Each time I teach a Photoshop Elements class, the top thing that people want to know how to do is to smooth and soften skin.
There are about 46,000,000 ways to do this in PSE. Here are 3 of them, along with a comparison.
The first thing I can say is that the softening methods did not compete on the same level as sharpening methods. You might remember that in my sharpening showdown, there was a clear winner. Not so much here.
My biggest takeaway from this experiment is that it’s better to over-soften using your filter of choice, and then turn down Layer Opacity to make the effect look natural.
Here is untouched photo I used.
I took this photo of myself. The eyes are (mostly) in focus and I was using a super large aperture, so the lower half of my face is fading out of focus pretty quickly. That’s a good thing when it comes to softening skin.
This next photo is post blemish and under-eye circle removing. I duplicated the Background Layer and then used the clone tool. The tool itself was set to the Lighten Blend Mode for the dark circles as well as the red area around my nose, Normal Blend Mode everywhere else. I finished by reducing the layer opacity to about 85% and flattening my file. This step helps a lot, but I still want to soften my skin – especially the forehead and pores on my nose.
The photo below shows my favorite method (for this photo anyway). I duplicated the Background layer, ran a very high Gaussian Blur (95 pixels) and changed the blend mode to Screen and the Layer Opacity to 24%. (Gaussian Blur is in the Filter Menu under, yes, Blur.)
I love this method because the screen mode brightened up the shadows and helped even out the skin tone. This would work nicely in a newborn edit. However, depending on the exposure of the photo, this method might make the skin too bright. If so, try using the Normal Blend mode or another method of smoothing skin.
- Radius – 68.6 pixels
- Threshold: 34.6
- Quality: Low
- Mode: Normal