Method 2: Copy, Adjust, and Erase
Whenever I demo this feature, I invariably get the following question from someone: "How does Elements know the difference between the skin tones in the photo and everything else, so it only fixes the skin?" The answer is that some very complicated mathematical algorithms working in the background help the software in determining what colors to change. It’s not always perfect, but this feature does a great job of fixing skin tone problems about 80% of the time. For the other 20%, I’ve got a trick for you.
- Start from scratch again by choosing Image > Revert.
- Before you do anything to the picture this time, duplicate the layer with
the photo on it by clicking once on the layer and pressing Control+J or
Command+J. You should now have two copies of your photo in the Layers palette,
as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4 Layers palette.
- Now choose Enhance > Adjust Color > Adjust Color for Skin Tone again. When the dialog box opens, click once in an area of the skin, just like you did the first time around. The photo changes and the yellowish color is removed. However, as a result, the background of the photo may have been changed slightly. In this case, I was quite happy with the background of the photo; I just wanted to adjust the weird skin color.
- Fortunately, since we created a duplicate layer containing the photo, we
have some flexibility. Select the Eraser tool in the toolbox. Set the brush size
to around 40 pixels (see Figure 5) if you’re using the sample photo.
Depending on the size of the photo you’re using, you may need to vary the
Figure 5 Brush picker with a soft-edged brush.
- Now click once on the top layer in the Layers palette to make sure that
it’s the active layer. Then, using the Eraser tool, just erase away the
areas in the background. Don’t erase over the people in the photos,
because you want to keep them the way they were. But if you erase away the
background areas, you’ll start to reveal the layer containing the original
Notice the checkered transparent area in the Layers palette thumbnail (see Figure 6). It indicates that area has been erased and the bottom original layer is showing through.
Figure 6 Transparent areas in the Layers palette.