photoshop creative

How to retouch portraits in Photoshop, part 1

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by The Photoshop Creative Team
February 19, 2014

Learn the basic skills and techniques behind turning a drab photo shoot into a stunning portrait

Retouch portraits in Photoshop

Step 1 – Crop first

Begin by using the crop tool to create a more interesting composition of the portrait. Use the rule of thirds lines to roughly align to her right eye. Set the top of the frame to crop just above the tip of her head.

Step 2 – Blemish removal

Create a copy of the background layer to work on. Use the Spot Healing brush set to Content Aware. Set the brush tip to be just slightly larger than each blemish spot and simply click away the trouble areas.

Step 3 – Healing Brush

For some of the larger areas of concern, such as the fold of skin near the chin and stretched area along the nose, use the Healing Brush. Alt/opt click to sample a smooth area and paint away the problem spots.

Step 4 – Wrinkle treatment

Some of the wrinkles, like near the corner of the eyes, can’t be completely eliminated without the portrait appearing unnatural. Create a copy of the working layer and use the same healing techniques to paint out the wrinkles, then reduce the layer opacity to let them peek through.

Step 5 – Colour pop

The overall hue of the image is rather dull. To help make the colours pop out add a Vibrance adjustment layer and set the vibrance setting to around 60 and the saturation to around 5.

Step 6 – Teeth cleaning

To remove the yellow hue from the teeth, add a hue/sat adjustment layer. Set the pull the saturation way down to around -80 and set the lightness to about 5. Fill the layer mask with black and use a soft white brush to gently apply to the teeth.

Step 7 – Teeth whitening

Add a Levels adjustment layer and clip it to the hue/saturation layer by alt/opt clicking the line between the layer thumbnails. Then adjust the Levels handles by pulling the outter handles in towards the centre until the teeth become a brilliant white.

Step 8 –  Lip gloss


Create a curves adjustment layer and three points to the curve, a lower shadow point, a central midtone point, and an upper highlight point. Then push the highlight straight up to enhance the gloss effect. Use the mask to apply the effect to the lips and eyes.

Step 9 – Eye colour


Enhance the eye colour with another hue/saturation layer set to taste (we used hue -7, sat +70, light +10) and carefully apply to the irises using the layer mask. Then add new layer sample the eye white colour and gently paint in the white areas.

Continue to part 2…