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3 simple steps to improve skin tones

Added on Saturday 22nd of January 2005 06:58 am EST
Adobe Photoshop CS/CS2/CS3
Operating Systems:
Microsoft Windows, Macintosh

Proper lighting can enhance your subject’s skin tone, but mismatched lighting will cause unwanted colorcasts. For example, outdoor lighting in the winter is especially harsh, and the elements can make anyone’s skin look blotchy. Rather than schedule a re-shoot in a controlled environment, you can easily correct skin color in Photoshop.

To show you how to bring out the true colors of your subject’s skin, we’ll:

  • Create a mask to edit a specific area while leaving the rest of the image untouched.
  • Evaluate skin color using the Info palette to determine how much correction you need.
  • Use the Curves command to restore skin tone balance.

One of the trickiest things to do in portrait photography is to capture accurate skin tones. While you usually fix skin tone problems during the image-editing process, deciding on the best way to approach this can prove just as difficult. The Curves command is useful for trickier image refinements such as color correction, because it allows you to control the specific amount of color in your image’s sampled pixels without affecting other colors. This makes it a great tool for evening out skin tone without sacrificing quality or creating an unnatural appearance. We’ll show you how to use the Curves command to remove skin discolorations from your portrait shots so you can achieve the same results as the before and after shots shown in Figure A.

A1: Before

A2: After

Get in the mode
To begin, open an image in Photoshop. If you want to follow along with our example, download the file from the URL listed at the beginning of this article, extract the file woman.JPG, launch Photoshop and open the file. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.)
    v      If your image is in RGB Color mode, as is ours, choose Image > Mode > CMYK Color to convert it. This mode gives you direct access to magenta and yellow—the two colors that typically cause skin discoloration.

Note: Because it’s best to perform most of your image-editing tasks while in the RGB Color mode, you should do this sort of color correction toward the end of your editing session—just before sharpening.

Step 1: Make a selection
In order to color-correct the skin tone without affecting color elsewhere in the image, you must first select the area. You’ll do this by creating a mask.

To create a selection mask:
  1. Double-click on the Edit In Quick Mask Mode button in the Tools palette to open the Quick Mask Options dialog box, select the Selected Areas option button, and click OK. You should now be in Quick Mask Mode.
  2. Select the Brush tool from the Tools palette and click on the triangle to the right of the Brush thumbnail on the tool Options bar to open the Brush Preset Picker.
  3. Select a soft round brush that’s large enough to paint over the areas of skin in your image quickly. You&rsquo...

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