Airbrush skin like a pro. In this Photoshop retouching tutorial, you’ll learn how to retouch skin like the professionals. Find out how to make skin look healthy without looking plastic or blurred.

Sample PSD (Photoshop Document)

Airbrushing Skin Photoshop Tutorial

Step 1

Open the photo into Photoshop. For this tutorial, try to use a high resolution image where you can see the skin texture.

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Step 2

Create a duplicate layer and put it into a group. To do this, press Ctrl+J to duplicate the layer then Ctrl+G to place the new layer into a group. Name the group “Airbrush” and the layer “Blur”. To retouch the skin, there will be two layers in the Airbrush group. The first layer we’ve created (the Blur layer) will be used to blur the skin. After that, we’ll add another layer to restore the natural skin texture.

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Step 3

Have the Blur layer selected. To blur this layer, use the Surface Blur filter. This filter blurs like the Gaussian Blur filter except it can retain edge detail. We’ll need to blur the layer so that the skin is smoothed and somewhat blurry without having the edges

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Here’s what my image looks looks like after the Surface Blur filter. Your image should look similar with details such as the eye intact. If the eye becomes blurry, your settings are too strong. Undo and redo the Surface Blur filter with a lower setting.

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Step 4

Create a new layer and move it above the Blur layer. Name this layer “Texture” and change the blend mode to Hard Light. This layer, as the name states, will be used to add a slight texture to the skin and also adjust the skin tonality.

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The texture created in this layer will contribute to the final results very minimally – the difference can only be easily seen zoomed in on high resolution images and varies from image to image. Even though the result is very minimal, it ensures that no area of the skin looks too smooth or plastic.

Below is an example of this. On the left, the image looks like a solid color, also known as plastic skin. The image on the right has a slight noise pattern to make the skin look more realistic.

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Step 5

Make sure that you have the “Texture” layer selected. With that layer selected, press Shift+F5 or choose Edit > Fill. In the Fill tool, set the settings according to the image below. This will fill your layer with a 50% gray color.

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Step 6

Open the Add Noise filter from the Filter > Noise menu. Enter in the settings shown in the image below. This will add some noise to the image that will prevent skin from looking plastic. It may look a little too sharp, but in the next step, we’ll fix this with a Gaussian Blur filter.

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Step 7

Choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Blur the layer by 1 pixel.

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Step 8

Now we’ll temporarily tint the color of this layer. First, select the Eye Dropper tool from the toolbar. Sample an area on the skin that appears to be the average skin color. You don’t have to be very precise because we will tune the color later in the tutorial. In the Color palette, click on the flyout menu below the close window button and select HSB sliders. We’ll need to see the HSB values for the next step.

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Step 9

Open the Hue/Saturation tool by pressing Ctrl+U or choosing Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. Check the Colorize option and adjust the hue, saturation, and lightness values to match the HSB values from the color we sampled in the previous step. For the brightness, set this to

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Step 10

Select the Airbrush group in the Layers palette and add go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All. This will create a layer mask filled with the color black that will hide the group. With this layer mask, we’ll paint the areas were we want the skin to appear. Otherwise, this skin airbrushing effect will appear on the entire image.

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