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Removing wrinkles and spots

In this exercise, you’ll explore several techniques for retouching skin flaws and blemishes to improve a portrait photograph. Retouching skin can be a real art, but luckily Photoshop Elements provides several tools that make it easy to smooth out lines and wrinkles, remove blemishes, and blend skin tones.

  1. In the Organizer, find and select the file 08_03.jpg, which is tagged with the Lesson 8 keyword tag. If you don’t see the filenames below the thumbnails in the Photo Browser, choose View > Show File Names.
  2. Click the Editor button located near the upper right corner of the Organizer workspace window and choose Full Edit from the menu.
  3. The Editor opens in Full Edit mode. If the Palette Bin and Project Bin are not already open, you can open them now by choosing Window > Palette Bin and Window > Project Bin. You should see a check mark beside both menu options.
  4. If the Layers palette is not visible in the Palette Bin, choose Windows > Layers to open it now.

Preparing the file for editing

Before you actually start retouching, you’ll set up the layers that you’ll need and save the file with a new name to make it easy to identify as your work file.

  1. In the Layers palette of the Editor, drag the Background layer to the New Layer button (new-leyer-button.jpg) in the Layers palette to create another layer, which will be called Background copy. Drag the Background copy layer to the New Layer button to create a third layer, which will be called Background copy 2.
  2. Choose File > Save As and save the file in Photoshop (PSD) format as 08_03_Work in your My CIB Work folder. If the option Save In Version Set With Original is activated, disable it before you click Save. Make sure the Layers checkbox is selected.

Using the Healing Brush tool

Now you’re ready to retouch the subject’s skin using the Healing Brush tool.

  1. Make sure the layer Background copy 2 is still active. Zoom in on the upper half of the photo, as you’ll be retouching the skin around the woman’s eyes first.
  2. Select the Healing Brush tool (brush-tool.jpg), which is grouped with the Spot Healing Brush tool in the toolbox.
  3. In the tool options bar, click the small arrow to open the Brush Picker and set the Diameter to 15 px. Set the brush Mode to Normal and the Source to Sampled. Disable the Aligned and All Layers options, if they are active.
  4. With the Healing Brush tool, Alt-click a smooth area of skin on the woman’s right cheek to sample that area as the reference texture. The Healing Brush tool won’t work until you establish the sample area. If you switch to another tool and then back to the Healing Brush, you’ll need to repeat this step.
  5. Draw a short horizontal stroke under the left eye. As you drag, it looks as if you’re creating a strange effect, but when you release the mouse button, the color is blended and natural skin tones fill in the area.
  6. Continue to smooth the skin on the face, hands, and neck with the Healing Brush. Avoid the areas very close to the eyes or near the edges of the face. As you work, reestablish the reference texture occasionally by Alt+clicking in other parts of the face to sample different skin tones.
  7. Use the Undo History palette (Window > Undo History) to quickly undo a series of steps. Every action you perform is recorded in chronological order from top to bottom of the palette. To restore the file to an earlier state, simply select an earlier action in the Undo History palette. If you change your mind before making any further changes to the file, you can still restore the image to a later state by selecting a step lower in the list.

The Healing Brush tool copies texture from the source area, not color. It samples the colors in the target area—the area it brushes—and arranges those colors according to the texture of the reference area. Consequently, the Healing Brush tool appears to be smoothing the skin. So far, the results are not convincingly realistic, but you’ll work on that in the next exercise.

Refining the healing brush results

In this next exercise, you’ll use layer opacity and another texture tool to finish your work on this image.

  1. Use the Navigator palette (Window > Navigator) to zoom in to the area of the woman’s face around the eyes and mouth.

    Extensive retouching can leave skin looking artificially smooth, like molded plastic. Reducing the opacity of the retouched layer gives the skin a more realistic look by allowing some of the wrinkles on the original Background layer to show through.

  2. In the Layers palette, change the Opacity of the layer Background copy 2 to about 60%, using your own judgment to set the exact percentage.
  3. Select the layer Background copy to make it the active layer.
  4. In the toolbox, select the Blur tool (blur-tool.jpg). In the tool options bar, set the brush diameter to approximately 13 px and set the Blur tool’s Strength to 50%.
  5. With the layer Background copy selected and active, drag the Blur tool over some of the deeper lines around the eyes, mouth, and brow. Use the Navigator palette to change the zoom level and shift the focus as needed. Reduce the Blur tool brush diameter to 7 px, and then smooth the lips a little, avoiding the edges.

    Compare your results to the original, the version retouched with the Healing Brush, and final refined version below. Toggle the visibility of the retouched layers to compare the original image with your edited results.

  6. Choose File > Save to save your changes, and then close the file and return to the Organizer.

    In this exercise, you’ve learned how to set an appropriate source for the Healing Brush tool, and then sample the texture of the source area to repair flaws in another part of the photograph. You also used the Blur tool to smooth textures, and an opacity change to create a more realistic look.

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