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Edit Skin in Photoshop with the Print in Mind

Lesson 17 from: From Capture to Print

Rocco Ancora

Edit Skin in Photoshop with the Print in Mind

Lesson 17 from: From Capture to Print

Rocco Ancora

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Lesson Info

17. Edit Skin in Photoshop with the Print in Mind


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Advantages & Pitfalls of Printing


Demystifying Color Management


Understanding Bit Depth


Best Color Space to Work In


Importance of Image Capture


Live Shoot: Natural Light


Live Shoot: Studio Lights


Lesson Info

Edit Skin in Photoshop with the Print in Mind

I'm gonna open up a portrait now. And, I'm gonna show you what we do, as far as looking at skin retouching. And I think that's an integral part also, of getting things right. Because, in print, what looks really bad, is skin that's been badly retouched. Over smoothened, 'cause it's just woeful. Okay, so we need to address that. So, let's open up this portrait here that I have, from a shoot. Okay, there it is. So, portrait, adjustments, not much needed to be done to this, it was a studio shoot. I had already corrected the color on it. So, the important thing is that, when we zoom in, and we look at the skin, there is a bit of work that needs to be done here. Okay? And I'm gonna show you the technique that we employ in getting this to look absolutely amazing. And it's fairly, fairly quick. Okay, let's do the open image thing that we do, and we loved so much. Okay, using beta profile. So, here. Here is the file. Okay, what I'm gonna do is employ a technique which has been around for quite...

some time. And I'm sure most of you have heard of it. And that's frequency separation. And there's different ways of doing frequency separation. There's many schools of thought. I'm gonna share what I do with frequency separation, and what works for me. But, quite simply, what we're doing with frequency separation is separating skin texture from skin color and tone. Okay? Very simple. Skin texture from skin color or tones. What that means, is that, we're able to deal with texture problems of the skin, as in, wrinkles, and pores, and all that sort of stuff, without affecting the color information. All the tonal information, for that matter. Okay? And the way we set up our frequency separation, and mind you, this action will also be part of the course download, for skin retouching. So, I'm gonna make two copies of the background layer. Now, a lot of the times, I will come in, duplicate the file, and do simple retouching, like, get rid of the obvious things that I can get rid of, like things like this, I would normally do without doing frequency separation, just with a healing brush, if it's something small. But, I thought for the purpose of this exercise, I'll show you what we could do with doing it from the very, very start. So, two layers. The top layer, right? And what we're gonna do with the top layer is call that the high frequency layer, or some people call it the texture layer. Okay, and the middle layer there, it's gonna be our low frequency layer, or our tone, or color and tone layer. You can call it whatever you like. You can call it John if you like, if that's the way you wanna work. So, let's get rid of the high layer, and let's switch it off, and let's go to the low layer. And I'm gonna go into Filter, Blur, Gaussian Blur. So, in this part of the process, what I'm doing is, I'm blurring the image, for a very good reason. I'm blurring the image, because essentially what I wanna do, is get rid of the texture. The minute I blur the image, texture is no longer apparent, but color and tone still is. Now, how much blurring? That is the million dollar question. Essentially, really, what you wanna do is, blur the image to a point where the texture that you wanna work with, disappears. Okay? I'll give you an example. That is, some people are up there, way too much. We wanna be able to slowly start at zero, and just come across until the texture starts to disappear. Okay, so, we'll keep going, the texture is still a little bit visible. Okay, yeah, I'm happy with about six. Sometimes, I would use a very low radius, if it's finer texture. Okay? But, this one here, I think six will work. The problem is, if you have a too high a radius, what happens is, you start to move color information into that, you know, into the high layer which is gonna be our texture layer. Now, to get our texture out of this, we're gonna go into Image, Apply Image, OK. And what we're gonna do up here, as far as the layer itself, we're gonna target the low layer. We'll target the low layer. Being a 16 bit image, we click on Invert. And the blending mode is going to be, add, okay? The scale is two and the offset is zero. If this was an 8 bit image, you would un-click Invert, and that would be subtract, and the numbers will be two and 128. Okay? Once again, if you just play the action, you don't have to think about this, but it's good to know it. It's good to know it because you'll know what too much blurring will do to the image. And we hit, OK. Okay? Okay. Okay? Okay. So, if I zoom into this, what do I have? I have texture. Okay? If I turn that off, and down here, what do I have? I have color and tone, and something that looks like I've had way too many drinks, when I'm looking at something. Okay, let's turn that back on. So, texture and tone. Now, how do we bring that image to look like something that we could edit? The high layer, the blending mode is changed to Linear Light. And we go back to the original image. We go back to the original image with a difference, though. We go back with the image being separated from texture and tone. Giving us incredible amount of options in what we do. What I like to do, though, is, duplicate the low layer. Because, I like working on copies, just in case you might make a mistake. The same thing with the high layer, what I do is, I duplicate it. Okay? The top layer, I change that to Normal. And what I do is, I hit the Alt key and just clip it, with the under laying layer. So, the blending has really been affected by that high layer, and the top layer is just our spare one, if you like, that we're gonna be doing the work on. And should we mess things up, we can certainly come back and just duplicate that again, instead of setting up the entire frequency separation scenario, if you like. Okay? So, now, how does this help us? Well, it helps us in a big way. Because, we can identify texture problems and we can identify color and tone problems. So, with texture problems, what I like to do is go to the Stamp Tool. And with the stamp tool, I choose nearly a size that will sample an area of good texture, that we're gonna paste over the bad texture. But also, I want to feather the brush to a point where, I'm not gonna get soft edges. Because I don't wanna have soft, blendy, kind of feathery texture, where I'm taking good texture onto bad texture. So, I'm gonna bring the hardness down, or I should say the hardness up. And, to about, 80, 90%. So, I'm getting a bit of softening, but not a lot, okay? Now, to get what I just did with the brush, on a Mac is Control + Alt. And you click, if you move it left to right, the mouse or your pen here, you increase the size of the brush. And if you move it up and down, you feather it. So, you have a visual representation of what is going on with your brush, as opposed to just numbers. Okay? So, that's a really, really cool tip. And it's a really cool trick. If you're on a PC, it's just Control + Click. Okay? So, Control + Alt for a Mac, Control + Click for a PC. Okay, so let's get back to where I was. Okay. Now, what I do with the stamp tool, I gotta make sure I'm on current layer. And, there's a reason for it. If I'm not on current layer, and I sample off an area with good texture, over an area with bad texture, what I get is, something that looks pretty weird, which we don't really want. We get little orange stripes on the face. Okay, so, let's undo that. So, we'll go into current layer. And what we gonna do is we're gonna sample good texture over bad texture. Yeah? So, we sample good texture over bad texture. And the idea with the sampling is to keep it fairly random, but matching the texture that you wanna clone over the area. Okay? Am I making sense? So, here, like these little wrinkles, we're just moving those. And this technique doesn't just work for skin. Okay? Assuming now, you have a wall, and on this wall, you have, say, an air conditioning unit that needs to be removed, but this wall also has a nice, beautiful, graduated tone to it. That's a recipe for a nightmare, because you're trying to blend tone, you're trying to get rid of the air conditioning unit, and you're trying to clone. And then, you might've shot it a higher ISO, so what you're starting to get is clumping of pixels that are on the outside. So, the way you would do it is, you would do a frequency separation. Get rid of the air conditioning unit using color and tone. So, you can blend the color in, and then just copy the texture of where the air conditioning unit isn't there over the air conditioning unit, and you got perfect blending of that particular environment. And it's a really, really cool technique. But, let's get back to our model here. And let's get back to retouching her skin. Okay, so, we're just getting rid of imperfections. So, at the moment, what I'm doing is just repairing skin areas. It's all about the texture, and it's all about keeping the integrity of the skin, 'cause at the end of the day, we don't want to, you know, have people that look like plastic. And there's some pretty bad retouching out there. But, with my work, especially in the wedding stuff that we do, my brides wanna look natural and they wanna look like they haven't been retouched, but, they have been retouched. Okay, so, it's invisible retouching. I should sell that in a bottle, you know, so. (crowd laughing) Yeah, it'd be pretty cool. Now, ethical questions when we come to retouching, things like this, do they stay? Are they removed? It depends, okay? If this is a domestic shoot, in other words, a portrait or a wedding, I would not touch that, unless the bride asked me to touch it. Yeah, we cool? Because, you remove it, and she really likes it, and then it's a recipe for disaster, 'cause you gotta go and retouch it again. And it has happened, okay? We normally are very specific about retouching instructions with our brides. Is there anything in particular with the retouching that you want? And they will tell you. Yeah, I've got this big mole on the side of my face that I want removed. Or, there's this tattoo I have on my shoulder that I want removed. This is another great technique, frequency separation, of getting rid of tattoos. Because, the tattoo really lives in the color and tone area, and not in the skin itself. So, that is the ethical question. If this is a magazine shoot, and the art director is calling the shots, that would be the first thing he will tell you to remove. Okay? So, that's just the way it works. But, just to show you how we would remove it. We would just take the skin texture from there, blend it across. Okay, that's a bit there. Okay, so at the moment, the texture has changed, but if I go into the low copy, and I take the healing tool, and I sample from an area nearby, and I brush it off, okay. Actually, I need to just bring that down. There it is. It's disappeared and it's blended nicely into the background. Pretty cool, yeah? And we got the texture that we wanted as well. Okay so, let's get back to where we were with this. Okay, so we don't want to remove it, we wanna maintain it. So, fixing texture first. So, oops, take that away. Stamp tool. Okay, we're gonna take that, fix it. Okay? Now, for fixing the tone and smoothing the skin out, or the perception of smoothing the skin out, 'cause really at the end of the day, that's what we're doing, we're working with the low copy. Okay? And, what I do is, I take the Lasso tool, and I lasso a particular area here, like the nose, where we have the lumpy bits, you know, you see the unevenness. In fact, if I turn off the high copy, you can see that there's color variations in there. Okay? What we wanna do is blend those together. Okay? So in the low copy, I'm gonna do a lasso, and then I'm gonna hit the Control key and click onto it, and we're gonna basically, we need to feather this selection. Okay, we feather it. I wanna use about 10 pixels, so it's a nice, feathered selection. And then I'm gonna go into Filter, Blur, and I could do two things here. I can do Gaussian Blur, and watch what happens if I start to gaussian blur that area. You see how we're starting to blend it through? We're not gonna leave it at 100%, but you see how that's now nice and even? So, if I turn the preview on and off, you seeing that? We're smoothing that area. Or, my preferred way of working is Filter, Blur, Surface Blur. The way that Surface Blur works is very simple. Surface Blur blurs the image, as the word says, but it preserves edges. It looks for edges and it preserves edges. So, basically, working with your threshold and radius to achieve a nice, even result. And then I hit OK. Okay, so if I turn that on and off, you see how we've smoothed that, but we've kept the integrity of the texture. Okay? Once I've done that, let's go into the Lasso tool. Let's do our standard 10 pixel feather So, I'm going to load that in to there, and I'm gonna lasso another area. Okay. And, Command + F will apply the previous setting that I had to the blur. And it's blurring that area. Another area. Okay, we'll just do a small area of the face. Okay, so, let's retouch this. OK. So we have a cross, like down here. And, then this area. Now, you could be tempted to just do blur all over the face. I know you're tempted to do that. I don't recommend it. Okay? If you do, then you've gotta apply it very judiciously with a brush, okay? And so, if you're just starting out, I recommend doing it this way, because you start to recognize what needs to be done, oops, and what doesn't need to be done to the actual areas that are problematic and need blurring, and areas that aren't. Oops, I'm doing the wrong area. So, low copy. It helps if you're on the right layer. Okay, and off we go. And so, we do the same with the forehead, here. We'll do half the face so we can see what's going on. And then, because this is on a separate layer, we can always vary the opacity. So, it's pretty good. Okay, so areas like this. Gonna zoom out. Okay, so, still a few bits and pieces to do. A lasso, down here. Okay, and then I drop the opacity of that slightly. Okay, but you can see if we take what we've done with the frequency separation, I'm gonna stick that in a group, so we can turn it on and off. Retouched, no retouching. Okay, so it's subtle, but very, very, very effective. Okay? Now, should you feel the need, I'm gonna just delete that, should you feel the need to apply the blur all over the face, let's try that. I'm gonna share with you a tip that might help you, because you have a lot of images to do. We go into Surface Blur, the whole face, there it is. Bring the threshold up a little bit, so, that's it. Radius down. We're gonna hit, OK. Now, what I do with this, is I do two things. One, is to apply the Blend If mode, that we saw in another lesson. Okay? Where we take this effect, and we take it away, blend it from the shadow areas. So, this layer, remember, this is an image layer, so we're using this layer. Command + Click, and blending it right out from the shadows. And we're doing the same from the highlights, Command + Click. Okay? So we're moving it, removing it from areas around the edge. So, now when I hit OK, I can introduce a layer mask, I can fill that layer mask with black by hitting Command + I on the keyboard, or Control + I on a PC, and then painting that effect through with a brush. And I'm gonna make my brush nice and soft. Okay? I'll have it at 100% for now so you can see the effect. But sometimes I'll have it much less, and then gradually build that through. Okay, so we can just paint that in to where you want it. Obviously, not through the eyes and so on, and so on. So, it becomes a really, really quick way of doing skin. I mean, this is good for wedding/portrait, for getting a lot of work done very, very quickly. Okay? Advanced mode with this, is where we start to employ dodging and burning. We were dodging and burning areas of lightness and darkness, and so on, and so on. So, once I've done that, I would do it to the body as well, of course, because that needs to be retouched, so we would apply it everywhere. So, here we go. And I would fix this area down below. Okay, once I've applied that, I would merge down this layer with the bottom layer. So, the softening effect now has become one. So, duplicate that again. Which is really, really good. And then what I would do, also, you see with these areas of dark and light? I could sit there and dodge and burn 'em, but another technique is using the Mixer Brush tool. Okay? So, with the Mixer Brush tool, now my settings are, Wet at 25%, the Load is 25%, the Mix is 25%, and the Flow is 25%. But you can experiment with different settings. So, what we do here, at the moment, you see we got that ridge. Can we all see it? So, what I'm gonna do is, I'm going to basically take that dark tone in the low copy, and we're gonna spread it across to the lighter area. So, we're actually smudging the color that's underneath, and just blending it across. You see we're blending it? Okay, so, nearly there. Okay. This is before, and this is after. Yeah? So we just cleaned that area up. The same thing with this problematic area in here. Okay? We can just darken that and slightly bring a lighter tone. So, it's like you're actually painting. Okay, and just using that mixer brush to even the tone of the skin. Which is a really, really powerful tool. 'Cause when we print, we want the skin to look amazing, especially when we're printing a portrait. Okay? So, even the darkness of the eyes, I can bring some lightness in, and then I could always use the dodge tool to be able to, to bring that, to bring that back. I could also do it with a blank layer above the low layer. Okay, there's the blank layer, where I take the brush and then what I would do is, just say this dark area here, I wanna bring that to the same color as that, I sample the color of the skin there. There it is. I would take my flow right down to, maybe 1%. Okay? And I'm working with the pressure sensitivity of the brush. And what I would do is, I would start painting that tone across there. You see, it's slowly disappearing. We work very gradually to achieve the result that we wanna achieve. Because I'm painting underneath the texture layer, I'm not actually affecting the image or the texture at all, and it's gonna look quite natural. So, if I zoom into that, okay, I mean, probably gone a bit too far with it, and I just need to reduce the opacity of it. But, on and off, you see that? How we just brightened it just using color. So, there's many, many different ways in which we can work in this technique into our workflow. And the way you'd play the action, there'll be two actions, one is 16 bit action. So, being a 16 bit image, you just play the 16 bit. Okay? It basically asks you, load the image until texture is no longer visible. Okay? That's simple to follow. I hit Continue. And then I apply my blurring method, I have Preview on. Okay? So, we can see what's going on here, and blur the image to where I want it to blur. I hit OK. And then your layers down here, down below, are just all beautifully set up for you. And then all you need to do, is go in and change things accordingly. I don't believe in actions that actually give you a final destination, a final result and flatten the file, because they're just one way actions. My actions are about workflow, and it's about you making the artistic and creative decisions, of where you wanna take the image, rather than, what the action says you must do and need to do. They're more about workflow, as opposed to, this is the final resting place, and this is what you're gonna have, and this is the flattened version of it. Okay, so, this is a much better way of working. Once again, reinforcing the non-destructive nature of working in this way.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Rocco's Photoshop Actions
Rocco's Printer Evaluation Files
Color & Luminosity Seperation Action

Ratings and Reviews

Roberto Valenzuela

I honestly consider many courses to be great, but optional. However, this course by Rocco Ancora is a MUST! It helps the photographer complete the circle of being a photographic artist. Our job doesn't end at the edit, it ends with the print. When your clients can hold and enjoy your creative vision physically, that is when the magic of being a photographer happens. I have been so fortunate to travel the world teaching and meeting some of the best photographers in the world. That being said, I can say with confidence that nobody can teach this combination of Photoshop retouching / fine-art printing better than Rocco Ancora. I believe in this class so much, I traveled to Seattle to attend this course to be part of the live studio audience. I have never done that before. But that's how important I consider this material to be. I am so happy I took the time to go and learn from the man himself. Now, I will get this course to watch it, dissect it, study it, and practice it. Very excited to see how the knowledge in this course will propel my career further. --Roberto Valenzuela

a Creativelive Student

I was fortunate enough to attend this class in person and got to experience Rocco's prints in person. The quality is absolutely breathtaking and a game changer, Learning these skills will really help my business in a number of ways. In the past, I have had a difficult time convincing clients to purchase typical lab prints through my studio, as opposed to buying them through Walmart or Costco where the quality was "close enough." Rocco's method that he shared in this class creates three dimensional images of unmatched quality and images that just jump off the page. The knowledge from this course will empower me to help run a sustainable business and thrive as a photographer. You would be foolish to not learn these methods and incorporate them into your business. Highly Recommend!!

April S.

I have invested time into learning Lightroom and Photoshop, my own gear, and my particular photographic style, but the one thing I am really lacking is a solid understanding about preparing an image for print, and the various print options (e.g., paper types). When I saw this course come up on the CL schedule it caught my eye immediately so I RSVP'd for the live broadcast. I was at work when it started and couldn't watch at that time. I do listen in from work sometimes, but after 2 minutes of listening to this course I realized it was one I really needed to watch closely and focus on. So, I stopped the stream after a couple minutes and bought the course. I have never done that before. I always wait and watch as much as I can in the initial broadcast (or rebroadcast) to decide if a course is one that I really should spend for. I knew right away though that Rocco was presenting the very information I was lacking and needed, and I wanted it! In addition, it was clear to me after looking him up online that he's a consummate professional with lots of experience and his delivery style even in just the couple of minutes that I listened reflected that. I already have X-rite ColorMunki Display and Colorchecker, a good monitor, and I have a photo printer (Canon Pixma Pro-100) but I'm lacking that technical understanding of color and know I'm not using my resources to their fullest. I use my Canon Pixma to test-print images before uploading to the print service I use. My method isn't ideal since the service uses different printers and ink, and paper depending on what I choose, but at least I have a much better idea of what my image file will give me in print form. After Rocco's course I believe I will be much better equipped to prepare my images and choose the options best suited to each image. I'll still test print if only because it's fun to see something on paper, but I expect the results I get from the print service to be much better once I really know how to put this knowledge to work for me.

Student Work