photoshop creative

Photoshop Tutorial: How to retouch portraits into a studio-lit glamour shot

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
July 26, 2013

A free Photoshop tutorial on how to turn a living room portrait into a glossy, studio-lit affair with a new backdrop, beauty work and targeted colour adjustments

Step 1

Open up your start image. First off we need to mask our main subject. Select the Polygonal Lasso tool and draw a rough selection around your subject, taking care to include all of the stray hairs around the hair edge.







Step 2

Now, with the selection still active, go to Select>Refine Edge. The Refine Edge dialog will load up. Click the View drop-down menu and choose On White. Check the Smart Radius box and click and hold on the brush button adjacent to make sure the Refine Radius tool is selected.







Step 3

Now use the [ and ] keys to resize the brush so it’s just a little thicker than the background information found around the hair. Brush around all of that background information, including the strands of hair.








Step 4

Parts of the main body of hair are missing so we hold down Alt/Opt and brush over these to tell Photoshop that they need to be included. If there’s any brown background still present, brush over again in the normal way. Don’t worry about the area inside the arm just yet.







Step 5

A lot of the hair strands aren’t included in this case but this is the best Photoshop can do. Don’t worry about any dark shaded areas around the hair at the moment. Make sure Output To is set to New Layers with Layer Mask and click OK. You’ll see a new layer on top now with a layer mask.








Step 6

Press W for the Quick Selection tool (add Shift to cycle to it if Magic Wand is active) and click and drag inside the brown area still left. With the selection active, select the layer mask then B for the Brush tool and paint over the area with black to remove it.





Step 7

Press Ctrl/Cmd+D to deselect, select the base layer, click the Add adjustment layer button at the bottom of the Layers palette and choose Solid Color. Choose a pink colour from the Color Picker. Stick to the left side so it’s not too saturated or it won’t look real.




Step 8

Next we’re going to add a spotlight on the backdrop. Select the Elliptical Marquee tool M (add Shift to cycle to it if another marquee is active) and draw an ellipse. You can reposition it by clicking and dragging inside if necessary.






Step 9

With the selection still active, add a Curves adjustment layer using the button at the base of the Layers palette. Push up with a single plotted point. Now go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and push the Radius slider up to blur the mask to suit. Use Ctrl/Cmd+F to reapply if necessary.





Step 10

Next we take the Brush tool B at 50% Opacity (5) and brush over the area inside the arm with black to tone it down a little. The area around the hair strands still looks too dark. Ctrl/Cmd-click the Curves layer mask next to load it as a selection and add another Curves layer above the last.






Step 11

Invert the layer mask with Ctrl/Cmd+I and pull down with a single point this time to darken the corners of the frame. Now we need to blend the semi-transparent areas of background still showing. Add a Curves layer to the top of the stack then hover between this and the model’s layer, hold down Alt/Opt and click.





Step 12

A clipping mask will have been activated to focus the adjustment on the model layer only. Push the curve up with a single point until the darker patches either side of the model’s hair lighten to blend in seamlessly with the backdrop. Invert the mask with Ctrl/Cmd+I to Hide All.





Step 13

Use a very large soft white brush to work around the edges of the background and hair. Switch to black and a smaller brush at 50% Opacity to reduce the adjustment on the face edge and right shoulder. Leave the adjustment in the hair edges image left but change the layer’s blending mode to Luminosity to preserve its colour.





Step 14

Next we’re going to lighten the image as a whole, so select the top layer and add a Brightness/Contrast adjustment setting Brightness to 30. Now for the cleanup. Add a new layer on top of the stack and select the Spot Healing Brush tool. Set it to Sample All Layers in the Options bar.






Step 15

Now zoom in very close using Ctrl/Cmd and + and click away at any skin blemishes, resizing the brush slightly larger than each with the [ and ] keys. You can also remove some of the stray hairs on the forehead. Next create a merged duplicate layer with Ctrl/Cmd+Alt/Opt+Shift+E.






Step 16

Zoom back out a touch and add 5-20px of Gaussian Blur with Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Add a layer mask and invert it with Ctrl/Cmd+I. Now brush the blur into the skin only, avoiding details such as lips, eyes, nose and face edges. Select the layer (not its mask) and add 3px of Gaussian mono noise with Filter>Noise>Add Noise.






Step 17

Now add a Curves adjustment layer on top of the stack and push up a little with a single point. Invert the mask with Ctrl/Cmd+I and paint into the eyes only with a white brush to lighten them a touch. We’ll change the shorts colour next so add a Color Balance adjustment layer.








Step 18

With midtones selected, set Cyan/Red to -10 and Yellow/Blue to +35. Invert and paint into the shorts only for a blue colour that better suits the pink. Change the layer blending to Color so the lightness isn’t affected. Add one more Color Balance layer for some global adjustments.





Step 19

For a slightly more contemporary feel, select Shadows and add +25 Yellow/Blue then select Highlights and add +6 Cyan/Red. Change the blending mode to Color again so the lightness of the subject isn’t affected. Add a merged duplicate on top with Ctrl/Cmd+Alt/Opt+Shift+E.






Step 20

Next go to Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask. Use a High Radius and Low Amount to boost edge contrast. On a high-res image, settings of 40% Amount and 60 Radius work well.  For low-res, you’ll need to decrease the settings to suit. (30 – 60 words)



  • Very simple and effective tutorial it is. This tutorial will be very helpful for the beginner. Please keep it up !!

  • Doña Theodora

    It didn’t work, the explanation is very vague, is missing steps. The redefine edge didnt work and the elliptical neither. Please use more photos or explain better. I spent time doing it for nothing.

  • clipping path

    You have done
    such an amazing job on this series. I envy your sewing skills and your
    patience and your diligence. If anyone ever asks me how to sew, I’m sending
    them to your blog and this series. Congratulations on such an extensive, well
    thought out and clearly presented set of tutorials

  • Good but expecting more detail elaboration in the steps or most probably this tutorial is only for the pro designer not for the beginners.

  • This pictures post is actually so great, the quality of this post is genuinely amazing.

  • Retouching is actually a tough job to do. You really need to perform retouching with right tools. Thanks for this beneficial tutorial.

  • Thanks for helpful article!

  • Very useful tutorial!! Thanks

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