Pho­to retouch­ing is not only about remov­ing facial imper­fec­tions and clean­ing the back­ground. Para­dox­i­cal­ly, retouch­ing helps to improve the com­po­si­tion of the pho­to, to focus the view­er’s atten­tion. A per­son is not dis­tract­ed by the wires hang­ing over the beau­ti­ful archi­tec­ture, does not count the cig­a­rette butts around the mod­el that you pho­tographed from a favor­able angle, and does not look at ran­dom hairs that have fall­en on the face, wool on clothes or pim­ples at the moment when, as planned, he should enjoy the beau­ty of a per­son and inter­est­ing light. In life, these lit­tle things do not pre­vent us from notic­ing a charis­mat­ic per­son or admir­ing the city — we per­ceive the world as a mov­ing pic­ture, in dynam­ics. Pho­tog­ra­phy is sta­t­ic, every­thing is dif­fer­ent with it — we can look at a still frame for hours, cling to flaws. That is why it is impor­tant to remove all unnec­es­sary.

We will tell you how to do basic face retouch­ing in Pho­to­shop, how a stamp dif­fers from a heal­ing brush and a spot heal­ing brush, how to use them and which tool is prefer­able in each case.

On the left is the result of retouch­ing with a stamp, a heal­ing brush and a spot heal­ing brush, and on the right is the source / Pho­to: Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa / instagram.com/chechevic_a

Basic skin retouching in Photoshop

Basic retouch­ing or tech­ni­cal retouch­ing is when a pho­to is brought to the most accu­rate and pre­sentable appear­ance, elim­i­nat­ing obvi­ous flaws. The same wires that line the sky of the city or wires of stu­dio light stick­ing out with­in the frames of the frame, debris when shoot­ing a land­scape, an occa­sion­al cof­fee stain on the mod­el’s clothes — all this can be attrib­uted to objects that should be removed dur­ing basic retouch­ing.

Basic skin retouch­ing is the removal of vis­i­ble imper­fec­tions on the model’s face or body, which do not empha­size her indi­vid­u­al­i­ty in any way and will draw the atten­tion of the view­er in vain. Crum­bling mas­cara, unaes­thet­i­cal­ly cov­er­ing the face of bro­ken hairs, smeared lip­stick, pim­ples — all this can be attrib­uted to imper­fec­tions that need to be cor­rect­ed in the first place. Nat­u­ral­ly, any of these ele­ments can work to reveal the image of the mod­el and the idea of ​​shoot­ing — always ana­lyze what and why is present in your frame.

On the oth­er hand, freck­les, scars, moles can be attrib­uted to ele­ments that empha­size indi­vid­u­al­i­ty and which do not need to be removed for retouch­ing. Except when the client him­self asks to remove them.

Skin Retouching Tools in Photoshop

Basic retouch­ing will make the pho­to clean and neat, help direct the view­er’s atten­tion to the mod­el. In this case, you will not get plas­tic skin, as if pho­tograph­ing a cyborg, not a per­son. It turns out that basic retouch­ing is suit­able to achieve the most nat­ur­al result.

For basic face retouch­ing in Pho­to­shop, the most com­mon­ly used:

  • Stamp
  • Spot Heal­ing Brush
  • Heal­ing brush

Impor­tant: we are focus­ing on skin retouch­ing, but once you under­stand how the tools work, you can retouch every­thing else — clothes, back­ground, objects.

Stamp in Photoshop

Stamp / Clone Stamp Tool — the sim­plest tool of the four in terms of how it works. A sim­ple device gives great oppor­tu­ni­ties for retouch­ing. It helps when all oth­er tools don’t work prop­er­ly, leav­ing dirt behind. But there is also a minus — in the instru­ment you often have to change the set­tings for the sit­u­a­tion and the right time to adapt and “feel” it.

Where is the Stamp locat­ed in Pho­to­shop. Look for it in the tool­bar on the left or with the hot key S / Illus­tra­tion by the author

How a Stamp Works in Photoshop

The prin­ci­ple of oper­a­tion of the stamp is sim­ple. There is an object on the mod­el’s face that you don’t like. For exam­ple, a pim­ple. But also near­by you can find with clean skin, on which there are no prob­lems. With the help of a stamp, you can take an area with clean skin (donor area) and close the prob­lem area with it. Due to this, retouch­ing occurs.

How to use a stamp in Pho­to­shop:

  • Grab the Clone Stamp Tool.
  • Find a clean area of ​​skin to sam­ple from for the prob­lem area.
  • To spec­i­fy what exact­ly to con­sid­er as a donor area, press Alt, and then the left mouse but­ton. So the pro­gram will remem­ber that this place is the start­ing point from where it will take the mate­r­i­al.
  • Hov­er your mouse over the area you want to cov­er up.
  • Hold down the left mouse but­ton and draw the prob­lem area.
Skin area before and after a sin­gle appli­ca­tion of the stamp / Illus­tra­tion by the author

The most important stamp settings

The stamp takes the area and with the para­me­ters that you set. This gives great oppor­tu­ni­ties for flex­i­ble use. Con­sid­er the most impor­tant stamp set­tings.

  • Size How big the pay­off will be. Adjustable with slid­er, keys [ (русская буква «х») и ] (let­ter “ъ” on the Russ­ian lay­out) or in the menu that appears when you right-click on the area with the image. Try to match the size of the stamp to the size of the defect. For exam­ple, if you need to remove a hair, take a small stamp, a lit­tle more thick than a hair.
  • Rigid­i­ty / Hard­ness. Soft or hard stamp bor­ders. It is adjust­ed using the slid­er or in the menu called by right-click­ing on the area with the pho­to.
All stamp set­tings are locat­ed at the top of the pro­gram and are high­light­ed in red. In the illus­tra­tion, a com­par­i­son of the Stamp with the Hard­ness / Hard­ness set­ting of 100% and 0%. The size of the tool did not change at the same time / Illus­tra­tion by the author
  • Opac­i­ty / Opac­i­ty. Adjusts the press­ing force of the Stamp. Press / Flow has sim­i­lar prop­er­ties. In order not to get con­fused in sev­er­al slid­ers, Leave the Pres­sure unchanged and adjust only the Opac­i­ty.
  • Align­ment / Aligned. The place where the pay­ment comes from. If the but­ton is not pressed, Stamp always takes the patch from the same place. It is bet­ter to press it — this way the same patch­es will not mul­ti­ply, and the retouch­ing will be more nat­ur­al.
  • Sample/Simple. From which lay­er the Stamp takes mate­r­i­al for the patch. Often begin­ners think that the tool does not work because they for­get about this set­ting.

If you are retouch­ing on a trans­par­ent, emp­ty lay­er, put Cur­rent & Below / Cur­rent lay­er and below. Then the patch will be tak­en from the emp­ty lay­er and the lay­ers below it. If you are work­ing on a copy of the orig­i­nal lay­er, set Cur­rent Lay­er / Cur­rent Lay­er so that the patch is tak­en only from the lay­er on which you are stand­ing.

Impor­tant: nev­er retouch on the source! Always cre­ate a dupli­cate or emp­ty lay­er on which the main retouch­ing will take place. So, in case of an error, you can always return to the begin­ning.

Healing Brush Tool in Photoshop

The Heal­ing Brush Tool works like a Stamp, but addi­tion­al­ly pro­tects the user by try­ing to match the col­or of the patch. It turns out that you select the donor tex­ture, and the Heal­ing brush picks up the col­or.

How to use the Heal­ing Brush in Pho­to­shop:

  • Grab the Heal­ing Brush Tool. You can quick­ly call it with the hot key J.
  • Find the donor area, press Alt and then the left mouse but­ton. So the pro­gram will remem­ber the patch.
  • Sketch the prob­lem area by press­ing the left mouse but­ton.

The tool is great for skin retouch­ing. Prob­lems can arise when you approach con­trast­ing edges — areas with dif­fer­ences in bright­ness and col­or. For exam­ple, lip con­tour, nos­trils, eye­brows, facial out­line, hair con­tour. In such areas, the Heal­ing Brush often smears. This is because the tool is try­ing to match the col­or by mix­ing the arith­metic mean. Every­thing is like in life — if you try to mix black and white paint, you get gray.

A dirty spot has appeared in the upper rec­tan­gle at the bor­der of the fore­head and hair — this is the Heal­ing Brush blend­ing col­ors in a con­trast­ing area. In such areas, it is bet­ter to use Stamp / Illus­tra­tion by the author

The Heal­ing Brush set­tings are sim­i­lar to the Stamp set­tings. But, since the tool is semi-auto­mat­ic, you only need to mon­i­tor the Size of the brush / Size and the num­ber of lay­ers that the tool takes into account when it takes a patch — Sam­ple / Sam­ple. Every­thing is the same as with the Stamp — when work­ing on an emp­ty lay­er, select Cur­rent & Below / Cur­rent lay­er and below, and when work­ing on a dupli­cate — Cur­rent lay­er / Cur­rent Lay­er.

Spot Healing Brush / Spot Healing Brush Tool in Photoshop

The Spot Heal­ing Brush Tool is a cross between a stamp and a Heal­ing Brush. She also takes the donor area and replaces it with the area to be hid­den. But the Spot Heal­ing Brush itself finds areas to patch, com­pil­ing them from near­by pix­els and adjust­ing the col­or at the same time.

It sounds con­ve­nient — to start retouch­ing, you just need to “smear” over the area that you don’t like with the mouse. For exam­ple, on a pim­ple, a wrin­kle, a bro­ken hair. The minus is in the same place as the plus — often the repair brush takes unsuit­able ran­dom areas as a sam­ple for patch­ing, and also spoils the tex­ture by blur­ring it.

Due to the nature of the work, the repair brush is not always suit­able for skin, but it works great for retouch­ing smooth sur­faces. For exam­ple, a sol­id stu­dio back­ground, smooth tex­ture­less objects or fab­rics. It also makes it easy to remove stray hairs.

It is impos­si­ble to say exact­ly how well the brush will work at this par­tic­u­lar moment. Always try — in the end, if suc­cess­ful, it will save a lit­tle time.

Since we can’t con­trol where the Spot Heal­ing Brush picks up the patch, pat­terns can appear — areas of the same tex­ture that catch the eye / Illus­tra­tion by the author

What is the best tool to use when?

Each of the tools has its own char­ac­ter­is­tics, advan­tages and lim­i­ta­tions. It can­not be said that some of them are prefer­able, and the rest are not need­ed. Retouch­ing will go the fastest if you use them in con­junc­tion with each oth­er.

  • The Heal­ing Brush is ide­al for retouch­ing skin. It insures the user by cre­at­ing an arith­metic mean for the col­or. Most face retouch­ing can be done with this tool.
  • The Heal­ing Brush smudges and makes mud­dy col­or when work­ing on con­trast­ing edges.
  • The stamp is a ver­sa­tile tool. In gen­er­al, they alone can make a full-fledged tech­ni­cal retouch­ing, but in order to work with it quick­ly, you need to get used to it, since you need to take into account a lot of set­tings. To speed up retouch­ing, use a Heal­ing or Spot Heal­ing brush.
  • The stamp is indis­pens­able when the work goes on con­trast­ing bor­ders. For exam­ple, cor­rect the con­tour of the eye­brows or lips, remove hair in the nose and along the con­tour of the face, remove pro­trud­ing eye­lash­es.
  • The Spot Heal­ing Brush is the eas­i­est to use. But, since this is the most auto­mat­ed tool, it often gives unpre­dictable results. Use it to clean back­grounds and oth­er smooth, tex­ture­less sur­faces. You can try on the skin, but there is a high prob­a­bil­i­ty that it will become washed out — it will become too smooth and unnat­ur­al.


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