If you’re just getting started using Photoshop, this beginner-level tutorial will help you learn the first aspects of the skin retouching technique, a skill that comes in handy when you need to touch up photos for an ecommerce store, a magazine layout, or for use in promotional materials.

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Today we are going to learn how to do a basic skin retouching technique by using dodging and burning tools, as well as frequency separation. You want to create a natural look, yet maintain a smooth, natural skin appearance and texture.

Create a duplicate background layers

To start, open the image and the background layer.

Open the image in Photoshop

Open background layer

Next, create two duplicate layers by right-clicking on the original background layer. Now you’ll rename the duplicate layers, one with “to color” and the other “to texture.

First layer called to color


Isolating the color and texture

Click on the color layer and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

Applying gaussian blur

Increase the Radius until you observe the colors mixing together and the image blurring. For this tutorial, we’re setting it to 15. Then click “OK”.

Set redius

Next, click on the texture layer and go to Image > Apply Image. Under Layer, choose “to color”, Blending to “subtract”, the Scale to 2, Offset to 128, and hit “OK”.

Apply image

Set your blending mode to Linear Light.

Select liner light from blending mode

Select the Area to Clone

Now we’ll begin retouching the skin by clicking on the color layer, choosing the Clone Stamp, and setting the Opacity and Flow to between 30-50%.

Clone stamp tool

Select the area around the eyes and cheeks that is smooth and clear to clone. Lighten the skin on both sides under the eyes. It is helpful if you make an extra copy of the background layer to see the difference between the before and after image.


Retouching the Photo

Applying clone stamp tool in eye area

Using the Clone tool, lighten the area around the side of the nose to remove any dark shadows and bottom of the nose to remove any redness. Continue to retouch different parts of the face to remove lines, bumps, shadows and redness, and general smoothing of the skin.

lines, bumps, shadows and redness, and-general lightening of the skin

Next, click on the texture layer. Using the Clone Stamp tool, go over the face to remove the blemishes, selecting the clear area and dragging them to the spots area of skin.

Using clone stamp tool selecting-the-clear-area-and-dragging-them to the spots area of skin

Continuously applying clone stamp tool to remove spots

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Removing spots from forhead

Removed all spots

You can also use the Clone Stamp tool to clean up any stray hairs, eyebrow hairs, or remove any fine lines around the mouth area, or creases under the lips.

Cleaned up stray hairs or eyebrow

Using the Dodging and Burning tools

Now that the facial area is cleaned up, we’ll continue to retouch the image using the dodging and burning tools.

Create new layer for burn and dodge tool

Create two new layers, naming one “Burn” and the other “Dodge”. Set Opacity at 50% for both.

Make two layers called Burn and Dodge

Set Exposure to 50% for both as well.

Select exposure

With these layers you can paint the image with any color.

After applying dodg tool

Start out around the eye areas, or in the eyes like the iris, under the brows, by the brow bone. Brightening uneven skin tones, removing blemishes, and touching up any areas that still needed it, like the nose, cheeks or eyes.

Use the burn tool to darken the eyebrows a bit. You can also darken the outer corner of the eye, and give the impression that it is lifted just a bit. This can be useful if you have someone who is squinting a bit, or has droopy eyes. The burn tool can also be used to add definition to the cheekbones.

After applying burn tool

If you want to add makeup to the image, create a new layer and set it to Soft Light. Just use the black paintbrush and create eyeliner and use the eraser tool to make any adjustments. You can even add an eyeshadow color, lip, and cheek color.

After applying eye shadow, check and lip color

The Before and After

Before and after image of photo retouching

So you’re on you way to retouching portraits in Photoshop using the frequency separation process along with the burn and dodge tools. If you’d like to learn more, we invite you to check out our other photo retouching tutorial.

If you’re new to Photoshop, leave the image editing and optimization to us. Clipping Path India’s Photoshop experts can save you time, optimizing and delivering your images in just 24 hours. Get your free quote today!

Rokaiya Yeasmin Munni

As manager and head of digital marketing at Clipping Path India, Rokaiya wants to help retailers and photographers use marketing strategies and tactics that will elevate their business. She has an 18-year background in graphic design, content management and digital marketing.

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