Retouching Using Photoshop CS 2 or CS 3

Retouching is important technique, especially for portrait photography. Actually this tutorial is advanced step of my previous tutorial. Previously I don’t mention the step very clearly – also I don’t mention about masking, smoothing skin, sharpening in detail. I think you also need to read my previous tutorial as basic for smoothing skin and local contrast adjustment.

The photo (below) that I use in this tutorial is taken by clickjia, you also can see this photo in his flickr.


The steps how to retouch can be seen below:

1. Note – this is first step that sometimes people think it’s not important. Many people think this step just wasting time, but I think this step is speeding your editing work. Actually before you edit the picture you need to know what do you want to change or improve. If you don’t know what part do you need to edit, I don’t think you can achieve good result.


2. Clean up – clean up is basic work that you need to do before you do the other thing. You can clean some wrinkles in the skin. If the photo is taken in studio maybe you also need to clean the background. This step can be easily done by using spot healing brush tool, healing brush tool, patch tool, and clone stamp tool. Don’t forget to change brush size and brush hardness, I suggest you to use shortcut to change brush size and brush hardness.

3. Remove dark area near the eyes – you need to remove dark area near the eyes because the eyes are the focus part of the photo – so every people will see the eyes and the area near the eyes. If the area near the eyes is dark, it will change the photo become “bad photo” although the other part is good. You need to remove this dark area especially below the eyes. You can see the comparison below.


4. Remove hair and shadow area– sometimes you need to remove some parts of hair and shadow behind the hair.  You can skip this step if you think this isn’t necessary. You can see comparison below.


5. Contouring – you need to contour some parts in the face such as lips, eye, eyebrows, etc because it will make the photo better. When we see portrait photo, most of people will see eyes and lips then see the other parts. Comparison can be seen below.


6. Skin smoothing – After you give contour to lips, eyes, eyebrows then you need to smooth skin (remember only the skin, don’t smooth lips, eyes, eyebrows). In order to smooth the skin you need to smooth the photo and masking some parts. For smoothing effect please refer to  my previous tutorial – and don’t forget to add masking.

The result of step 6 can be seen below, you can compare with the original.


Actually up to step 6 the result is good enough, but I don’t want to stop here…. there are lot of things that we can do after step 6. After step 6, the process is very interesting because you can modify as you like. Feeling and imagination  are important to edit the next steps but don’t worry you can get feeling with doing some editing practice. Actually when you edit different photos, it will increase your skills and also your feeling. So if the result still not good, try and try again. Before you read step 7  please see *Note in the end of my tutorial.

7. Editing eyes and lips – you can edit eyes and lips such as change eyes color and lips color or make it brighter – you can edit these 2 parts with many ways, try to combine some technique to edit these parts. The results of this step can be seen below (in this case I make eyes and area near eyes a little bit brighter and lips color almost the same as finger nail color).


8. Local Contrast Adjustment – when I see the photo, I think the photo is flat or dull – in order to make it better you need to adjust contrast, you can do this technique with many ways. The comparison before local contrast adjustment and after local contrast adjustment can be seen below.


9. Sharpening – sharpening is important for portrait photography, but do not try to sharpen overall image because it will make it too sharp. My suggestion is only sharpen eyes and lips part instead of overall image. Remember that skin need to be soft and the other part can be sharp if it’s interesting. Also remember not to over sharp the eyes and lips – adjust opacity to achieve best result.


10. Final adjustment and Tone adjustment – After step 9 is completed, I think we need to do final adjustment and tone adjustment. You can do final adjustment by using curve, level, or other technique. Tone adjustment also required because skin tone is important for portrait photography – you can adjust tone by using hue/saturation, color balance, photo filter, and many other techniques.

The final result can be seen below.


After that I make a wallpaper for my notebook :))


Finally we finish on retouching this photo, I hope you can learn some useful techniques to retouch the photo. Anyway if you have question, suggestion, and comment, please don’t hesitate to write it in my blog. I will reply it as soon as possible.

*Note: Some people may think that the result is somewhat unrealistic – like a doll because it loose texture. For anyone that love realistic – I am sorry that I don’t mention what kind of retouching in this tutorial. My idea of retouching is come from game and CG-artist (Soa Lee) so the result is like ‘that’. Anyway you can give skin texture after step 6 – “it’s an option for people that loves realistic” – you can reduce smoothing effect (step 6) then give skin texture to make it more realistic – then you ready to enter step 7.

Update: November 11th,2008

I also try to make a realistic version with adding skin texture after reduced softening effect then I change final adjustment and color tone in order to make it more realistic. Hope it still can be enjoyed – Thanks.


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18 thoughts on “Retouching Using Photoshop CS 2 or CS 3

  1. Unfortunately,
    Everyone is loosing the pore structure in the skin… Its a shame because some of the other retouching is great. But once skin looses its texture, it looses its realistic quality.

    Kristina Sherk

    • Overall the techniques used here are very helpfull, you give some good tips and hints in how to improve photographs. Unfortunately, today’s cameras capture too much detail of the skin, more so than human eye I would say, so some retouching and editing does good. I really like the final result that you acomplished, but as you mention, for those photographers out there who want more realistic results, they can use different values on the bluring effects.

  2. @Kristina Sherk
    Thanks for your critique – I agree with your opinion “when skin looses its texture, it looses its realistic quality”. But is it retouching only to produce realistic thing? My retouching idea is based on game so it produce smooth skin with loose texture like a plastic. I think it’s good (for some cases) but I also agree that “it’s unrealistic…”.

    Update: November 11th, 2008 – in the end I also make a realistic version because some people like it more – Anyway thanks for your critique and suggestion – sorry for my self defense :))

  3. sam parah lo…. gara2 kristina gue jadi bikin yang versi realistic biar dia seneng… padahal temen2 gue pada suka wallpapernya – memang gak realistic tapi kan kayak animasi cewek di game.

  4. @ B Setiadi:
    Foto2nya alamiah – tanpa editing, untuk foto dokumentasi saya juga kadang2 gak edit :)). Sedikit masukan saja, kebanyakan foto2 alamiah di siang hari punya masalah yang sama yaitu gambar terlalu terang (wash out) dan gambarnya dull(flat/gak kontras). Dari flickr B Setiadi saya udah coba edit satu foto yang bernama Wat Arun. Dari foto Wat Arun saya hanya perbaiki horizon yang miring (supaya temple tidak terlihat miring), kemudian improve kontras dan color balance, plus burn sebagian awan. Sorry klo hasil editannya gak terlalu maksimal…

    Untuk hasil foto editan Wat Arun bisa didonlod ke sini:

    Untuk langkah2 mungkin bisa reference ke tutorial sebelumnya:

  5. Got your site from Flickr Group.
    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    This is already a great help for newbies like me.
    And yes some people like the plastic look!
    Definitely we need this tutorial for a more plasticky mood! 😀

  6. Thanks….
    First time I just make plastic look version because for some reasons I like that but other people also like reality. In the end I also try to make the realistic version so it depends on you wanna make plastic or realistic version – actually only a little bit different about skin smoothing, skin texture, and finalizing. For skin texture there are many methods to generate it – in this tutorial I don’t give any detail about skin texture, if you interesting with realistic version maybe you need to find skin texture method in other site.

  7. Pingback: Colorization Using Photoshop CS 2 or CS 3 « Just about Photography

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    your welcome… sorry to edit your comment – no need to write your link in the comment because people can directly click your name which go to your website.

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