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Portrait Retouching

When retouching portraits, remember above all else that subtlety is key. When we photograph people, we hope to create a memory, a moment in time, and a glimpse of who they are. Because of this, you want to avoid overworking the image, but to instead enhance it just enough so that the subject’s personality and true self shine through. Finding that balance of beautiful retouching without making a person’s skin, eyes, or teeth look fake is something you can easily do with Perfect Portrait. Inside, you’ll find tools to adjust each of these so that your images look beautiful and realistic.

Before you can do any portrait retouching, however, you first need to hone in on the face or faces you’re going to work on. Perfect Portrait’s automated facial recognition makes step is easy, plus you can refine the identified facial elements to make the rest of your editing a breeze.

Facial Recognition

When you launch Perfect Portrait, you’ll notice that it does some initial “thinking” while it’s searching for people in your image (FIGURE 4.1). The software locates these faces and then places each into its own Face Box. Next, it creates masks separating the various parts of the face, such as the eyes and mouth. You then can use these masks to selectively edit each area individually.

Figure 4.1

Figure 4.1. Perfect Portrait first searches for faces and finds their features. This usually takes only a few seconds for each face in your image.

Once Perfect Portrait finishes its work, you can start your own. First, make sure Perfect Portrait discovered all of the faces you want to edit. If you don’t see boxes around all the faces you want, you need to do a little prep work to the face selection, such as:

  • Adding a Face Box: If Perfect Portrait can’t locate a face in your image automatically, it displays the Add Face dialog box informing you that you need to add a face (FIGURE 4.2). To do this, just drag the Face Box you see on your screen over the face, resizing it with the handles on the box border so that the entire face is in the box. Click the Apply button in the Add Face pop-up window when you’re finished. Alternately, you can add a face by choosing Face > Add Face in the menu bar.

    Figure 4.2

    Figure 4.2. If a face is partially obscured or the entire face is not showing, Perfect Portrait may be unable to find it. When this happens, you can quickly adjust the Face Box to identify the face in your image.

  • Selecting multiple faces: If Perfect Portrait found at least one face, but couldn’t locate all the faces in your image, you can use the Face Select tool to add more faces. Click the new face you want to add, and resize the Face Box that appears so that only the face is inside the box (FIGURES 4.3 and 4.4). When you’re satisfied, click Apply in the Add Face pop-up window.

    Figure 4.3

    Figure 4.3. Perfect Portrait found only three of the faces in this group.

    Figure 4.4

    Figure 4.4. Too add a fourth face, I clicked the little boy’s face on the left, resized the new Face Box that appeared, and clicked the Apply button.

  • Removing a Face Box: You can also delete Face Boxes from inside your image using the Face Select tool, which can be helpful if the software didn’t locate the face properly the first time. With the Face Select tool active, click the X in the top-left corner of the Face Box you want to remove (FIGURE 4.5). The software will delete it and display a new Face Box. You can then either add a new face or cancel the process.

    Figure 4.5

    Figure 4.5. To delete a Face Box, click on the X in the upper-left corner of the box.

    Alternately, you can delete any face by clicking the Face Box and choosing Face > Delete Face in the menu bar.

Refining the Face

Perfect Portrait’s facial recognition algorithm not only finds faces in your image; it also locates the eyes, lips, teeth, and skin within each Face Box. If the white control outlines are perfectly situated around each of these areas, then that’s excellent! You can move along to the next section to start retouching your portrait. The algorithm doesn’t always get the controls into their proper place, however, and you need a little bit of manual override. This is when the Face Edit tool will come into play.

The Face Edit Tool

To get started, first you need to activate a Face Box. If you’re still inside the Face Select tool, click the Face Box you want to edit to automatically activate the Face Edit tool and zoom in. You can also click the Face Edit tool in the tool-well to activate and zoom in to whichever box is highlighted in green (FIGURES 4.6 and 4.7).

Figure 4.6

Figure 4.6. The boy on the left is highlighted in green, indicating his box is selected with the Face Select tool.

Figure 4.7

Figure 4.7. I can start editing this face with the Face Edit tool by clicking the face inside the green box or by clicking on the Face Edit tool in the tool-well. The preview zooms in on that face and displays the eyes and mouth controls.

Notice the controls that outline around the eyes and mouth. If the software was able to find the face well, then the controls will be in the right spots (FIGURE 4.8). If you need to adjust them, however, just drag the points to the correct locations. For the eyes, for example, be sure to put the blue point right on the pupil. Next, move the dots on the side to the corners of the eyes, and adjust the top and bottom points along the curve of the inside eyelids so that the eyeball is the only thing inside of the controls (FIGURE 4.9). For the mouth, three sections encompass your controls: two for the lips and one for the teeth. Make sure that the teeth are in the middle section, and the lips are in the top and bottom sections (FIGURE 4.10). For images with no teeth, just close the middle gap so it’s no longer visible (FIGURE 4.11).

Figure 4.8

Figure 4.8. Perfect Portrait did an excellent job of initially finding the locations for the eyes and mouth.

Figure 4.9

Figure 4.9. To refine the controls, just use the cursor to click and drag them into position.

Figure 4.10

Figure 4.10. This example shows proper placement of the controls over a mouth with visible teeth.

Figure 4.11

Figure 4.11. This example shows proper placement of the controls over a mouth with no visible teeth.

Refining the Mask

Perfect Portrait also creates a mask to isolate the skin from the rest of the image, which allows you to use the Skin Retouching pane to edit only the skin areas of the face. As you can all other masks in the Perfect Photo Suite, you can adjust the skin masks by painting. When the Face Edit tool is active the cursor automatically defaults to a brush, so all you need to do is start painting to make changes.

Before you make any brush strokes in your image, preview the mask so you can see what, if anything, you need to adjust. Previewing the mask is extremely useful for this type of edit, as the changes the Skin Retouching tools make to your image are usually so subtle that you might not even know if something is awry until it’s too late. To preview the mask, click Ctrl+M. You’ll see a red overlay of the areas that are masked out. The portions of your image that are not in red should be the skin areas. You can choose among four mask view modes: Red, White, Black, and Grayscale (FIGURES 4.12 through 4.15). To access each of these, choose View > Mask View Mode, or use the black box on the bottom left of the Preview window.

Figure 4.12

Figure 4.12. The default preview, the Red mask can help you locate areas of skin or no skin that need to be corrected.

Figure 4.13

Figure 4.13. The White mask is another way to preview the mask in Perfect Portrait.

Figure 4.14

Figure 4.14. Use the Dark mask preview when your image has areas of red already, such as a red backdrop or bright red hair.

Figure 4.15

Figure 4.15. The Grayscale mask helps you refine your mask by showing a black-and-white preview.

Now that you know what your mask looks like, you’re ready to start fixing it. Here are some of the settings in the Tool Options bar you can use when painting the mask to reveal only the skin (FIGURE 4.16):

Figure 4.16

Figure 4.16. The Tool Options bar allows you to change your settings when refining the mask.

  • Mode: There are two options for the Mode setting: Add to Skin and Not Skin. Use the Add to Skin option when you want to reveal the skin areas of your portrait, and use the Not Skin option when portions of the mask reveal more than skin, such as hair or clothing (FIGURE 4.17).

    Figure 4.17

    Figure 4.17. I used the brush to paint with a Mode setting of Not Skin over the area just to the right of her face.

  • Size: The Size setting determines the overall size of the brush, and ranges from 1 (a small brush) to 500 (a large brush). Use the smallest brush size possible in your image for more accurate results.
  • Feather: The Feather setting determines how soft or harsh the edge of your brush is, and ranges from 0 (a very harsh edge) to 100% (a very soft edge). To soften the transition of your mask, keep the feather at a higher setting, usually above 50.
  • Opacity: This setting determines how transparent your brush stroke is, and ranges from 0 (completely transparent) to 100 (completely opaque). For most cases you’ll be okay leaving this setting at 100. If you want to refine the edges of your mask around a hairline, wispy bangs, or men’s facial hair, try lowering the opacity slightly and painting along the border of the area (FIGURE 4.18). This will give you a smoother transition when making heavy adjustments with the Skin Retouching pane.

    Figure 4.18

    Figure 4.18. Painting with the Not Skin mode at 20% opacity allowed me to mask out a stray strand of hair over this little girl’s face.

A few additional buttons on the far right side of the Tool Options bar are also handy:

  • Next and Previous Face Arrows: When you’re working on more than one face, these buttons are the quickest way to jump back and forth between the Face Boxes in your image. Click on the right arrow to go to the next face, and use the left arrow to move back to the previous face. The Preview window will automatically fill with the new Face Box and allow you to make your refinements and retouching adjustments.

  • Hide Controls: After you have the eyes and mouth controls set in the right place, you can click on this button to hide the white outlines (FIGURES 4.19 and 4.20). Hiding the outlines will give you a clearer viewing experience when using the adjustment panes on the right side of your window, particularly when making adjustments to the eyes and mouth.

    Figure 4.19

    Figure 4.19. By default, Perfect Portrait displays controls over the eyes and mouth. To hide these, click the Hide Controls button in the Tool Options bar.

    Figure 4.20

    Figure 4.20. After you hide the controls, the toggle changes to a Show Controls button; click it to show the controls over the eyes and mouth.

  • Reset Face: If you want to start over with any of the adjustment panes (Skin Retouching, Color Correction, Mouth & Eyes), click the Reset Face button. This feature resets the edits and the mask to only the currently selected face; it will not reset the eyes and mouth controls, or any edits you made with the Retouch brush.

Skin Retouching

Smooth and beautiful skin is something you will likely strive for in many of your images, and with Perfect Portrait you have the tools to create blemish-free portraits very quickly and easily. The key with skin retouching is to not overdo the effect so much that the skin looks like plastic, or that freckles are completely gone. (Freckles can be cute, especially on little kids!) Keeping that texture in a person’s face keeps the reality alive while still showing each individual at his or her best.

Inside of this software you will find two main adjustments for retouching skin: the Retouch brush and the Skin Retouching pane. The Retouch brush clears away individual blemishes and lines, and the Skin Retouching pane applies global adjustments to the skin in your portrait.

Retouch Brush

When you need to remove a blemish or a flyaway hair, reach for the Retouch brush in the tool-well. You can find the tool’s three settings in the Tool Options bar on the top of your window:

  • Size: The Size setting ranges from 0 to 2500 pixels. For the majority of your retouching needs, you will usually want to set this to a low number. To prevent any smudging in the surrounding skin, keep Size set to just larger than the blemishes you’re trying to remove.
  • Feather: The Feather determines how soft the edge of your brush will be and ranges from 0 (a very harsh edge) to 100 (a very soft edge). Try keeping this setting to at least 25 to ensure smooth blending of the retouch areas with the existing skin.
  • Opacity: Opacity, ranging from 0 to 100, refers to how transparent or opaque the brush will be when you make your edits. A high number, such as 100, completely removes the blemish. If you want to make more subtle adjustments to areas of the skin, try setting this to around 50 or lower. This is a good way to subtly remove lines and wrinkles, as well as to brighten the areas underneath the eyes.

Consider a few of the ways you can use the Retouch brush to make your portraits clean and beautiful:

  • Remove blemishes: Just one click on your image will immediately erase any blemishes. When using the brush for specific areas, keep it to about the same size, or maybe just a little larger than the blemish you’re erasing and make individual clicks instead of brushing over larger areas (FIGURES 4.21 and 4.22).

    Figure 4.21

    Figure 4.21. A Size of 90 and a Feather of 11 with the Retouch Brush is enough to remove this blemish.

    Figure 4.22

    Figure 4.22. By clicking just once with the Retouch Brush, I removed the blemish completely.

  • Fade wrinkles and lines: The Retouch brush is great for softening lines and wrinkles in an image. You’ll still want to keep some definition of the lines intact to keep the face looking natural, so the key is to reduce the Opacity setting below 50% and then make a few brush strokes over the lines. Also, be sure that your brush size is at the smallest setting possible so that you’re affecting only the lines on the face (FIGURES 4.23 and 4.24).

    Figure 4.23

    Figure 4.23. To fade away the lines around this woman’s mouth I will use the Retouch Brush at a low opacity.

    Figure 4.24

    Figure 4.24. With the Opacity set to 50% and the Size set to 50, I was able to subtly remove the lines in the image. I don’t want to completely remove them, just fade them a little.

  • Lighten under the eyes: Many people, even children, will have dark areas below their eyes, and you can use the Retouch brush to fade that area away. To do this, use the brush at a low opacity (30% is a good start) and a size just large enough to fit the area (about the same size as the iris of the eye is usually good). Paint a few brush strokes over the area—just enough to remove some of the darkness but not so much that it starts to look “smudgy” (FIGURES 4.25 and 4.26).

    Figure 4.25

    Figure 4.25. Most people have dark areas under their eyes.

    Figure 4.26

    Figure 4.26. To fade the dark areas away without completely removing them and making them look “smudgy,” I used the Retouch brush with the Size set to 150, Feather at 125, and the Opacity set to 50%.

    Skin Retouching Pane

    The Skin Retouching pane is where the magic happens. Here you can remove blemishes, smooth skin, and more! The pane is set up for you to start with the top setting, Blemishes, and work your way down. Working in order will give you the best overall results (FIGURE 4.27).

    Figure 4.27

    Figure 4.27. These are the default settings of the Skin Retouching pane.

  • Face Size: The Face Size setting determines the initial mask size for the face: Large, Medium, or Small. This sets the masking area to look for flesh colors beyond the default mask; change it if the surrounding mask is encompassing too much or too little of the skin on the face. You can preview the mask by clicking the drop-down and hovering over the sizes. In addition, you can refine the mask by using the Brush tool.

  • Blemishes: Ranging from 0 to 100, the Blemishes slider removes medium-size blemishes, such as acne, freckles, large pores, and even lines in the face while retaining the pore structure in the skin. When using this slider for females and children, try setting it between 60 and 80. For males, keep the setting under 50.
  • Smoothing: This setting smoothes the skin and is a good complement to the Blemishes slider and helps add a soft, healthy glow to the face. Be careful to not be heavy-handed with this slider, or you’ll end up with skin that looks plastic and surreal (FIGURE 4.28). Although it ranges from 0 to 100, aim to keep the setting under 30, which is a good guideline for most skin types (FIGURE 4.29).

    Figure 4.28

    Figure 4.28. Be careful to not overdo the smoothing slider. This image has a Smoothing setting of 60, which adds too much softening to the skin.

    Figure 4.29

    Figure 4.29. Using a lower Smoothing setting will typically give you the best results; here a setting of 20 adds a subtle softness to the skin without losing detail.

  • Shine: Light can emphasize any oil on the skin, making it look shiny. To counteract this, use the Shine slider to even out those shiny areas and better blend them with the surrounding skin (FIGURE 4.30). The slider has settings ranging from 0 to 100; simply move the slider to the right until the shine has disappeared (FIGURE 4.31).

    Figure 4.30

    Figure 4.30. This woman has some shine on her face; I’m going to use the Shine slider to make it less apparent.

    Figure 4.31

    Figure 4.31. I used the Shine slider at a setting of 75 to reduce the shine on the woman’s face.

  • Shadows: The Shadows adjustment (between 0 and 100) helps when you have an image with harsh shadows on the face. Moving this slider to the right softens those shadows and evens out the light over the face.
  • Texture: Usually used in conjunction with the Smoothing slider, the Texture setting adds texture to the skin. If you inadvertently smooth out too much of the skin’s natural texture but need to be a bit heavy on the Smoothing slider, use the Texture slider to replace some of what you lost. The setting ranges from 0 to 100, but you’re better off using the lowest setting possible to add just a small amount of texture back into the image.

  • Evenness: When your subject’s face has areas of redness (blotchy patches or just rosy cheeks), you can use the Evenness slider (0 to 100) to even out the overall skin tone. As you slide the slider to the right, the red slowly disappears (FIGURES 4.32 and 4.33). Be careful, however, not to push the slider too far to the right or you’ll lose a lot of the overall color in the face.

    Figure 4.32

    Figure 4.32. This little girl has very red, rosy cheeks.

    Figure 4.33

    Figure 4.33. By moving the Evenness slider to 50 I was able to remove much of the redness in her face.

  • Face Only check box: On by default, Face Only constrains adjustments to the skin on the face and any area you have painted in with the Brush tool. When you deselect this box, Perfect Portrait will search for other flesh-colored areas of your image and apply the corrections there as well. When working on an individual portrait, leave Face Only checked (FIGURE 4.34). If you’re retouching a portrait with very little or no clothing or you want to apply the same skin edits to an entire group portrait without selecting individual Face Boxes, then deselect the box to edit the entire group at the same time (FIGURE 4.35).
Figure 4.34

Figure 4.34. With the Face Only box checked, only the face will be affected by the Skin Retouching adjustments.

Figure 4.35

Figure 4.35. When you want to adjust all skin in your image, deselect the Face Only box.

Color Correction

Most portraits look their best when they have a warm color cast to them. After all, people are most attractive when they have healthy, radiant, and even flushed skin. The opposite is a cool color cast, which can be an interesting stylized effect, but in a typical portrait it’s usually more of a distraction. If your shot’s color cast is less than idea, the Color Correction pane can help (FIGURE 4.36).

Figure 4.36

Figure 4.36. The Color Correction pane enables you to warm up or cool down the colors in your image.

Even if you already made your color corrections to the image, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to make a few last-minute adjustments can really sell a look. Or, if you used a setting such as the Evenness slider in the Skin Retouching pane (which removes redness in the face), you may want to add some warmth back into your portrait to balance it out. Again, this is when Color Correction pane can be very useful. This pane’s settings will affect the entire image, not just the face and skin.

  • Amount: Ranging from 0 to 100, this setting determines the overall amount of color correction in your image. The more you move this slider to the right, the more intense the color correction in your image will be. By default the Color Correction pane is turned on but the Amount slider is set to 0, so you’ll need to adjust it for the additional settings to take effect.

  • Warmth: Use the Warmth slider to warm up or cool down the color tones in your portrait. The slider ranges from 0 to 100; by default it is set at the “original” warmth of your image (usually around a setting of 27). To warm up your image slide it to the right, and to cool it down slide it to the left (FIGURES 4.37 and 4.38).

    Figure 4.37

    Figure 4.37. This is an example of warming up your image with the Warmth slider; in this example it’s at a setting of 53.

    Figure 4.38

    Figure 4.38. This is an example of cooling down your image with the Warmth slider; in this example it’s at a setting of 0.

  • Color Shift: The Color Shift setting gives you more control over the type of warmth in the image. Slide the slider to the left (toward 1) to give your image reddish warmth, and slide it to the right (up to 100) to give it more yellow warmth. Keeping the slider somewhere in the middle (between 25 and 75) creates a standard orange warmth (FIGURES 4.394.41).

    Figure 4.39

    Figure 4.39. To add reddish warmth, move the Color Shift slider toward the left.

    Figure 4.40

    Figure 4.40. To add yellowish warmth, move the Color Shift slider toward the right.

    Figure 4.41

    Figure 4.41. To add an orange warmth, keep the Color Shift slider in the middle.

  • Ethnicity: The type of correction needed for each image depends on the original color of a person’s skin. Perfect Portrait includes six presets you can use to help the software find a good color match for your photo. These are usually good starting points for your image, or you can leave the setting’s default of Average and make your adjustments manually (FIGURE 4.42).
    Figure 4.42

    Figure 4.42. The Ethnicity drop-down gives you a good starting place, depending on the skin-tone of your model.

Enhancing the Eyes and Mouth

The Mouth & Eyes pane is where you will be able to make adjustments specifically to, not surprisingly, the eyes and mouth. A person’s eyes are the most important aspect of nearly all portraits, and this pane offers tools specifically to make those beautiful eyes stand out. Also, nobody likes yellow teeth, and you can use a slider to remove the yellow and brighten your subject’s pearly whites faster than a dentist. Each of these settings is directly related to the controls over the eyes and mouth you adjusted earlier in this chapter, so be sure that they’re properly positioned to get the best results (FIGURE 4.43):

Figure 4.43

Figure 4.43. The Mouth & Eyes pane allows you to make enhancements to the eyes and mouth.

Eyes Whitening: The Eyes Whitening slider brightens the white portion of the eyeball and ranges from 0 to 100. Between 20 and 50 is a good place to start, and be careful about pushing too far with this setting. White eyeballs are nice, but slide it too far to the right and they might start to look unrealistic (FIGURES 4.44 and 4.45).

Figure 4.44

Figure 4.44. This image shows the eyes with no adjustments applied.

Figure 4.45

Figure 4.45. By moving the Whitening slider to 50, I was able to add a subtle amount of lightening to this girl’s eyes.

  • Eyes Detail: When we look at a photograph our eyes always go to the sharpest portion of a scene. Because the eyes are the most important area in most portraits, adding a bit of sharpening and clarity to them makes sense. The Eyes Detail slider ranges from 0 to 100; to add a touch of sharpness to the eyes, move the slider to the right. Sharpening the eyes can make them sparkle and give your image the balance it needs, but to keep it realistic don’t be too heavy-handed with this setting (FIGURE 4.46).

    Figure 4.46

    Figure 4.46. Setting the Detail slider to 25 adds a good amount of detail to the eyes without overdoing it.

  • Mouth Whitening: Ranging from 0 to 100, the Mouth Whitening slider brightens and whitens the teeth all at once. Try to keep this setting at around 50 for most images, because pushing the number too high may give your subjects unnaturally whitened teeth. Also, if there are no teeth in your portrait keep this setting at 0 (FIGURES 4.47 and 4.48).

    Figure 4.47

    Figure 4.47. This image shows the mouth with no adjustments applied.

    Figure 4.48

    Figure 4.48. By moving the Whitening slider to 60 I was able to add a subtle amount of lightening to this girl’s teeth without affecting the inside of her mouth.

  • Mouth Vibrance: This setting adds saturation to the lips to make them a brighter color. The setting ranges from 0 to 100, and I find that setting it anywhere under 50 does a good job of making the color pop without overdoing it (FIGURE 4.49).
Figure 4.49

Figure 4.49. The Vibrance slider intensifies the red in the lips.

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  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020