“Less is more.” It’s one of the cardinal rules of skin retouching—and failing to follow it can leave you with models that look cartoonish, fake, and exaggerated. In order to preserve the natural beauty of your models and the credibility of your photos, you’ll need to master the art of subtle, yet effective, post-production techniques.
In this blog, we’ll explore how you can master retouching skin for product photography, media creation, and graphic design, with tips straight from the experts.
10 Essential Tips for Skin Retouching
Before you dive into Photoshop, make sure you’re prepared with the following tips, which will help you make the best of your time and come out with gorgeous, professional photos.
1. Remove minor skin imperfections
Stray hairs covering your model’s face, acne scars, wrinkles, dark under-eye shadows, minor blemishes—models are only human, so you’re likely to need to contend with all of the above and more. Removing these small imperfections eliminates distractions from your photos, which will help keep viewers focused on your model and/or products. This is easy to do with AI airbrushing tools, but be careful not to go too far—you don’t want to erase your model’s individuality. Be sure to keep their distinctive features like moles, dimples, and beauty spots.
2. Avoid painting over blemishes
When using the airbrush or spot healing tool, don’t be tempted to paint over blemishes. The smoothed area will have a different texture than the rest of your model’s skin, making it look incongruous and unrealistic. Remember: skin retouching is done to make photos more attractive, but viewers won’t appreciate it if they come out looking fake.
3. Go easy on frequency separation
The frequency separation technique can be used to fix skin tone in Photoshop. You can easily make your model’s complexion clearer and reduce the appearance of oil for a spotless finish with this feature. Unfortunately, photos edited with this technique may look so flawless that they take on a plastic appearance, particularly when applied over a large area. Use caution when applying this tool. As an alternative, we recommend using skin retouching software that edits skin based on color, ethnicity, age, and body part to preserve natural skin texture.
4. Avoid oversaturation with warm tones
Many retouching tools will oversaturate your photos with red or yellow tones, which can lead to your models looking unnatural and distorting their real skin color. Be sure to correct skin tone before finishing your photos.
5. Don’t over-edit the under-eye area
Editing eyes is a challenge for any editor because it can easily take the character out of a photo. Adjusting the skin color around the eyes should be done with a light hand. We do suggest subtle editing in those areas to eliminate undesirable bags, lines, or makeup creases, which will help make the eyes expressive and lively. However, don’t go overboard. All you need to do is make the model’s skin appear natural and healthy.
6. Keep the effects on the eyes/iris at a minimum
Do you want your model to look like a doll—or a vampire? If so, feel free to skip this tip and saturate their eye color as much as you want. But if you want them to look human, be aware that vivid, colorful eyes will look unnatural and can be quite jarring to viewers. You should know how to retouch eyes, including saturation if necessary to bring out the colors, but keep it minimal unless you want them to look like extras in a sci-fi show.
7. Don’t eliminate all shadows and highlights
It can be very tempting to smooth out every little shadow and highlight from your photos—especially when they look distracting or unflattering—but that’s a temptation you may want to resist. Why? Because humans are 3D objects! Removing shadows can make your models look flat and two-dimensional, which will look very strange to viewers. This is why experts recommend perfecting the shadow and highlighting settings on your camera before the shots are taken. Otherwise, correcting them in post-production can be a real challenge.
8. Don’t forget to add volume
This hack is all you need to generate natural and radiant skin. The add volume effect can reduce skin pores, emphasize the features of specific areas, and more. However, as with all these tips, use caution: too much use of this tool will lead to unflattering spots on the skin.
9. Change the background color
That may sound odd—what does the backdrop have to do with the skin? Well, it’s like choosing an outfit that looks great on your model. Choosing the right backdrop color can enhance and beautify your model, bringing out the natural color of their skin. We suggest experimenting to find the colors that are most flattering to your models. Also, did you know that automated retouching software can swap out and customize backdrop colors in seconds?
10. Let AI do the work for you
We’ve mentioned a few ways that AI retouching tools can help you speed up or simplify the retouching process. Obviously, the human touch is the gold standard for photo editing, but in many cases, AI tools can produce similar results in a fraction of the time. If you’re on a tight budget or need a quick turnaround, or if you simply want to take some of the arduous, repetitive work out of your editing process, don’t stress about not being able to do the work yourself! Keep a tool like autoRetouch in your back pocket and see what’s possible with the power of AI.
If you take away one lesson from this post, it’s—you guessed it—that you should always start with a light, natural approach to retouching skin. Remember, you’re not here to change how your model looks! You’re here to smooth away small, distracting imperfections, correct the lighting and tone of the photos to flatter their natural beauty and make it look like they were never retouched at all. With these tips on skin retouching, you’re well on your way to producing stunning photos. And if you need a helping hand to bring out the best in your model photos, remember that there are AI-powered tools like autoRetouch that can do the work in seconds.