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Flawless Flesh: Skin Repair & Reconstruction in Adobe Photoshop:

Achieving a natural looking smooth flesh tone is one of the many Holy Grail’s of commercial retouchers. Most retouchers develop their own individual methods but these usually rely heavily on Gaussian Blur which is a big mistake as it more often than not destroys too much of the natural detail. The method described below has been used successfully for many years for clients such as Prada, Selfridges and Laura Ashley and is very flexible even to the extent of working on surfaces that require smoothing other than flesh such as ceramics, chrome, fabrics etc.

Step 1

Using your lasso selection tool, quickly draw a selection around all of the exposed skin areas you want to repair. In this instance we will just focus on the facial area. Make sure you draw you selection a reasonable distance away fro the edge of the face. If you need to add other areas such as arms and legs etc, remember to hold down the shift key before you start selecting your next area or you will loose your first selection. When you have made your selections, copy and paste them into the same document – Photoshop should paste these onto a new layer in exactly the same position as the original.

Step 2

Turn off the original background layer by clicking the eye icon next to it just leaving you pasted skin layer exposed with the transparent checkerboard pattern. Select this layer by clicking it once in the layer palette. Zoom in to around 200% magnification to ensure you get a neat edge when you are working and select a medium sized soft eraser brush. Erase the areas around the skin and allow the eraser brush to just creep over the edges of the skin so that you end up with a soft halo effect round the skin area with no background or hairline showing. When you have done this, lock the transparency of this layer by clicking the small checkerboard icon immediately above the list of layers in the layer palette - a small padlock icon should then appear next to the layer name.

Step 3

Select the smudge tool next, which is the little extended finger icon that appears with the blur and sharpen tools in the main tool palette. Again, pick a medium sized soft brush but set you brush strength to around 60-70%. In large skin areas use the smudge tool in quick but smooth circular motions, much as you would do if your were blending pastels with your own finger. This blends the skin tones together but retains the original tonal range unlike Gaussian blurring or healing brushes. Around detail areas such as eyes, lips, nostrils etc, use soft gentle strokes to blend the skin but match the contours of the face. Natural creases should either be left alone completely or smoothed out very slightly using the same technique. Do not worry about brushing over the edge of the skin, as the locked transparency will prevent this from happening. When you have finished this you should end up with an effect that looks something like smooth oil paints or hammered copper.

Part 2: The Finishing touches

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