Secrets to Smoother Skin Textures Using Basic Photoshop Filters

smooth skin with photoshopLondon Based Designer and Retoucher Ben Secret Reveals His “Secrets” to Smoother Skin Textures

Ben Secret shares his method of alternating High Pass and blur filters on layers to get smoother skin in Photoshop

It is not at all unusual for studio-shot images to show up with skin blotches. This is made more visible under the harsh studio lights. To fix this blotchy appearance, the best thing is to first use the Healing, Clone Stamp, Dodge and Burn tools, to get rid of the most obvious flaws. Then you can apply a subtle skin-smoothing process  to perfect your image. In the event that the results are too unsubtle, you can then easily tone down the effect.

Although this process may be a little cumbersome, it makes sense for you to record it and turn it into a Photoshop action. This way you can now set up an entire skin equaliser section with the touch of a button any time you come across a surface that needs to be more smooth. This technique can also be used to smooth hair and fabrics.

This short video tutorial by Ben explains the steps nicely 🙂

Once you have loaded your image you will need to make a duplicate, simply press: Cmd/Ctrl+J. Once you have selected the duplicate, you can change the blending mode to Linear Light, and the Opacity to 50%. Next you will need to invert the layer: Cmd/Ctrl+I and name it “Low Detail”. Then make three duplicates of this layer, labelling them ‘Medium’, ‘High’ and ‘Fine Detail’, in ascending order.

smooth skin techniques in PS

Now, turn off the visibility for everything except the Low Detail layer. Next, select the High Pass filter, from the Filters>Other. You should see that, inverted, the High Pass is blurry. What we want now is to find a radius where all this blotchiness is smooth. Ben uses 20px. Next you will need to select a Gaussian Blur filter. Inverted, this operates like a High Pass filter,and as such will restore the detail. Choose a radius of 75% of the one you used for High Pass: 15px.

PS tutorial smooth skin

Repeat these steps for all layers, using smaller radii each layer. In the Medium layer, make it visible, and use a “High Pass of 15px, and a Gaussian Blur of 10px.”  For more detail use a “High Pass of 10px and Gaussian Blur of 5px. And for our fine detail layer, use a High Pass of 5px, and a Gaussian Blur of 2.5px. This 2.5px ensures we won’t be blurring any detail below 2.5 pixels in size.”

group layer smooth skin PS

You will now need to create a Group layer to place all your high passed and blurred layers in. Add a mask to the group layer as you won’t be 100% happy with the details or edges at this stage. Now, invert the mask: Cmd/Ctrl+I, and choose a “soft, white paint brush. We only want to paint this effect over flat regions of skin, avoiding edges, details, and specular highlights such as the one by the knee.”

Make sure you individually toggle each layer’s visibility so that you can see how detail is removed at each spatial level. You can now use each layer’s Opacity slider to mix in and out the effects, from 0 to 50%. You can even add additional masks to each layer, to further control the effect – for example, “the Low Detail layer can benefit from being masked further from the edges.”

Ben Secret is a London-based journalist & designer. He can usually be found writing for The Huffington Post, Computer Arts magazine  and Practical Photoshop.

-Val Cameron/Dreamlight

P.S. Want to make your photos and renders POP? Master Photoshop and become a 2D Postwork Master HERE.

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One Response to “Secrets to Smoother Skin Textures Using Basic Photoshop Filters”

  1. Sadsaytr July 20, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

    This is a very very useful tutorial, I have saved the link for future reference, thanks Val !!

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