The phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words” is true in almost every case imaginable. The images that business uses for their advertisements speaks volumes for the company itself. As a designer, it is our job to make sure that our clients images are worth 1000 of the best words possible. With this being said, you will eventually come across a time where you have to retouch an image of a model or a person in order to use in in an advertisement, a clothing catalog, or even on a business website.

Images aren’t always top quality when we they come to us, but we have to do the best with what we have. You wouldn’t believe what some of the before images look like for retail photography. Download the sample image shown below from here. We will need to make a few adjustments to make this image ready to be used in an an or for a website.

The first thing that we need to do is remove the major blemishes in the image. Notice the harsh blemish on the lip, the one to the bottom right, the one directly under the right eye, and the ones around the nose. Select the Spot Healing Brush and make sure that you have a soft edge brush selected as your brush tip. We want the blemish to disappear gradually and blend with the skin around it.

Different settings work for different purposes. For the skin, set the Spot Healing Brush to Proximity Match. This will make the brush blend with the skin surrounding the brush. this makes the skin look more natural. If you select Content Aware, it may sample unwanted areas to try to fill in the skin. For the blemish on the lips, Proximity Match doesn’t work well, because the area that you are blending is specifically two-toned. You have the skin and the top of the lip. Use Content Aware to remove this blemish quickly and easily. Also, be sure to resize the brush up and down to be just slightly larger than your blemishes. These tools seem to work better that way. The results are shown below:

Next, we need to counteract the blotchy skin around the nose. We could try to do a surface blur to smooth the skin, but we can’t do that until we get rid of the blotchy redness, because the redness will still be apparent after the blur. In the Layers Panel, choose a Channel Mixer adjustment layer. First, check Monochrome, so that we can set the output channel to gray. This isn’t an option unless you choose monochromatic. We need to increase the red value and set it fairly high. Set the red value to somewhere between 70-75. You will know that you set the value too high when areas of the skin begin to turn white and become blown out. Lower the Green value to around -10 to -15. and leave the blue value at around 40.

Next, we should remove or at least lessen the shine effect under her eyes. The areas appear to be blown out, but you can really fix this area by selecting the Spot Healing Brush and a soft edge brush. Bump the size up to around 40px and select Proximity Match as your method of healing. Single click on the outer areas of the shine, closest to the cheek bones and work your way in under the eyes. Keep clicking to blend the skin into the shiny areas under her eyes, making them disappear almost completely. When we smooth the skin, you won’t be able to tell at all. Also, be sure to remove the shine on the tip of her nose as well.

The nose is still  a little too red, so lets make a general selection around it with the Quick Selection Tool. Try to only select the areas that are red and pink. In the Layers Panel, create a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. When doing this, Photoshop automatically creates a mask as well. With your selection still active, Alt/Option-click on the mask to make it active. Then hit Command/Ctrl + Shift + I to Invert the selection and fill it with black. Then, Go to Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur and set the blur to around 7-8px.

In the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, select the reds and desaturate them a little. Depending on the skin of your subject, lower the saturation to around -20 to -30. On the hue slider, move it slightly to the right until the pink and redness of the skin blends into the surrounding areas. I set the value to +10. The blurred mask we created earlier will help to blend the effect gradually, making the transition subtle. As you can see below, the redness has virtually disappeared.

Next, we need to smooth the skin. We are at a point where it would be a good idea to created a merged copy layer to work from, so that we don’t destroy what we have done so far. Hit Command/Ctrl + Shift+ Alt/Option + E to combine all of the visible layers into a new layer. This will save us from having to go back and redo anything if we do something undesirable to what we have done so far. Next Select Filter>Blur> Surface Blur. Set the Radius to 100 and the Threshold to 20-25. This will smooth the skin nicely, but the effect is a little too overwhelming. Lower the opacity of the layer to around 70%. This will bring in texture of the skin, while smoothing out some of the rougher areas.

If you notice, thre is a slight amount of grain in the skin. This could be due to so many adjustments, or simply not using the right adjustments or lighting when the image was shot. Hit Command/Ctrl + J to duplicate the current layer. Then, go to Blur>Gaussian Blur and set the amount to 4-5px. This will blur the entire image, which is not what we want, so lower the opacity of the layer to around 35%. The hair, eyes and lips are all blurred, as well as the background. Click the Layer mask icon and select a soft edge brush. Paint the areas of the eyes, eyebrows, lips and hair back into full focus in the image. Use the Quick Select Tool to select the background and feather the edges of this portion of the mask to blend the skin and background. Change the blend mode to Luminosity.

Next, we will add a little color to the model’s face.Create a new layer.  To highlight and accentuate the cheekbones, select a rosey color and paint over the cheeks with a soft edge brush. I chose #e87e90 as the color. Your first instinct is to set the blend mode of overlay or color. Soft Light works better, because it is softer and more subtle. Work with the blend mode active to see how the effect looks. Use a large, soft edge eraser to get rid of areas with too much color. It really just depends on the model and their facial structure. Follow the cheek bones and erase the color from areas where there is too much color. There was already a lot of pink on the right side of the image, so you will notice that I didn’t have to paint as much there. The majority of the color is added to the left side.

The next thing we need to do is add a little color around the eyes. The general rule when accentuating eyes is to use a color opposite on the color wheel from the actual eye color. Our subject’s eyes are green, so we will be using pink and blue to add shape and contour, making the eyes stand out. Create a new layer and use a soft edge brush. We want to choose a brighter pink than before. I selected #e87eb5 and painted just over the eyelids, leaving the area under the eyebrows blank for now. Set the blend mode to Soft Light and lower the opacity to 20%.

Next, create another new layer and select a soft edge brush and select a bluish purple color. I chose #7eabe8 and brushed in the areas just under the eyebrows. Set the blend mode to Soft Light. Lower the Opacity to 30%. The effect is subtle, but it helps to make the eyes stand out.

Merge all of the visible layers together again by hitting Command/Ctrl + Shift +Alt/Option + E and select the Dodge Tool. Set it to Midtones and set the flow to 50%. Single-click over each eye once to lighten the eyes. Next we will add some color to the lips, because they seem a little pale. Create a new layer. Select a vibrant pink/purple. I chose #bd4497 which is pretty strong. Use a soft edge brush and brush over the area of the lips, tracing over the edges and filling in the entire area of the lips. Set the Blend mode of this layer to Color Burn, and lower the Opacity to 15%. Below is our finished result:


In just a matter of minutes we took an image that wasn’t very flattering and turned it into a quality image. We smoothed the skin, removed blemishes, brightened the eyes, fixed skin redness, fixed shiny skin spots, and we added make up to accentuate the subject’s bones structure and make her eyes stand out. We did all of this while still preserving skin texture. With the right approach you can make a world of a difference in just about any image.