photoshop creative

How to brighten skin in portrait images in Photoshop

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
May 14, 2012

This tutorial uses a blend mode and a layer mask to lighten the skin tones in a portrait image

In most images of people taken indoors, skin lacks important brightness that can prevent it from standing out from a dark background.


Lighten skin tones


lighten up skin

Step 1 – Screen mode

Open up an image of a group of people or person. The Background layer needs to be duplicated first of all, which can be done by pressing Cmd/Ctrl+J. Set the blend mode of this duplicate to Screen in the Layers palette.

Step 2 – Add layer mask

Screen blending lightens everything in your image, and does a good job on skin tones. So long as there are no bright highlights on the people, the effect should be just right for brightening up faces.

Add a layer mask to the duplicate layer and press Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert it from white to black.

Step 3 – Brush over skin

Select the Eraser tool and set its Hardness to 0% and Opacity to 100%. The Foreground colour will need to be black and then you can paint over the skin to reveal the brighter layer underneath.

If the effect is too bright then lower the Opacity of the layer and not the tool.

Here’s the final image with the Layers palette…

  • Andrew

    This was very helpful. Thanks.

    It states “press Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the layer mask from white to black” but it should be Cmd/Ctrl+i (it looks like a lower-case “L”).

    Also, I had trouble using the eraser once the mask was inverted. I had to use the eraser in white first and then invert it to see the results. Maybe just my machine.

  • Mia

    Not bad! But I send my photo in this company – fixthephoto, guys from FixThePhoto provides professional portrait photo retouching. They reshape face in photos, edit eye color, whiten teeth , remove braces in pictures, and fix frizzy hair in Photoshop.

  • Hi, image coloring effect has to be ensured, which kind of image matching for the skin retouching work. Mark, I think this is perfect brighten skin in portrait images in Photoshop.

  • Is it possible to make an action to brighten skin in portrait images in Photoshop and apply that action for a bunch photos. Actually every month I need to process a lot of portrait image I get through my website and that’s why I am searching for a short method. Do you have any suggestion?

  • Not awful! Be that as it may, I send my photograph in this organization – expert clipping, folks from expert clipping gives a proficient picture photograph correcting. They reshape look at photographs, alter eye shading, brighten teeth, expel supports in pictures, and fix fuzzy hair in Photoshop

  • Hi, Wonderful Post.. I really Like your post..This is a awesome tips.. Thanks for sharing the good information

  • Applying the effect in layer mask is really a good tricks to save the original image in the layer for future use. This was very helpful.

  • Very nice tutorial, very easy to understand because of images are added here orderly. This post is not lesser than a video, as a guideline of photo retouching this is really amazing. This is short very informative for brighten images. Excellent shots, cheers.

  • Thanks for sharing good photoshop retouching tutorial with us. i love this tutorial. Thanks a lot. One more.

  • ClippingPathAssociat

    So helpful and also informative post. Thanks for sharing

  • All of your step brighten skin in portrait images just good. I know the others way to do the same work.

  • Really I am very happy to read your Photoshop tutorial. I have learned easily how to lighten skin in portrait image in Photoshop by reading your tutorial. Now I try it my self. Thanks for sharing a nice tutorial with us.

  • Shadows/Highlights is such valuable as a tool that I really wonder why it is not in the Adobe Camera Raw.

  • As a beginner level learner and Photo editing service provider your tutorial is very helpful for me and also effective for those people who wants to become a expert in Photoshop.

  • Lilly Ann

    Wow! Super blog post … Many thanks for showing us.

  • Great tutorial and very easy to follow. I really like how you achieved the end result without a lot of effort. Thanks for sharing.

  • very useful articles.i will try this, i made it very easily. anion can try this.

  • These are basic but helpful. Anyway, good work!

  • For photo retouching Photoshop is the tool what can make an image totally blameless however it should be. And here the tutorial presented in a really nice way. Really thanks for it.