My Portrait Retouching Workflow tutorial for Photoshop Elements generated lots of good questions.  To answer them, I going to give you some advanced portrait techniques in this tutorial.  Here’s my before and after:

Other than my basic workflow steps, this tutorial will show you how to repair blown out pixels, make eyes larger and add color to lips and cheeks, plus a bit of eyeshadow to boot!

  • Started with some basic exposure, contrast and detail tweaks.
  • The side of the face closest to the window was pretty much blown out.  How many times have you heard me say that if it’s blown, you can’t fix it?  Well, I lied.  There is a little something you can do.
    • Create a new blank layer.
    • Select a brush and change the blend mode of the BRUSH (not the layer) to Color.  Yes, I know, I told you not to change the blend mode of the brush too.  Just make sure you change it back to normal before you try to paint on a layer mask.
    • Reduce the opacity of the brush to 20-30%.
    • Put the cursor over an area of non-blown pixels as close to the blown pixels as you can get.
    • Hold down the alt key and your brush changes to the eyedropper.  Click to sample a color.
    • Brush lightly over the blown pixels.
    • Hold down alt and resample the color again as necessary on other parts of the face.  The stars on the image below are my approximate sample points.
    • Release your mouse and brush again over an area to add another “coat” of paint.
    • Repeat until the blow out area looks better.  The key here is using the Color blend mode on the brush so that the texture variations on the skin still show through.  Here’s a comparison (the stars are my color sample points):
  • To saturate the lips, I added a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and filled it with black by typing control+i.  I increased the saturation to 18 and used a soft white brush to paint in the saturation onto the lips.  I also painted super lightly on the blue part of the eyes to pop the blue a bit.
  • Cheeks:  To add color or blush, add a Color Fill layer and select a pink color.  Changed the blend mode of the layer to Color.  Fill the layer mask with black by typing control+i.  Using a very low opacity soft white brush, paint in some color on the apples of the cheeks.
    • For lipstick, you can use the same method, selecting a color that looks good.  (I didn’t use this technique in this image.)
    • For eyeshadow, try the same method, choosing the color eyeshadow that might have been worn. (I didn’t add eyeshadow here either.)
  • Used non-destructive dodging and burning on the eyes.  The technique is here, if you need more info.
  • And this is the kicker.  Did you know that it’s super easy to make the eyes just a touch bigger? I don’t usually do this in my portrait editing, but it does have a nice effect.
    • Stamp your visible layers to create a copy of all the layers together in one layer.  Do this by selecting your top layer and typing control+alt+shift+e (Mac:  command+option+shift+e).
    • Go to the Filter Menu and select Distort/Liquify.  The following window will open.
    • Select Bloat from the tools on the left.  You can click on this photo to enlarge it.
    • Size the brush so that it is just a bit larger than the eye.
    • Click once over the eye to enlarge it.
    • If the eye looks too big, click revert and reduce the brush pressure.
    • Repeat for the other eye.
    • It’s amazing what Elements can do, isn’t it?
  • I finished by running an action to pop the colors and and added a high pass sharpening layer.

Here is my final layers palette:


What do you think?  Does this answer every last question you ever had about portrait retouching in Elements?  Me either, but it’s a start….