How to Smooth Skin in Photoshop

How to Smooth Skin in Photoshop

Can’t understand how to smoothen skin in Photoshop realistically and fast? Follow my 13 steps tutorial on how to soften skin and make your portraits look amazing. If you don’t have time for skin smoothening, download FREE Photoshop skin retouching actions and make it in several clicks.

How to Smooth Skin in Photoshop in 13 Steps

If your task is to get rid of skin blemishes and make skin tone natural and not overphotoshopped, the Spot Healing brush will be helpful. It is important not to distort the skin texture and preserve eyelashes, eyebrows and hair intact. Read my simple and quick tutorial about how to smooth skin in Photoshop.

 
tutorial on smoothing skin in photoshoptutorial on smoothing skin in photoshop
 
If you don’t have time to edit skin on your own, you can send you portraits to FixThePhoto and receive professional portrait photo retouching services like on the example above for $5 per image.
 

Step 1. Copy the Photo

smooth skin photoshop

Having opened the picture in Photoshop, you’ll see it displayed on the Background layer. Primarily, get rid of all visible defects and then proceed to smoothing skin. You’d better work on a separate layer, so the original picture is protected and you can return to it if needed.

Press and hold the Alt (Win)/Option (Mac) key to copy the background layer. Then click on it and move to the bottom of the Layers panel. Name this layer “Spot Healing” and click okay. Thus, you will see a copy of the image on the new layer called “Spot Healing”.

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Step 2. Choose the Spot Healing Brush

smooth skin in photoshop

In the Toolbox, choose the Spot Healing Brush for professional skin editing. Choose the Content-Aware type option in the settings.

Step 3. Select Skin Blemishes to Get Rid of Them

The Healing Brush tool helps remove various skin defects. Photoshop works in such a way that problematic area is replaced with a clean skin texture. For more convenient work, you can adjust the brush size, making it bigger than the blemish. Press the left bracket key ([) to make the size smaller and press the right bracket key (]) to increase it.

If there is something left to fix, after you’ve used the Spot Healing brush, undo the action by pressing Ctrl+Z (Windows)/Command+Z (Mac). Adjust the size of the brush one more time and try to remove the defect.

If you want to edit hair, body, make professional color correction, change background, check out the best Photoshop portrait tutorials that will teach you retouch portrait easily and fast.
 

Always keep the Spot Healing Brush larger than the area you need to improve, while smoothing skin in Photoshop. There are some other defects on the model’s forehead, which I can easily remove applying the same Spot Healing Brush algorithm. As the result, skin looks healthier and smoother.

Preserve Facial Features, While Doing Skin Editing

When you smooth skin in Photoshop, you need to preserve the natural look and remove only temporarily defects, like pimples or acne. Do your best, so that a person likes the final results and still can recognize herself/himself in the picture. If you see that there are scars or moles, ask your client if you should keep them while doing skin editing. In most cases, people treat them as a part of their identity, so don’t overdo with blemishes removal.

Step 4. Copy the “Spot Healing” Layer

smoothing skin in photoshop

Do you like the way your photo looks now? This is not the limit. Now, copy your “Spot Healing” layer by pressing and holding the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key. Then move it down to the New Layer icon. Name this layer “Smooth Skin” and click okay. In such a way, the original photo is located on the background layer, while the “Spot Healing” layer contains the original skin cleanup for you to soften skin in Photoshop.

Step 5. Use the High Pass Filter

photoshop smoothing skin

The best way to smooth skin Photoshop is to use the High Pass Filter. You can find it in the Filter menu, “Other” section.

Reasons to Use the High Pass Filter for Skin Editing

Perhaps you have already used this filter for sharpening photos in Photoshop. In our case I will apply it to smooth skin, nevertheless, a lot of actions are similar. The tool “searches: for edges in the picture and highlights them.

Follow my basic photoshopping portrait tips to make your studio and outdoor photos professionally edited even if you’re a beginning photographer.
 

Typically, an edge is the area with the biggest difference of colors and brightness between adjacent pixels. As a rule, in the portraits, the edges are located near eyes, lips, hair, etc. Doing Photoshop skin retouching, you won’t notice such great differences, that’s why, the High Pass filter doesn’t highlight them, but simply fill them with gray.

If we use this tool to improve the clarity of the picture, we don’t influence the skin. While in case of skin smoothing, the filter finds the edges, but doesn’t sharpen them. It smoothes everything except for the edges.

The Radius Value

photoshop skin retouching

As soon as the Filter finds and emphasizes the edges, the Radius feature determines the “thickness” of the highlighting. Getting the low Radius values, you’ll see only the tiniest details in the edges marked. However, I recommend getting a bigger Radius in order not to soften these important elements. For instance, the most convenient Radius value while smoothing skin in Photoshop is 24 pixels.

Read more about how to remove double chin in Photoshop realistically and how to remove stray hairs in Photoshop in several simple steps.
 

If you are dealing with a more distant detail in the image it would be better to use a smaller Radius, for example, 18 or 12 pixels. I suggest these particular numbers because on the next step it will be extremely important to find Radius indications which are divisible by 3.

Close your High Pass dialog window by clicking OK. The picture will become almost gray. Big grey spots in the picture are the non-edge parts almost without details, though the edges are highlighted by high contrast halos.

Step 6. Use The Gaussian Blur Filter

professional skin retouching in photoshop

You may think it is irrational, but the blur effect really helps make the skin texture better. To use the Gaussian Blur Filter, you should go to the Filter menu, find Blur and then select Gaussian Blur.

Interested of out how to add textures in Photoshop and make your workflow more effective? Read the detailed instruction and do it in several simple clicks.
 

photoshop face retouching

Open the Gaussian Blur dialog box. Here you need to set the Radius value to one-third of the High Pass filter value you’ve used. To soften skin in Photoshop, I usually set the High Pass scope to 24 pixels. Consequently, I set the Gaussian Blur scope to 8 pixels. To apply the blurring, click OK. After the dialog box is closed, you will see that the High Pass effect is much smoother and less detailed.

Step 7. Alter The Layer Blend Mode from Normal to Linear Light

advanced skin retouching

Find the Layers panel. Now you should change the blending mode of the “Smooth Skin” layer from the default Normal Blend mode to Linear Light. Mind that blending the High Pass result in the photo with the effect of high contrast.

View more about how to whiten teeth in Photoshop to give your model a Hollywood smile with naturally white teeth.
 

Moreover, your image will look over-sharpened. It might seem awful, but there is no need to worry. If you proceed to the next step, you will see that your image will look even worse.

Step 8. Invert The Layer to Achieve a Blurry Effect

how to smooth skin in photoshop

Find the Image menu at the top of the screen, select Adjustments. Choose Invert to make the over-sharpened image blurry with a halo effect. Inverting a layer plays a great role in smoothing skin in Photoshop. However, the result may seem rather weird.

Step 9. Choose The Blending Options

retouching skin tones in photoshop

Now you need to eliminate the halo effect. Go to the Layers panel. There is the Layer Styles icon at the bottom – click it. At the top of the list, you will see Blending Options.

Step 10. Use The "Blend If" Feature

Find the Blend If sliders at the bottom of the Layer Style pop-up window. Here you can see two collections of sliders – "This Layer" and "Underlying Layer". Choose the first collection on the top ("This Layer").

It is necessary to pay attention to the slider below every end of the gradient bar. Here these sliders allow controlling the way the smooth skin Photoshop layer mixes with the picture below it in accordance with the brightness intensity of the layer. Use the slider on the left to blend the dark parts of the layer. Consequently, the slider on the right blends the light parts of the layer.

The Light Halos Reduction

fast skin retouching

Now I would like to explain how to reduce light halos during the PS skin editing. Use your keyboard to press and hold the Alt (for Windows) / Option (for Mac). Next, drag the right slider to the left. While holding Alt (for Windows) / Option (for Mac), Photoshop breaks the slider in half so that only the left side of the slider is moved while dragging, and the right side remains in place.

Drag the slider and see how the light halos in your image are disappearing. Drag the slider almost completely to the left to lessen them to the maximum.

The Dark Halos Reduction

skin editing

To lessen the darker halos, you need to press and hold Alt (for Windows) / Option (for Mac) and choose the left slider. Proceed with dragging the right half of it to the right. Don’t forget to drag it almost completely to the right in order the dark halos to fade away. Close the Layer Style pop-up box by clicking OK.

Step 11. Use a Layer Mask

soften skin in photoshop

When it comes to Photoshop skin smooth, sometimes it is necessary to apply the smoothing effect not to the whole image but only to the skin. To do this, you need to add a layer mask. Open the Layers panel, press and hold Alt (for Windows) / Option (for Mac) and choose the icon that is called "Add Layer Mask".

A miniature mask filled with black appears on the “Smooth Skin” layer. Since the smoothing Photoshop effect is hidden, you can use it in particular areas of the photo.

Click on the Toolbar in order to select a Brush Tool. Make certain you chose a Foreground color as white. It is possible to check the colors of Foreground and Background in the Color Swatches panel which is located at the bottom of the Toolbar. The upper left swatch is the color of the Foreground. To adjust it to white, just press the “D” key. This way you will restore the default colors.

Step 12. Create a Softening Effect by Painting Over the Skin

photoshop skin smooth

To paint in an effective way, you need to adjust the proper options in the Options Bar. Set the Blend Mode to Normal. Opacity and Flow should be at 100%. Now you can paint with a soft-edge brush to show the silky effect of the skin.

I recommend starting from the forehead. Mind that you cannot see the color of the brush, as you aren’t painting on the layer but on the layer mask. This way you are making the effect of the smoothed skin.

Continue painting over the nose, then cheeks and the area around eyes. In order not to miss any detail and keep the image sharp, it is better to choose the appropriate size of the brush.

If you occasionally made a mistake and painted the wrong area, just press the “X” key to choose the black color of your brush. Then paint over the necessary area on the image to remove the smoothness. To continue skin softening, press the “X” key once again.

The last areas to paint over are the mouth and chin. While painting around the lips, be careful in order not to brush against them.

Step 13. Adjust The Layer Opacity to The Lower Value

You’ve just learned how to smoothen skin in Photoshop, but it may seem that the smoothing effect is rather intense. To make it more natural, it is necessary to set the lower value of the "Smooth Skin" layer opacity. The most appropriate variant to choose the opacity value from 40% to 60%. I recommend setting to 50%.

 
tutorial on smoothing skin in photoshoptutorial on smoothing skin in photoshop
 

As you see, the targeted end-result is excellent. The skin looks soft and natural.

FREE Smooth Skin Photoshop Actions

With its help, it is possible to make the Photoshop smoothing skin process much easier. There is no need to select filters and effects all over again. With these Free Photoshop Plugins, the software will “remember” your adjustments just by one click of a button. This function is a real help for those who work with portrait photography or edit a bunch of photos at the same time.

Free Smooth Skin Photoshop Action 1


This Photoshop action is recommended for studio or beauty portraits taken on the plain background. Give your model a natural and pinky skin tone, emphasized her make-up. View my guide about how to install Photoshop actions if you have never done it before.

Free Smooth Skin Photoshop Action 2


If you took a close portrait at the street under natural light, download and apply this free smooth skin Photoshop action. This Photoshop filter will adjust shadows and remove small skin blemishes and too vivid facial hair.

Free Smooth Skin Photoshop Action 3


The most universal Photoshop action for portraits of men and women. Apply it to make our model’s skin soft and pure. It gets rid of small imperfections and poor light distortions.

Other Methods of Photoshop Skin Retouching

In addition to this method, there are two very popular techniques of how to smooth skin in Photoshop.

High-End Skin Retouching

high end skin retouching in photoshop

For about $10 per photo you will get high end skin retouching from FixThePhoto experts. These edited portraits can be published in high resolution for advertisement and magazines.

While you are performing high-end skin retouching, it is necessary to make sure that the different shades, light and skin texture will perfectly fit together. If you are a novice in the world of photography, but wish for your pictures to be professional-looking, getting in touch with our photo post-production service will be a fantastic idea. Popular cosmetic brands always resort to an incredible amount of high-end skin retouching together with the other types of retouch. This method is often used for magazine portraits and expensive photoshoots for commercial purposes.

Dodge & Burn

dodging and burning skin retouching in photoshop

You’ve probably had the experience to use PS tools such as Dodge and Burn. It is worth mentioning that with these tools you can change the exposure settings as well as use a brush to brighten or blur the particular areas on the photo. These tools are essential for learning how to smooth skin in Photoshop. Dodging and Burning method allows you to remove all skin blemishes without distorting the skin texture. It makes a huge difference in professional photo retouching.

skin dodge and burn in photoshop

How to Master Dodging & Burning in Photoshop

If you want to make Dodge and Burn professionally, view this video tutorial about how to master Dodging & Burning in Photoshop, sculpt highlights and shadows to add dimension, remove skin blemishes, and brighten eyes.

VIEW MORE

 

To improve your picture retouching skills, watch the video tutorials chosen specifically for you. By watching them, you will find the answer to the question of how to smooth the skin in Photoshop. It is possible to watch a high-resolution video in order to see all the peculiarities of the process.


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Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a photographer, photo retoucher and of course, journalist. Here on FixThePhoto blog you can find all of my reviews, photography and photo editing tips, pricing guides, and photography experiments.

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