After my MCP Mini Fusion Photoshop Elements tutorial last week, several people asked about softening skin and applying lipstick in Elements.  It didn’t seem right to write a tutorial about those techniques without giving you my entire portrait workflow.

These are the basic steps I use on any close up portrait.  Depending on the subject, I might or might not use all the steps.  Some people, for instance, have perfect skin with no blemishes to remove.  Kids often don’t need skin softening, unless you’re going for a specific look.

So here we go:

  1. If necessary, correct Exposure, Color and White Balance using adjustment layers.
  2. Remove Blemishes – If blemishes are minor, skip to Step 3.  If not, duplicate the background layer and use the Spot Healing Brush tool or the Clone Stamp to remove blemishes, spots, flyaway hairs, background distractions, etc.
  3. Merge this layer down into the background layer by right clicking on the blemish removal layer.
  4. Soften Skin – This step will soften skin, even skin tones, and remove minor blemishes.  Duplicate the background layer again.  Go to the Filter Menu, select Other, and High Pass.  The amount you enter in the Radius field is going to vary according to the size of your image.  I never go higher than 20.  Start with 7 or 8 and see what you get.  Hit OK, and type control I (command I on a Mac) to invert.  Change the blend mode of the layer to Soft Light.
    • If the softening is too strong, you can either reduce the opacity or you can use the Undo History Palette to return to your pre-filter photo and start over.  If the softening isn’t strong enough, undo your steps and use a higher radius.
  5. Add a layer mask to the skin softening layer.  Mask out eyes, lips, hair and anything else that you don’t want to be soft.
  6. Enhance eyes – Create a non-destructive dodge and burn layer by creating a new blank layer.  Go to Edit/Fill and select 50% gray from the Contents/Use drop down menu.  Change the blending mode of this layer to Soft Light.  Using a white brush at a low opacity, lighten the whites of the eyes and brighten the iris.  Using a tiny black low opacity brush, darken the pupil, the rim of the iris, the lashes and eyeline.
  7. Lips – Running Mini-Fusion, I just masked in the lips on the pink layer.  If you don’t have a pink layer, add a hue/saturation adjustment layer.  Select the layer mask and turn it black by typing control I (command I on a Mac).  Using a white brush at full opacity, brush in the lips.  Then, increase the saturation of this layer until the lips look good.
  8. Cheeks – on this same layer, you can brush in the cheeks with a lower opacity brush to add color.
  9. Sharpen – you might need to use a mask here.  If you just softened the skin, you probably don’t need to go back and sharpen it, for instance.  I always sharpen the eyes and often sharpen hair, lips, jewelery, textured clothes, etc.


You can click on that image to make it larger, by the way.

So what do you think?  Is this similar to your portrait method in Elements?

If you liked this tutorial and want more like it, register for my series of Elements classes this month!