones in the shadows:

  • Create a Selective Color adjustment layer.
  • Select the Blacks.
  • Reduce the Yellows to something that looks good. -40% in this case.

5- Final curves adjustment

  • Create a Curves adjustment layer.
  • Raise the lower left anchor point slightly. This will brighten up the whole image.
  • It brightens up the image a bit and reduces contrast, for a very subtle washed out effect.

6- Liquify tool

Let’s use the Liquify tool to bring in some of the hair and tuck in the wig at the top:

  • Create a Stamp Visible Layer Shift+Cmd+Option+E Shift+Ctrl+Alt+E.
  • Select Filter > Liquify.
  • In the Liquify tool dialog, and with the Forward Wrap Tool W selected, make sure that your brush is set to a pretty good size, 450 in this case.
  • Gently bring in the hair and and wig at the top, going little by little. The secret to the Liquify tool is to go by very small increments to help pucker or wrap things in evenly.

Done! The lighting used for that shot is really what makes for most of the bright look, so very little was needed in the retouching phase. Just a basic skin cleanup and a few curves and color adjustments.

🌄 Image info:

  • Camera: Nikon D800
  • Focal length: 70mm
  • Shutter speed: 1/200s
  • Aperture: f/10
  • ISO: 320

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