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Retouching Blemishes in Adobe Photoshop CS4

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Chris Orwig shows you how to remove blemishes and reduce wrinkles (only in Photoshop, unfortunately).

#84 Retouching Blemishes

When you clean your house, it makes more sense to dust the furniture and bookcase before you vacuum the floor than it does to do it the other way around—vacuuming before you dust. The same is true with digital retouching. It makes more sense to remove blemishes and distractions, and then work on other enhancements like wrinkle reduction.

Removing blemishes

Let’s begin by learning how to reduce blemishes and distracting elements in an image. One of the tools you’ll use is the Healing Brush tool. The Healing Brush tool works much like the Retouching tool in the Camera Raw plug-in that was discussed in #38. It lets you sample pixels from a relatively unblemished part of the image (known as the sample point) and blend those pixels over the part of the image you’re trying to repair.

Most professional retouchers create a retouching “road map” before they begin (Figure 84a). This involves creating a new layer and then circling any distracting elements. A road map such as this will help you determine what needs to be retouched.

Once you have your road map, you can begin to remove the rough patches:

  1. Create a new layer for each type of blemish. In Figure 84b, the created layers include Back Drop, Nose, and Zipper.
  2. Select the layer where you want to begin your corrections.
  3. Choose the Healing Brush tool. Then in the options bar, choose All Layers from the Sample menu (Figure 84c).
  4. Alt-click (Windows) Option-click (Mac) the location where you want to set the sample point; in other words, the spot from which you want to borrow sample pixels to repair the image.
  5. Paint with the Healing Brush and Clone Stamp tools to remove the blemishes.

Reducing wrinkles

Wrinkles can add a lot of character to a face. So it’s very important to keep in mind that the goal is not to completely remove wrinkles, lest you end up practicing “fake-looking” photography. Rather, the goal is to reduce the intensity of the shadows as a way to enhance the image.

Let’s use the face of the woman in Figure 84d as an example.

  1. Create a new layer for each area that you want to touch up, such as the left or right corners of the eyes or the forehead (Figure 84e).
  2. Set the sample area that you want to copy pixels from by choosing the Healing Brush tool and Alt-clicking (Windows) Option-clicking (Mac) the area just below the wrinkles. You want a sample source that is “clean” and free of blemishes (Figure 84f).
  3. Paint the wrinkled area with the Healing Brush (Figure 84g). Be careful to not paint over high contrast or dark areas like eyelashes, eyebrows, and hair.
  4. To keep the image from looking unnatural, lower the opacity of the layer on which you painted to bring back some of the wrinkles and character (Figure 84h).
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