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Portrait Retouching Basics

Lesson 3 of 7

Setting up a Game Plan


Portrait Retouching Basics

Lesson 3 of 7

Setting up a Game Plan


Lesson Info

Setting up a Game Plan

So let's get into the actual retouching process. Now the best part about CreativeLive or anything like this is the fact that no matter how much information you cover, you can always rewind, and go back and repeat everything, so I think it's phenomenal that we can cover so much but yet still have the time to kinda pull back and look at everything in case you forget something or you're like, what was that thing he said, what was that setting, that tool, so keep that in mind in case I go too fast or anything like that. So, today we have an image that I'm going to be working on from my dear friend who graciously lent his images and he was able to give us something just to play with. And Scott is amazing because he's also gonna be presenting here at Photo Week but more importantly, his specialty is portraits and I figured that with portraits, this is something that most people take, whether you're wedding photographers, whether you're beauty photographers, flash photographers, you do take a...

lot of portraits through the course of your career. And portraits are really identifiable because they all kind of present the same common type of problems. Now I used this image because A, it wasn't the easiest image because sometimes when people are doing demonstrations, they're doing easy stuff and you don't really get the scope of how powerful certain techniques are, so I figured if I can do this image, within an hour and still talk and explain everything, then I've illustrated my point, that it's possible, right? And if I fail then I'm sorry, it's my bad. So before I work on any image, there's certain things that I like to do. The first thing is that I always like to kind of make a game plan of what I'm gonna be tackling. And I say game plan because it's hard to resist wanting to zoom in here and start working right away. You should never do that, you should never just open an image and then just start zooming in to 100% or so. And the problem with that, is you just never know exactly what you need to fix or what you don't need to fix. I have this image open, normally during the retouching process, I'll usually open in Capture One or Camera Raw whatever it is that you have preference with but I use Capture One for processing just because the colors are a little bit more pleasing personally, and then export it and start working. But since we are talking about retouching specifically I'm gonna talk about that, but in case you're curious about the Raw process, on my website I have a lot of education for Capture One and my CreativeLive courses and all that so if you go to www.solsticeretouch.com and check out all my stuff or just Google my name you'll find my website and I have an education tab with anything else you wanna know so if there's a topic that's not covered today, or you want to hear more about it, you can access it there. So, with setting up a game plan, I usually will start by making a new layer, and when I have a new layer set, I'm gonna start by taking my regular brush, setting it to 100% Flow and 100% Opacity, and I'm simply gonna be illustrating what I'm seeing in my mind. Now the retouching process typically goes through a few different steps. The first step is always gonna be my cleaning up stage, I kind of like to clean up everything generally. And what I mean by cleaning up is, obviously everything needs to be cleaned up. But specifically with the Healing Brush and Clone Brush. 'Cause if I can do anything that is texture related or blemishes or stray hairs, I'll do it here first. And then I'm gonna jump into evening out skin. So first we're gonna separate by cleaning up skin with blemishes, any texture issues or flyaways, or anything that's distracting to the eye. And then I'm gonna jump into actually evening out the skin, so then you Dodge and Burn, any transitional issues, and then after that, we'll talk about color variations. So that's kinda my work flow, generally speaking. Now let's say I have my new layer, and in blue I'm gonna be marking everything that is going to be stuff that I'm gonna be healing. Now the first thing that sticks out to me is going to be the flyaways. So I have a few flyaways that are going across the skin that I wanna take care of. Aside from that, the next thing I'm gonna be taking care of is going to be the skin work. Now when it comes to the actual texture itself, I'm gonna be focusing on the blemishes. So I have a few different bumps here and spots and stuff that I'm gonna be kind of removing with the Healing Brush. The Healing Brush's gonna be the first stage. Right, so I'll take care of everything with the Healing Brush. And what happens is, after I take care of things that are blemishes or things that are raised above the skin, what we're left with is basically skin that's a little bit more subdued, where we have mostly clean even texture to work with to even it out. The next thing I'm gonna do, is with my Clone Brush, let me set a new layer here, I'll put this to yellow, is really gently, with a low flow, I will effectively be using it to kind of soften up subtle areas of texture that are a lot more prominent in some areas than others. Because the name of the game is uniformity, you want to make sure everything's a little bit more uniform and sometimes what happens is there's some areas where the texture's really pronounced and I like to subdue those areas specifically just a little bit. And the end result is that with these two steps alone, you'll see things start to come together really nicely. So for example, any time I see an area like this, where I have harsh transitions, I'm gonna gently use my Clone Brush, to very gently transition that out so that way when I go with the next steps, it's gonna be easier to work. Now this is very subjective, you know there's many ways to retouch an image, so if you find that you see something you don't like, obviously you don't have to do it or use it. But I think it's quite important to see some variations. Now typically once these two stages are done, the next stage after this is going to be my Dodge and Burn work or evening out transitions, and that allows me to make portraits look really beautiful at the end of it, without being over done. The goal of today, is creating a portrait that looks realistically her, but still beautiful without being overdone. 'Cause sometimes when you have too many tools, it can become really easy to over do things. That's what we're gonna focus on today. Okay? And what I'm gonna be specifically evening out, is areas like the under eyes, let's use a pink color here, and just really dark patchy areas. I always like to keep the image zoomed out when I'm looking at stuff like this because it gives me a perspective of what I really need to focus on. And you can see some of these little dark patches here. Okay? So usually with these steps, you can visually see where the image is gonna go, and I think that's really powerful because if you can see before even working, you're able to have more confidence in your steps, in your approach, but also you can reflect back on what you've made as a game plan. That way you're not really over doing or anything. Yeah? So I'm gonna merge these two layers together, I'll hit Command-E or Control-E, it's gonna put everything into one little layer and I'll double click on the name and call it my game plan.

Class Description


  • Edit portraits with confidence
  • Create an editing workflow that works for you
  • Correct skin like a professional photo editor
  • Work with Photoshop layers
  • Confidently use healing and cloning brushes
  • Expertly dodge and burn


Find the thought of portrait retouching daunting? Professional photo editor Pratik Naik teaches photographers how to make the process simple -- and enjoyable -- in this 90-minute quick start class.

Rather than focusing on image-specific edits, learn the editing tool essentials that you can use on any portrait. Develop the best photo editing workflow for your photography and finish those edits faster. Gain the confidence to work with the healing and clone brush editing tools. Discover how to dodge and burn non-destructively.

Whether you are working with RAW files or JPGs, learn how to create a high-end portrait edit that flatters without airbrushing that plastic look. Edit photos with confidence, on a Mac or PC, inside Adobe Photoshop.


  • Beginner and Professional photographers working with portraits
  • Novice to intermediate photo editors
  • Photoshop beginners
  • Self-taught editors ready to create better retouches

SOFTWARE USED: Adobe Photoshop CC 2017


With more than a decade of experience, Pratik Naik is a high-end professional photo editor. Working primarily in the commercial and editorial sectors, his image retouching work has appeared in magazines like Marie Claire, Elle, Zink, and others. With a straightforward, fun teaching style, Pratik is also a mentor and instructor for photographers and photo editors.


  1. Class Introduction

    In this brief lesson, meet your instructor and learn what to expect over the course of this 90-minute class covering the start-to-finish editing process.

  2. Tools of the Trade

    Learn what you need for working in photo retouching -- and why working on a cheap monitor isn't such a good idea. The right photo editing tools will make sure you're seeing the images the way potential clients will see them, whether that's in your online photo editing portfolio or in print.

  3. Setting up a Game Plan

    Don't just jump into the edit the moment the photo editing software opens. Start with a game plan and start seeing the final image in your mind and noting how you'll get there. Pratik suggests starting by recognizing the areas to fix and marking those spots with a different color. He suggests making a plan for the healing brush before moving to the clone brush (and another layer) and the dodging and burning process, quickly marking each area.

  4. Healing and Clone Brush

    With a game plan in place, start working with the healing brush to fix the most noticeable skin imperfections for portrait retouching. Learn what settings to use on your brush as well as the necessary setting to heal from a new layer. Then, follow along with the healing brush process, including skin touch up and removing stray hair. Learn keyboard shortcuts for adjusting the brush and other time-saving options. Then, work with the clone brush for beauty retouching.

  5. Dodging and Burning

    The traditional doge and burn process lightens and darkens specific areas of the image, either to correct skin tone or create smoother highlight-shadow transitions. Learn Pratik's professional photo editing workflow for the dodge and burn process using a curve adjustment layer. But, don't forget to save your editing work. Pratik suggests PSD or TIFF, the latter which can handle larger files.

  6. Blend Modes and Adjustment Layers

    In this lesson, learn color correction techniques as well as editing essentials on using blend modes and adjustment layers. Follow along as Pratik uses brushwork and a layer in the color blend mode to correct contaminated colors and remove color casts.

  7. Liquify Tool & Unsharp Mask

    The liquify tool is easy to overdo. Learn how to tastefully use the liquify tool in beauty retouching to add body to the hair or correct lens perspective distortion. Finally, sharpen that retouched image using the unsharp mask and save the image (along with JPGs for the web).


Paloma Aviles

He is fantastic, the best online teacher you can have. You learn a lot from him, he made easy photoshop. I recommend his course 100%.

Anastasia Roschina-Kulakova

Retouching is my favourite part of the art process, and here I found really nice and helpful tips for an easier workflow! Thank you!


Best Educator amazing instruction