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Extreme Photo Retouching

Photo retouching isn't easy. You have to make a person simply look better, without adding any unrealistic effects. The result must always be realistic and it should be hard to tell what you have done to the picture. It's very sinful.

Take a look in fashion magazines. What do the girls look like? How is their skin? Everything about them looks perfect, but that is because almost every photo in those magazines is heavily retouched. It can be everything from changing eye color to removing visible fat and reshaping bodyparts.

This walkthrough covers:

- Smoothening skin
- Change the shape of the model's body and face
- Adding shadows and highlights to simulate a more commercial look
- Changing the color of hair, eyes, lips, skin and clothes

Tip: When trying this out, put the layers for each part in layer groups. It's much easier to find layers then and you won't have to scroll so much if you end up with many layers.

So, where to begin? I wanted someone who didn't look like professional model - but had the potential to be retouched to look like one. Pretty sinful, I know.

The model is ~Darkest-Regret from DeviantArt.

image 1

50% view

Part 1 - Reshaping/"fixing" the body

1. Duplicate the base layer. We do this so that we can go back to the original image anytime. Name the layer 'Shape'.

2. With the new Shape layer selected, go to Filter > Liquify (or simply hit Shift+CTRL+X).

3. Select Forward Warp Tool (W) and start reshaping your model. Remember to very the brush size to achieve best result.

Here you can see what I changed:

image 2

- Thinner waist
- Flatter stomach
- Smaller behind (ass, for those who does not know what a behind is)
- Narrower cheekbones
- Bigger breasts with more round shape
- Thinner thighs and calves (only one calf on this picture)

4. For her breasts I also used the Bloat Tool (B). Single clicks with that and her breast looked alot larger. Don't overdo it though, the viewer would definately notice.

5. Hit OK and you're done.

Ok, now for some cloning. I wanted to remove some parts that I didn't feel belonged to a photo model.

6. Create a new layer. Name it 'Cloning'.

7. Select the Clone Stamp Tool (S). Start removing unwanted parts by using different sized brushes. Sometimes it's necessary to change the hardness of the brush too.

Here you can see what I changed:

image 3

Part 2 - Smoothening skin

This is a pretty easy step that can be done very quickly.

1. Duplicate the Shape layer. Name it 'Smooth'.

2. Go to Filter > Noise > Median and use a Radius of 2-5 pixels. It depends on the resolution of your picture. Hit OK.

Sometimes this filter leaves pretty sharp lines where you don't want it.

3. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and select a small radius, like 1-2px. Hit OK.

In Photoshop CS2 there is a filter called Surface Blur. If you want you can use that instead, it doesn't matter which.

4. Add a layer mask to your Smooth layer. Invert the layer mask by pressing CTRL+I. The layer will become invisible.

5. Select a soft brush with white color and start brushing on the parts you want to smoothen. Use different sized brushes for best result. Try to avoid smoothing parts that has to be sharp, like edges, eyes, mouth, etc. Only smoothen skin.

6. If it looks extremely unnatural (which it often does on close-ups), just lower the opacity of the layer.

image 4

Part 3 - Adding shadows and highlights

This is the most interesting part, where we add simple shadows and highlights to simulate a more commercial look. We will try to make the model look more shiny.

If this was a professional photo shot for some advertisement or something, then we wouldn't have to change the light like this. Maybe work a little with it, but never add it like this. The photographer would have set a great lighting similar to this. But since this isn't a professional photo, let's do it ourselves.

We start by adding shadows.

1. Create a new layer. Name it 'Lo'.

2. Select the Eyedropper Tool (if you're using the Brush Tool, hold Alt) and select the color of the darker shadows on her body. I used the shadow on her back.

3. Select Brush Tool (B) and start brushing like this:

image 5

You see that the edges of the brushing covers her skin? That's what we want.

Paint every part you think needs more shadow.

4. Make the layer invisible. Now make a selection of her body. It doesn't matter which tool you use. I used the Magnetic Lasso Tool.

image 6

5. Invert the selection by going Shift+CTRL+I, so that you have the background selected.

6. Make the Lo layer visible again and hit delete. You will now have shadow only on the body, where we want it. If you don't want to delete anything, you could use a layer mask. But deleting isn't so dangerous in this case.

7. Change the blending mode to Multiply. Now lower the opacity till you get something that looks good. Mine is 52%.

8. If there are any "holes" in the Lo layer, meaning that the edge is white at any place (due to accidently making the selection a little off when tracing the contours), try fixing it with the Smudge Tool. Uhm, hard to explain such an easy thing...

image 7

Let's move on to highlights.

8. Create a new layer. Name it 'Hi 1'.

9. Start brushing with a soft white brush, but not too big. Something like this:

image 8

Smudge and erase how much you want.

10. Add some gaussian blur to it, so it's not too defined.

11. Set the blending mode to Soft Light and lower the opacity to something like 30%.

image 9

12. Create a new layer. Name it 'Hi 2'.

13. Ok, same thing again, but with a smaller brush. Also blur this a little bit, so that it blends better.

image 10

14. Set the blending mode to Soft Light with pretty much the same opacity as the Hi 1 layer.

image 11

I also added some highlights in her face.

Part 4 - Changing colors

This step is pretty easy. This is what almost always gets retouched in photos. Colors.

We're gonna start with the color of eyes and lips.

1. Create TWO new layers. Name the first one 'Lips' and the second one 'Eyes'.

2. On the Lips layer, paint some red color over her lips. On a close-up, you should trace it with pen tool rather than painting. But here it's ok.

3. On the Eyes layer paint some blue.

image 12

4. Set the Lips layer's blending mode to Overlay and 25% opacity, or another value if you prefer that.

5. Set the Eyes layer's blending mode to Soft Light with 25% opacity.

image 13

Let's do the hair.

6. Create a new layer. Name it 'Hair'.

7. Make a selection or paint on her hair. Using quick mask is a tip.

8. Make it red, or another color if you want. The main point is that the end result should look natural.

image 14

9. Set the blending mode to Soft Light and opacity 30%. This will give a nice tone to the hair without making it look fake.

image 15

And now her underwear...

10. Create a new layer. Name it 'Underwear'.

11. Make a selection of her underwear. Fill it with a color you like. Try to make it match though. Using a color that goes with her hair is a good idea.

image 16

12. Set the blending mode to Soft Light and play with the opacity till you get something you like.

image 17

image 18

Looking good. We just want some finishing touches now. We're gonna boost the colors for the whole picture.

13. Add a Hue/Saturation layer. I simply pulled the hue up to +15.

Then I saw that her foot somehow was paler than the rest of her skin.

14. Duplicate the Hue/Saturation layer.

15. Invert the layer mask and paint with some white on the foot. The foot has now the same saturation as the rest of her skin.

Extreme Photo Retouching
Click to enlarge

Nice! Hope you got a similar result. Remember not to overdo anything. It will be easy to notice.

Hope you enjoyed this walkthrough!

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