Introduction: Airbrushing Models in Photoshop

What is retouching?
Well, nowadays, retouching refers to the 'touch up' techniques used by digital photographers and editors. This walkthrough is just a basic overview of the processes I went through in photoshop.

We're going to start with a simple portrait and go through some techniques to make the whole image look more professional. We'll be smoothing the skin, sharpening the details, changing the eye colours and colourising the image to give a 'retro' feel.

This instruct able does require some photoshop knowledge as i'm not going to explain where to find the various layer styles etc, but a quick google should help you!

Original image as Jpg and canon raw can be downloaded here:
Original Image

And my photography site (with more tutorials!)
Photography Site

Step 1: Smoothing the Skin

The first step we're going to take is to smooth out the skin. This basically works by blurring and blending the skin to give it a more even tone. I always start by duplicating the background layer and adding a 'dust and scratches' filter at around 5 pixels. This gives a very blurry looking image which I then actually add a Gaussian blur too! Then decrease the layer opacity until the large areas of skin look smooth - but not unnatural.

You will then need to apply a layer mask to remove the blur on the areas of the picture where detail is important - the eyes, hair, contours, etc.

Step 2: Retro Colouring

At this point i'm starting to think about the retro colouring i'm looking to achieve in the final image. There are numerous ways of doing this to various extents, and this is one of the simplest. I flatten the image, make a duplicate layer and then select the 'channels' window. Selecting the red channel, I adjust the contrast to -50, then selecting the blue channel I do the same - setting it to -50. I leave the green channel as is. This gives me a nice start to the 'retro' look.

Step 3: Sharpen!

The next layer is yet another duplicate. I add a simple 'unsharp' filter to sharpen up those details, paying particular attention to the eyes.

Step 4: Adding Curves

Next I add a curves layer and give it some tweaking. My aim is to brighten the background to get it a little closer to white (there was not enough space when taking this picture to light the background separately - as is done in most 'high key' images.

I also desaturated slightly - again, looking for that retro style.

Step 5: Now for the Eyes

Now for the eyes. I wanted to make the eyes 'pop' so decided to go for a lighter hue.

Create a 'hue/saturation' layer and adjust the hue until the eyes are the colour you want them. Don't worry about the rest of the image - we're going to mask this out.

Once you have the desired eye colour you want to fill the layer mask with black (i always use command+backspace with black as background colour).

Now simply paint the eyes back in white.

I also used a similar technique to remove some of the red veins in the eyes by desaturating the image, then using the layer mask to just desaturate the portions I wanted.

There we go, that's pretty much it.

Actually, for this image there were various curve layers just tweaking individual parts of the photo, but as a general walkthrough you get the idea!