Enhancing Skin Color in Photoshop

On January 13, 2011, in Gallery, Photoshop, by Amiya

Have you ever taken a photo that has dull or pale skin tones? In a few quick steps, you can make dull skin tones come alive!

For starters, open the picture you wish to enhance. For this tutorial, I will use this photo:

While the above photo is a good shot, the colors are flat and washed out. We will fix this by doing the following:

1. Convert the image to Lab Color mode ( Image menu Mode > Lab Color)

2. Create a new layer. ( LayerNew > Layer , or SHIFT+CTRL+N) Use the following values for the layer information:

  • Name: Tone
  • Mode: Soft Light

3. With the Tone layer selected, we will now use the Apply Image feature to increase the skin tones. ( Image menu >

Apply Image )  In the Apply Image screen, Change the following values:

  • Layer: Background
  • Channel: a
  • Invert: (unchecked)
  • Blending: Soft Light

4. Repeat step 3,

but use the following values this time:

  • Layer: Background
  • Channel: b
  • Invert: (unchecked)
  • Blending: Soft Light

5. We now have some great, vibrant skin tones to work with! Here is our progress so far:

That is looking great!  NOTE: Sometimes tone correcting in this fashion makes an image look very orange or oversaturated. If this is the case with your image, you can select the Tone layer and make some changes with the Hue/Saturation tool (Image menuAdjust > Hue/Saturation) . To give the image more of a pink tone instead of orange, change Hue to -10 or so. At this point, experiment with what you prefer. You can also turn the saturation down to decrease the strength of the Tone layer. For this tutorial I am going to change Hue to -15.

6. Now that we have fixed the skin tone, we can make the image have more depth by increasing the highlights of the image.

  • 6a. Click the Background layer
  • 6b. Make a selection of the highlights with the keystroke CtrlAlt + Tilde ( CommandOption + Tilde on a mac) note: the tilde key is the key on your keyboard to the left of the 1 key and above the TAB key.
  • 6c. Make sure the background is selected for this step! Make a new layer out of the selection by pressing Ctrl + J or, Command + J if you use a mac.
  • 6d. On the layer that was just created, change the Blend Mode to Screen and the Opacity to 20-40%.
  • 6e. Now we will add a final touch by blurring is new layer. ( Filter Blur Gaussian Blur ) Set the Radius to 4.

Thats it! Here is the result:

Secondary example:

The trick to getting this technique to look great is to make sure you don't overdo it; make sure your colors aren't oversaturated when you are done.

By Professor Birdman, Photoshop University

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