Open the photo into Photoshop. For this tutorial, try to use a high resolution image where you can see the skin texture.
Create a duplicate layer and put it into a group. To do this, press Ctrl+J to duplicate the layer then Ctrl+G to place the new layer into a group. Name the group “Airbrush” and the layer “Blur”. To retouch the skin, there will be two layers in the Airbrush group. The first layer we’ve created (the Blur layer) will be used to blur the skin. After that, we’ll add another layer to restore the natural skin texture.
The technique that we are going to use to smooth out the face doesn’t require very much cloning at all. Select the “Blur” and you do want to use the Healing Brush Tool (J) on any major freckles or blemishes, in this case her four large freckles.
Have the Blur layer selected. To blur this layer, use the Surface Blur filter. This filter blurs like the Gaussian Blur filter except it can retain edge detail. We’ll need to blur the layer so that the skin is smoothed and somewhat blurry without having the edges.
Airbrushing Skin Photoshop Tutorial
Create a new layer and move it above the Blur layer. Name this layer “Texture” and change the blend mode to Hard Light. This layer, as the name states, will be used to add a slight texture to the skin and also adjust the skin tonality.
Make sure that you have the “Texture” layer selected. With that layer selected, press Shift+F5 or choose Edit > Fill. In the Fill tool, set the settings according to the image below. This will fill your layer with a 50% gray color.
Open the Add Noise filter from the Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Enter in the settings shown in the image below. This will add some noise to the image that will prevent skin from looking plastic. It may look a little too sharp, but in the next step, we’ll fix this with a Gaussian Blur filter.
Choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Blur the layer by 1 pixel.
Now we’ll temporarily tint the color of this layer. First, select the Eye Dropper tool from the toolbar. Sample an area on the skin that appears to be the average skin color. You don’t have to be very precise because we will tune the color later in the tutorial. In the Color palette, click on the fly out menu below the close window button and select HS B sliders. We’ll need to see the HS B values for the next step.
Open the Hue/Saturation tool by pressing Ctrl+U or choosing Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. Check the Colorize option and adjust the hue, saturation, and lightness values to match the HS B values from the color we sampled in the previous step. For the brightness, set this to….
Select the Airbrush group in the Layers palette and add go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All. This will
create a layer mask filled with the color black that will hide the group. With this layer mask, we’ll paint the areas where we want the skin to appear. Otherwise, this skin airbrushing effect will appear on the entire image.
First, press D on your keyboard to set the foreground and background colors to the default black and white. Select the Brush tool and apply the settings below.
Zoom in to 100% and paint over the skin. The parts that you paint will appear smoother with a different skin tone. Don’t worry if the skin tone doesn’t look correct. This is because we didn’t pick the correct color when we used the Hue/Saturation to tint the “Texture” layer. It’s too difficult to do that without a preview, so we’ll fix that later.
When painting, you’ll need to change the brush size and hardness frequently. It would be tedious to always access the brush option menu to do this so take this as an opportunity to use hot keys. Use the following hot keys to help you with modifying the brush size and hardness:
- Decrease brush size: [
- Increase brush size: ]
- Decrease brush softness by 25%: Shift + [
- Increase brush softness by 25%: Shift + ]
When you’re done, your layer mask should have the skin areas in white and the skin should look smooth.
Now we’re going to fix back the color and tone of the skin as we mentioned earlier in the tutorial. Select the “Texture” layer and press Ctrl+U to access the Hue/Saturation tool. Alter the settings to get a natural looking skin tone.
The Hue setting is usually correct. I increased it by 10 to add more yellow to it to make the appearance of the red areas less visible.
The Saturation setting usually needs to be reduced greatly. Adjust this until the skin tone looks
natural but not too pale.
The Lightness setting requires slight modification. A slight change in the lightness will create big difference in how the skin blends in with the image. As you adjust the setting, you will see how sensitive this setting is. Even though it requires high precision, it is easy to tell when it is the correct setting. If it is off, it will look really off. If it is at the correct setting, it will look a lot more natural.
Finally, we’re going to restore the skin details. Choose Image > Apply Image. Use the settings below.
You can also use for New adjustment layer, example: Brightness/ Contrast, Levels, curves.
Here’s the final results after applying this airbrushing technique. In the image below, you can see how
smooth the skin looks. Because the image below has been downsized to fit into this tutorial, it may look slightly plastic. However, when zoomed in, the texture is clearly visible.