How to Make a Professional Human Face Retouch in Photoshop

One of the unconventional forms of art is creating items with the aid of specialized software, on the computer. Some of the most used software applications are Photoshop, Virtual 3D, After Effects etc. The pieces of art created using these tools are varied as concepts but the main idea is still related to the beauty of the human features. A type of art but also even a “semi-industrial” necessity is the retouching of the human face; it consists of improvements or changing different features within the face.

The human face, due to the countless profiles, offers an immense baggage of operations allowing great opportunities for the creator. In elaborating retouches three factors are very important: symmetry, naturalness, equilibrium.

1. Symmetry

It is a serious error to retouch a photo of a human face lacking the symmetry (that does not refer to those photos when the face is purposely disproportioned). In reality the face of each person is almost symmetrical; usually when symmetry lacks, almost instantly, ugliness comes to our mind.

2. Naturalness

Naturalness depends on each project, but the majority of the clients ask for something like “please eliminate this and this, make the picture unforgettable”. That means that the respective profile shouldn’t be turned into a zombie but not into an angel as well. To imitate or to improve the natural beauty is a terrific thing but the results are almost every time quite impressive.

3. Equilibrium

A equilibrate composition related to our type of art is another professional aspect which must be taken into account. Even though sometimes exaggeration seems to produce more interesting effects, overall it isn’t a recommended idea.

Here I propose some elements from my manner of creating cool human face retouches in Photoshop; definitely it isn’t a strict process, it depends on everyone’s type of work and it will bring more value to this post if the readers will come with their own approach, sharing it with us.

1. Establish the requirements and make a virtual final result

How to Change Skin Tone in Photoshop – Tutorial

Before starting any alteration of a picture I make in my mind a clear image of the final result according to the requirements of the client (if there is a client and not a personal project). This kind of approach doesn’t eliminate the creativity, everyone can work on multiple concepts but barely one should follow a pattern.

2. Avoid by all your means the destructive process

The software offers a large palette of tools to adjust the images and usually these can be divided in two categories:

-destructive options, it means that it makes changes which can be reversed;

-non-destructive options, which offer the possibility of removing the modifications.

I highly recommend avoiding using the first tools because a retouch is a very subjective matter and what today must appear ugly and illogical, tomorrow can be a good combination. A non-destructive process allows for the opportunity to come back and modify it later. Other solutions are the multiple savings or duplicating layers; all these in order to not do something which can’t be ulterior changed or removed.

3. Start with most significant changes to fine tuning

When applying this point it means that we have in our face the image that needs to be corrected. First of all, apply the first point (make a clear image about the final result) then start working on the most significant points/parts of the image. Personally, I use Adobe Photoshop and many times I start by using “Liquify” command which is a very powerful tool, then I start adjusting with Healing or Spot Healing Brush Tool. The next steps include using brushes and layer adjustments in order to manipulate the colors, contrast and brightness.

4. The most common mistake: the exaggeration

Here you can see what I`m talking about!

Everyone is trying to mark out his skills and the talent in order to impress the visitors and turn them into clients but when we are talking about human face retouches, it is totally wrong to exaggerate with the changes. Any strong modification may be interesting for beginners but the pros in this field definitely aren’t very convinced by these; none of them will say that an alteration is a bad thing but keep the proportions. A sign of professionalism is to realize a new concept by using light physical alteration and many commands to change the colors and its combinations, adjustments and fine tunings which separately are hard to distinguish but in the big picture the cumulated effect would be amazing.

5. Never ignore the source of lights

Another element which is making life a real hell for both professional but more for the amateurs is the light in a picture. The source of light needs a special treatment and any web designer knows from the school how to manipulate and more importantly, how to respect it. Used properly, the light can be a devoted partner or else it is an annoying enemy.

The ideas above are interesting but, in the lack of practice, everything is useless so start working, ask for feedback and venture for hire into a company or work as a freelancer. Here I have added up some examples of amazing human face retouches; enjoy them!

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Madalin Tudose

I`m a web developer. I build HTML Templates and WordPress Themes which are eventually released on ThemeForest under the DeliciousThemes brand.

Join the discussion

  1. Limetree on June 8, 2011 at 4:03 am Reply

    This tutorial is excellent. However, there are yet many ways to do that. I have also read some advanced skin retouching tutorial on web that allows you to soften skin and leave as much skin texture as possible with Adobe Photoshop.

  2. Link Disk on June 25, 2011 at 1:11 am Reply

    The difference in the before and after photos are amazing. Thank you for all of the great tips.

  3. Dejan on July 11, 2011 at 8:46 am Reply

    Thank you for very useful tutorial!

  4. Cecilia on July 18, 2011 at 11:07 pm Reply

    Thank you :)) I need to learn about lighting and colors, this really helps!!

  5. Cathy on August 23, 2011 at 5:11 pm Reply

    Oy, the before-and-after transition was amazing. Saving this tut for future use.

  6. Faisal khan on December 3, 2011 at 2:33 am Reply

    can i have the tutorials for all of them?? i mean links that explains how to make such brilliant photo retouching??

  7. Brett on June 26, 2012 at 5:03 pm Reply

    I personally hate this. I prefer people to look like themselves, not this painted & tucked photo nightmare. This is not photography, it is a digital image. These are not people, they are digital reproductions of people.

  8. Adam Nill on July 6, 2018 at 6:05 am Reply

    Thanks. Your guidance and tips are important and we appreciate your efforts for sharing this great information.

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