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Surface Blur for Smoothing Skin

Lesson 6 from: Advanced Portrait Retouching

Lisa Carney

Surface Blur for Smoothing Skin

Lesson 6 from: Advanced Portrait Retouching

Lisa Carney

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Lesson Info

6. Surface Blur for Smoothing Skin

Lesson Info

Surface Blur for Smoothing Skin

As we're talking about skin blurring, surface blurring, skin smoothing, I use the terms interchangeably because I don't like folks getting hung up on the titling and sometimes the titling for you, it might be easier if it's actually called what it is like blurring rather than smoothing. But your client's not gonna know it's smoothing, so y'all have to figure out what you wanna call it, whatever works for you. I will use those terms interchangeably. So I'm gonna go on to another process. It's similar, but different. I'd like to explain why. When you're doing the skin blurring, we've done just painting. We've done Gaussian blur. Now we're gonna do surface blur. So what we're gonna do is again copy from the spotting. And we're gonna go to the blur filter, and we're gonna go ahead and use surface blur. And what happens with surface blur is you don't quite get that same issue of the blacks going into the flesh tone. Do you see that? Do you see how the, the tone is holding? And so it's liter...

ally the same function. I'm gonna make a suggestion, especially when you're first starting out, keep a little notepad next to you. Write down the settings you've used. This is kind of important, and when you have your files and you save them off, write the blur down. Why you wanna do that is let's say you do the most amazing job on this process and client comes back and says wow that came in on budget, we're happy, this is awesome. We have 25 more we'd like you to do. Rock on. You don't wanna have to go refigure out all your codes. You don't wanna have to refigure this all out. So it's one of the reasons I try to keep them at whole numbers like 20, tab maybe 25. It's only because my brain remembers those a little easier and it generally doesn't make that much of difference on the blur when you're blurring at this level. So we're gonna call that 20-25. Hit OK. Just go back to your blur. 20-25. Seriously it's a really really good habit to name your layers at all times. Now once again, Command + Shift + N, make your new layer. This is for texture. Sandstone. Overlay. Do you notice that the overlay gray was not available to me? Do you see that? It's not available to me until I click on Overlay. That's why they call it overlay neutral color 50% gray. Just letting you know that, won't come up til then. So on overlay you can't see it, it's all good. I once again suggest you make that box, mask the surface blur layer so you can see what you're doing while you're doing it. Okay and zoom up, be friends, up close and personal. One of the things I'm doing right now is I've just been clicking quickly between the paint layer of the surface blur, the mask, and the actual gray layer with the texture at all times. Take a moment, breathe and look where are you. Where are you? You do not wanna put the sandstone texture on the actual paint layer. You want it separate. Let's talk about why. So let me do this real quick. Filter Gallery, sandstone once again, 50% opacity. All right do you remember how we said it's too big? And we had to scale it. Well guess what if I had actually put that texture right on the layer, which looks the same, I can't scale it. Because I'll be scaling the blur. That is why you do it on a separate layer. You also do it on a separate layer because occasionally you will do the filter, and as we said before it's a little too sharp, right? We wanna blur it. You could probably still do this on the actual layer, a .5 blur. But what if you wanna have the blur at 100% opacity but you wanna have the texture at 50? I often do this. I often switch the opacity of the texture versus the paint layer often. So you wanna be able to have flexibility with that as well. And I'm gonna show you some other textures where that really pertains. And then once again the cardinal rule, you always start with black mask. Always start with black mask. Command + Delete fills with the background color which happens to be black. Now another issue decision, no golden rule, but there's my rule, is how much pressure do you use when you paint? So I have a philosophy that I'd like to share with you. This pertains to all three of these methods. I like to paint with 100% opacity brush, and if I want to change the opacity of the layer, I change it here, the layer opacity to let's say 50% just because we like those round numbers. I'd rather do that than fill the layer with black, paint with the color 50% gray, at 100% because it's a little harder for me to change now. I'd rather change the opacity of the layer than do it at 50%. In addition to this, and this is where you will absolutely, absolutely see retouchers do it a different way. I know many retouchers who I love and adore who will paint with a opacity brush, like a 30 opacity brush. It's a term we use for a brush that's not at 100%. So I'm painting with a brush that is set at white, but at 30% opacity, and I think the reasoning behind it is they think it looks more organic, and less mechanical. However, what I find it can, not always but what can create is blotchy skin. It's my personal philosophy. Other people do it other. And it might be, well let's call it the truth. I'm a little ham-fisted and I know it. I have a tendency when I'm driving, I drive full speed ahead, and then if you need to pull me back, pull me back. I know many retouchers who are so gentle, and their work is gorgeous. It's completely valid. They just, they've got a gentle touch. I'm, I don't. There's no other word for it, I don't. So again there you go that's gentle brushing. Look any way you get to Italy, to Rome, I don't care, whatever road you wanna take, this is just a path I am taking. All right is that pretty clear about this? So we just talked about couple things different. We talked about ensuring that your grain is on a set or your noise is on a separate layer, your texture. We talked about the opacity of the brush. Like I do it 100% as opposed to not 100%. We talked about making sure you label your layer with the adjustment you've done, the blur, the filter, just so that your file always speaks to itself. Is there anything else we covered? I think that's good. All right I'm gonna close that and we're gonna talk about the next step, which is dust and scratch. Same feather, different plume. Can you say that? Is that even a phrase? Oh my god I'm getting weird. (audience laughing) All right so, getting weird, I've been weird the whole time. Again, spotting, look at, who did not label her layer? Hmmm all right let's start from scratch and we don't have to look at that. All right Command + J, copy that spotting layer. Dust and scratch. Spelled right, spelled wrong, doesn't matter. All right, filter. Dust and scratch. I have a question. Yes ma'am. About copying your spotting layer. What happens if you get into things and you realize, oh shoot, I missed something on the spotting layer but you've already copied versus working on blank layers? You've copied them. Excellent, all right you ready? This is great. All right. Thank you. I'm gonna, you're very welcome. This is a great question. All right so what I'm gonna do real quickly is I'm just gonna decide on this blur, and then I'm gonna continue. Can it hold for one second, yeah okay. So I'm gonna say let's say we do 20 dash tab five. What you're looking for in this blur is you wanna obliterate the blotchiness. Dust and scratch leaves a little bit more info in there. Not, ah, tone, leaves a little more tone in there. I'm gonna zoom in. It's before, that's after. I don't have any grain on that. That's just a blur. Okay so dust and scratch. Gaussian obliterates everything. Surface at least holds your highlight contrast line so it doesn't bleed in quite as much. And dust and scratch will actually hold some more texture. And then we're gonna do the texture thing and I will get to your question. Oh crap you know what I forgot? I forgot to write down that code. Very important. Noise, dust and scratch, what I'm gonna do is I'm not gonna reapply it. I'm just gonna go back to the filter, and I'm gonna look at that. Oh what did I do? I did 20 five. This is really important, especially given that question we just had. So dust and scratch, whatever you choose, I'm happening to choose 20 and five. It's a taste thing. Let's do the texture real quick. You can have a action to make your texture if you like. Oh what happened here? I forgot to click those other buttons. Don't panic. It's all good, you can either start over, or hold the Option key and click on the layer between dust and texture. Turn the mode to Overlay and use your Shift + Delete key to get to 50% gray. It's all good, no panic, no panic necessary, just redo it. Please try to remember when you start this process, draw the black box. And on the scratch layer, so that you can see because you're not gonna need as much grain, well heckfire. Do you need any grain on this? You might not. This is one of those times where it really is gonna call into question grain or not grain, print or not print. At this point I would put no grain and I would print it and check. Because how it looks on my screen is just fine. That might not be the case once it gets printed, but I'm willing to take a chance. So what I'm gonna do is I'm just gonna fill that mask on that layer with black. Command + Delete fills with the background color, and I'm gonna paint with 100% brush because that is how I roll. Y'all can pick whatever you want. And then I'm gonna put that at 50% opacity the entire layer set. I call it layer set, layer grouping. And let's say that's what I like. All right the question was, is oh what if you forgot something underneath and you had to go back? This is why we build it at this way. You turn off those layers. You go back to your spotting layer. You either put the item back in or you take the item out, whatever it is in question. You go back to your blur areas. If it is a small item, you won't have to redo that blur anyway. If it is a large item, you will have to redo the blur. No panic. Command + J. What did I do? Oh I did dust and scratch 20. It could be two weeks later and you come back to this. What did I do? I did 20 five. Dust and scratch, it won't be set to 20 five, mine will be because I just did it. Pay attention here. I'm gonna link those two, group those two layers. I'm gonna just pull that mask down. I'm gonna turn the top one off and on and make sure whatever I was looking for is gone. That's my check. I'm gonna delete the old one, thank you very much. I'm gonna save, you are fine, two seconds, no panic. That is why I build this way because I cannot tell you how many times I've had to go backwards and I've had to redo jobs, and I mean copious amounts of time. Now I know how to do it in a way that'll save you a ton of time.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Brunette RAW Practice Image
Blonde RAW Practice Image
Portrait Retouching Workbook
Lisa Carney PSD Practice Image
Layered Hair Color Change Example PSD File

Bonus Materials

Outline Cards

Ratings and Reviews


If you were like me and had no idea on where to start and feared that the editing process would be too destructive and would have to start all over again if the client didn't like your completed work - then this is the class for you. I watch this class often for review and to make sure that I maintain these good habits Lisa suggests to do. If you follow all of her helpful commentary on her how's and why's you will end up in a far better place when that time comes that you have to re-edit your edit. I cannot say enough great things about her work flow and how it not only enhanced my images to the result I was looking for but also decreased my editing time(bonus!!!!). I also on a whim sent her a email through her personal site and she replied with a massive helpful technique for enhancing freckles on a job I was working on. She is amazing! She is a true teacher who is there to show you how to use photoshop for you to find and gain your own editing style. Far too often i find myself in retouching classes that only demonstrate how to make your images look like who is teaching the class... Workflow and Style are very different, you can have the same workflow but your style is determined by your taste. Her workflow is solid and delivers time and time again. This class should be in everyone's dashboard hands down.

Kristine Pye

Thank you for taking the time to answer my question and take us through your "delivery" process, I found that extremely helpful. I have purchased two of Lisa's classes immediately after the live stream during Photoshop Week 2017 and was very excited to stream another set of lectures from Seattle. I will be purchasing the last two courses of Lisa's within the next 24 hours as I did just over a month ago. I find her classes to be absolutely brimming over with useful information--everything from the technique, her process, what other professionals in her work are doing, and **why** she chooses the methods she does in retouching. She is relatable and genuine, and her knowledge of the program and how to maximize efficiency while "skipping the actions" really reinforces the educational part of her courses. There are "easy way outs", but she emphasizes that you should understand the ways in which any adjustment effect the entire photo. These courses have helped me to move forward in my education, helping me to realize that with enough practice and good habit formation--such as naming every single layer every time-- that it is not irrational for me to make an effort in building a portfolio and a Master's degree with little-to-no- previous experience with the software. I am very appreciate. I hope to see more from Lisa in the future, but I have plenty to practice with for now! Thanks again, Kristine Pye

Jeff Robinson

Lisa Carney is amazing! She has a depth of knowledge of Photoshop, retouching techniques, and compositing that she shares in a fast, but straightforward, easy to follow, step by step manner. No matter what your level of expertise, you'll find gems, shortcuts, and methods in her teaching that you can practice and put to use to make your work stronger, faster, and cleaner. And with the bonus materials she graciously provides, including workbooks with her detailed steps, practice files of the images she uses in class, and before and after comparisons, you'll be on your way to improving your skills immediately. She's an accomplished retoucher and gifted teacher. If you have the opportunity to take one of her classes, take advantage of it!

Student Work