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Smoooooth Move: A Photoshop Tutorial

Filed in: Photography

Good Morning everyone! I hope that you had a fantastic weekend! I spent some time with my family, took a much needed break from the computer and just got to RELAX! That doesn’t happen very often, but it sure was nice to have my mama fuss over me a little and make me some great meals and we even got to work in the garden a little!

Of course, relaxing a little let me think about a fun tutorial to bring to you today and it is one that I use on almost every portrait I shoot.  Smoothing or softening skin turns your photos from snapshots to truly beautiful portraits. I use this method a lot on my fair skinned girlies because they tend to have blotchy skin in the Texas heat, but it is great for smoothing those wrinkles and helping with acne!

 I’ll be working with this image of my beautiful daughter Rachael. She has been a subject of many of my tutorials, mainly because she lets me take her photo more than the others do! This spring, I took her out on a warm day to take her birthday pictures and she, of course, got a little splotchy on her cheeks and nose.  The picture is OK on its own, but smoothing her skin will make it look even better!



Open the image that you want to adjust and duplicate the image by hitting CTRL+J on your keyboard. It  is VERY important that you duplicate the image and NOT work on the original…just in case you make a mistake! By working on a duplicate, if you make a mistake, you can trash it and start all over. The same can’t be said if you make a mistake on the original. Always…ALWAYS… duplicate the background layer!It is a good habit to get into!

Select the duplicated layer (Layer 1 or Background copy) in the Layers palette and locate the layer blend mode option in the top left corner of the Layers palette (under the word Layers). The drop-down box is currently set to “Normal” as its default mode. Click on the arrow to the right of the word “Normal” to bring up the different layer blend modes.

Select Overlay from the list

Once you change the blending mode to Overlay, you’ll see an increase in both the contrast and color in your image. Don’t worry if the color looks off, we will fix that in a minute!


Select the top layer (Layer 1 or Background copy) then go to Filter>Other>High Pass.


Once you select High Pass, the High Pass dialog box, will open. The High Pass filter looks for details in an image and then sharpens only the edges in the photo while leaving the rest of the photo untouched! However, I want to use it to my advantage in this instance, and do the exact OPPOSITE with this filter! In order to do that, however, I need to begin by setting my Radius value in the dialogue box to between 6-10 pixels, depending on my resolution. The higher the resolution of my picture, the higher the radius value in my box. Since my resolution on my photo is 300, I am going to set my radius to about 10 pixels.


Click OK  to accept changes and exit out of the dialogue box.

At this point, the photo will look WAY too sharpened. But don’t fret…we are fixing to correct it!
Earlier I told you that we wanted to do the OPPOSITE of sharpening out page and then I had you sharpen so now is when we fix the sharpening and actually soften the photo a little! Select your top layer again (Layer 1 or Background layer) and hit CTRL+I or Image > Adjustments > Invert  to INVERT the sharpening and make the layer now appear blurry.

Now, I want to add a mask to the newly inverted layer by clicking on the “Add Layer Mask” icon at the bottom of the Layers Palette.


Your layer 1 or background copy should now have the mask attached but no changes will be able to be detected on your photo.


Next, we need to invert the LAYERS MASK by clicking on the white square next to the thumbnail and pressing CTRL+I to invert the mask.

Your mask will appear black and your photo will no longer look blurry. Now we need to “paint” on the softening effect to the photo. Select the paintbrush from the tools palette and set your foreground color to white since the layers mask is black.  I generally choose a medium sized brush set to between 40-50% hardness. Change the opacity of the brush to 40%.

Click on the Layers Mask (black square) by clicking on it in the Layers Palette. Now, with the paintbrush selected, begin painting over the skin on the photo on any area that  you want to smooth, making sure to avoid the eyes and mouth. If one pass isn’t enough, you can let up on your mouse button, and then click again and repaint the areas that need a further smoothing.

Here is my completed photo.

You can see that by smoothing her skin just a little, it gave her a nice healthy glow, covered up a few minor flaws and still made her look natural and not plastic looking!

And that is it! Smooooth Sailing! You can do this in your projects that needs a little bit of retouching.

Hope you all have a great week, and I will see you right back here next Monday!


comments +

  1. Smoooooth Move: A Photoshop Tutorial | Photoshop |

    May 21st, 2012 at 1:38 pm

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  2. JeannieK

    May 21st, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Good morning! Missed your tuts the past couple of weeks, but great to hear you enjoyed the time off! This sounds like fun to try and I have the perfect photos to play with of my new grand niece – her little face has some scratches and is a bit blotchy. Thank you!

  3. Jen of Quality DigiScrap Freebies

    May 21st, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    I think I will make it a requirement that any photo of me be put through this process! Great tutorial, thanks!

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    May 22nd, 2012 at 7:47 am

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  5. Maria H Thorrington

    May 23rd, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Love this tutorial. I’m going to have to bookmark it so I can remember all the steps (especially with the layer masking) when I try it out later.

  6. jg

    May 25th, 2012 at 12:20 am

    another fabulous tutorial. will definitely use this. thanks for sharing it.

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