The creative tutorial home of image wrangler, Lesa Snider.

Digital Plastic Surgery

July 26, 2005 by
Zapping blemishes, bags, and wrinkles

Don't you hate it when you have (what *could* be) a really cute photo, except for you look like you've been awake for a week straight? Or the universe decided to bless you with the galaxy's biggest zit? What a drag. While I hope I'd never be vain enough to go for real plastic surgery (I'm a chicken when it comes to pain), I'm a *huge* fan of digital touchups.

Join me now as we use Photoshop to give this photo a much-needed digital face lift.

Bags are bad, mmmmkay?

Step 1: Open the offending photo, and make sure the background layer is editable (just double-click it and give it a name). Scrutinize the photo and see what needs fixing (try not to cringe if it's one of you!). The first thing that leaps out at me is the area beneath my eyes (eek--bags!), so let's tackle those first.

POWER USER TIP: Zoom in or out by pressing Command +/- (PC: Control +/-). To move the viewing area of your document area around, just press the spacebar, then click and hold while moving your mouse. It's faster and less of a PITA than scrolling. Your will cursor will turn into a little hand, as shown below.

Step 2: From the Toolbox, fetch the Patch tool. You'll find it hiding inside the Healing Brush tool (just click and hold the tool button to reveal more options). Make sure it's set to Source up in the Options bar.

Step 3: The Patch tool works like the Lasso tool, so we want to select one of the offending bags by encircling it. If you need to add more to the selection, just press the Shift key while you 'lasso' a bit more. To detract from the selection, hold down the Option key (PC: Alt). Press Command-D (PC: Control-D) to deselect and start again.

Step 4: Drag the selection down to a nicer part of skin, an area that's nice and smooth, that doesn't have any edges. Photoshop gives you a preview of what the end result will be; that's why you see two selections, as shown below. When satisfied, release the mouse button. Repeat on the other eyes, er, bags.

Things are definitely looking up, though we've got a few blemishes to fix.

Zapping zits and other blemishes

Step 1: Choose the Spot Healing Brush from the Toolbox. Mouse back over to the offending blemish, and you'll notice that you have a nice round brush cursor. TIP: Decrease brush size by pressing the left bracket key, [, and increase brush size by pressing the right bracket key, ]. The Spot Healing Brush works great for circular shaped blemishes.

Step 2: Once you have a similar shaped brush (that is, slightly larger than the blemish) just click once and watch it vanish. You can see below that I was able to zap blemishes on the cheek area quite nicely with this tool.

Lessening wrinkles

Step 1: Trot back over to the ToolBox and choose the Healing Brush. This time we're going to need to tell Photoshop which area we want to "heal with," so to speak.

Step 2: Zoom into the area you want to fix, such as these worry wrinkles on my forehead between my eyes. Option-click an area of good skin from which Photoshop will use to heal with. I'm going to sample the bit just to the right of one of the lines. You'll see a little cross-hair appear within the cursor. Then just click and drag over the wrinkled bit, as shown below:

I used the Healing Brush on a few wrinkles on his forehead, on the crow's feet near my right eye, and a wrinkle or two on both our necks.

Step 3: Next, I'll use the Healing Brush to lighten the area beneath my right eye just a bit more. I Option-clicked just beneath my eye, then clicked and drag across the dark spot.

The real key to using the Healing Brush (or Clone Stamp Tool for that matter) is to keep Option-clicking to get a new sample. You don't really want to drag very far with the same sample point, else you move too far away from that same texture and shade of skin. You want to sample good skin as close to the area you're repairing as possible in order to make it look real.

Lessening red skin-tone

Last but not least, the photo has a bit too much red in it. That's super easy to fix. Listen closely friends, you're going to use this next trick often.

Step 1: Click the half black/half white circle at the bottom of the Layers Palette to create an Adjustment Layer, and choose Hue/Saturation.

Step 2: From the Edit pop-up menu, choosed Reds. Pull the saturation slider to the left a bit. Be careful not to take too much red out. A little goes a long way.

Now, here's our before (shudder):

And after:

As you can see, a combination of using the Patch Tool, Spot Healing Brush, and Healing Brush can do wonders for a photo. Whew! It looks like we've gotten some sleep now :)

And all this without an ounce of color correction (save for lessening the reds). That's all for now! Until next time, remember to experiment with the above methods to perform your own digital surgery.