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Balance uneven skin tones with an easy spot blending technique

Added on Friday 3rd of June 2011 05:31 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


One of the difficult aspects of portrait retouching in Photoshop isn’t perfecting skin tones, but choosing the method of restoration. Since everyone’s skin tone is different, there are many causes for imperfections and many ways to solve them. Instead of struggling with choosing your approach, we’ll show you one technique that allows you to paint away a variety of common skin tone problems.


To restore balance to skin tones, we’ll show you how to:

  Perform the touchup work on a new layer to preserve the integrity of the original image.

  Darken overly bright and shiny facial areas by combining the Darken blending mode with the Brush tool.

  Lighten dark and blotchy facial areas using the Lighten blending mode with the Brush tool.


Skin tones are prone to lighting imbalances, especially when photographed outdoors. When a shot is taken without a flash and in full sun, facial features often suffer from areas that are too dark or too light, as shown in the Before image in Figure A. One correction method you might consider is using the Dodge and Burn tools, but we have a better idea. We’ll show you how to paint and blend away these and other trouble spots using a technique that’s more akin to makeup artistry. As shown in the After image in Figure A, it’s quite effective.



Art: Please label A1: ‘Before’ and A2: ‘After’ Okay to make the images fairly large.


The secret is in the layers

It’s a good idea to perform this sort of technique on a separate layer. This not only preserves the original image, but also allows you to correct other imperfections with layer blending.


Note: To work along with us, download the file from the URL given at the beginning of this article and extract the file graduate.jpg. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.)


To create a new layer:

1.  Launch Photoshop and open the file graduate.jpg, as shown in Figure B (or any RGB image you want to retouch).

2.  Choose Window > Layers, if necessary, to show the Layers panel.



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