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Smooth out blemished skin fast with the History palette

Added on Tuesday 27th of February 2007 01:21 am EST


Adobe Photoshop 7/CS/CS2

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows



You can spend a lot of time retouching skin in a typical portrait, but sometimes the more you work on it, the worse it looks. Don’t struggle against yourself—we’ll show you how to use the History Brush to selectively soften the skin tones and leave the rest of your image sharp for quick and easy image editing with maximum control.


To soften skin tones quickly with the History Brush, we’ll:

     Show you how to create a filter effect and take a snapshot of it in the History palette.

     Explain how to paint selective elements of the effect into your image with the History Brush.

     Provide you with some pointers on how to use this technique effectively—and how to alter this technique to suit your needs—for maximum control and variety in your work.



When you’re retouching a portrait, you don’t want to over-do it. Not all wrinkles are bad and not every blemish needs removal. Admittedly, the common look of a great portrait includes soft, smooth skin. Blurring the skin area is an option, but it can make the rest of the image look fuzzy, as demonstrated in Figure A. We’ll show you how to utilize the History palette and the History Brush tool to selectively soften the skin tones and leave the rest of the image in focus.



Gather an image


To get started you’ll need an image to work with. For our example, we’ll use the same model shown in Figure A. To follow along with us, download the file from the URL given at the beginning of this article, and extract the file model.psd. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.) Then, launch Photoshop and open the file, shown in Figure B.


More than one way to use this technique

This technique works great on portrait retouching, but don’t stop there! You can use this technique on any image, and modify the technique to suit your own needs. Consider the following:

        Instead of applying a blur, use an artistic effect. Then, use the History Brush to paint in the effect to selective areas for interesting results.

        Apply a motion blur to an image of a person, car, bike, or other object that could be in motion. Then, use the History Brush to paint the motion blur in on everything except that object, so the object is in focus but the background elements are blurred.

        Create multiple History snapshots of different artistic, colorized, or any effect. Then, use the History Brush to paint different areas of your image with different effects.



Apply the effect


The first thing we need to do is create an effect and then capture a snapshot in the History palette. For this technique, we’ll use Gaussian Blur to soften the skin tones. There are other filters and effects you can use as well—for more ideas see the pullout box titled “More than one way to use this technique.”


To create the blur and capture the snapshot:

1.       Duplicate the Background layer and rename the new layer Retouch. This should remain the active layer.

2.      Choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur to display the Gaussian blur dialog box.



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