photoshop creative

Achieve perfect portraits in 15 steps!

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
January 21, 2015

Discover how everyday images can be transformed into breathtaking portraits in just a few minutes!

1. Portrait composition

Open up your portrait. To achieve a well composed portrait, select the Crop tool and click once on the image. Then, following the rule of thirds, crop the image so that the models’ eyes are aligned with a the top horizontal line.

2. Spot healing

Select the Spot Healing brush tool. In the top options bar, click Sample All Layers. Create a new layer, and start tackling the skin imperfections by clicking on them once. Ensure you vary the brush size to match that of each individual imperfection.

3. Remove stray hair

Select the Clone Stamp tool. Sample a region of the skin close to the unwanted hair by clicking with the mouse while clicking Alt/Opt, then click onto the region of unwanted hair to replace it with the sample region of skin.

4. Smooth out the skin

Add a new layer then go to Image>Apply Image. Then go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian blur choosing a 10px Radius. Set the Opacity of this layer to 50%. Using a soft brush, mask away the blur from the entire image except the model’s skin.

5. Contrast lights and shadows

Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Curves. On the RGB channel, bring the middle and top sections of the curve up, and the lower section down to create contrast between lights and shadows.

6. Colour correction

To correct the colours, use the same Curves layer but this time, select the Red and Blue channels. Bring the Red curve down, and the blue curve up to bring out the blue shades in the image.

7. Colour the lips

Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Selective Colour and set Reds: -55, 0, 0, 0, Neutrals: -20, +15, -40, -5. Msk the entire image except the lips and lower the Opacity to 50%. (Elements: Enhance>Adjust Colour>Adjust Hue/Saturation.)

8. Colour the eyes

Repeat the previous step for the eyes, using the following values: Yellows: -100, 0, 0, 0, Whites: -26, 0, 0, 0 and Neutrals: 20, -10, -50, +8. Set the mode to Colour Dodge, 50% Opacity (Elements: Use a soft brush set to Soft Light, 50% Opacity. Paint the eyes in blue: #31c7ff.)

9. Light source

Light the face of the model as though a light source were directed at her from the right side of the canvas. Paint four spots of white using a soft brush: forehead, cheeks and chin. Set the layer to Soft Light and the Opacity to 50%.

10. Dodge elements

Add a new layer and go to Edit>Fill>50% grey; set this layer to Soft Light. Select the Dodge tool, set to Midtones. Using a 200px soft brush at 15% Exposure, paint on the light areas (eyes, lips, cheeks…) to enhance them.

11. Burn in detail

Use the Burn tool on the same layer as the previous step and with the same settings, enhance the shadows (below the eyes, eyelashes, neck…). Aim for good contrast.

12. Shading the eyes

Add a new layer and set the blending mode to Soft Light. Using a soft brush, 200px, paint above and below the eyelids in black, to increase the shadows in this area.

13. More Dodge and Burn

Follow the process presented in steps 10 and 11 to bring out the contrast between the light and dark areas of the hair using the Dodge and Burn tools. Make sure the colours of the hair remain natural through the process.

14. Sharpen the portrait

Add a new layer and go to Image>Apply Image. Next goto Filter>Other>Custom, keep the default settings and click OK. If the sharpening effect is too strong, go to Edit>Fade Custom and reduce the percentage. (Elements: go to Enhance>Auto Sharpen.)

15. Final touches

Add a new layer and using a 2000px soft brush, at 20% Opacity, to paint the edges of the canvas in black to create a vignette look. Also, paint the left area of the canbas in white to get rid of the unwanted green background.