My Ugly Mug - First attempt of retouching portrait in Photoshop.

Crazy shit, isn't it? - I actually look approachable and for the first time not to bad effort. If you cannot be bothered to read the whole thing and simply want to know the tutorials I've watched to get there there's a playlist in appendices on every youtube video (and more) to make myself pretty again, so won't blame you if you go straight there. (Also feel free to use the photo at the end of that post as a cheat sheet if that helps) Otherwise, read away below,

Now depending on how far you want to go and how many techniques you want to use it can take anything between 30 minutes to hours, possibly days of working to get it just right. For me, it took over three hours with youtube tutorials floating in a small window in the top right corner of a screen as I was doing it step by step. Have in mind by now the third portrait in, having a bit more confidence (yet still coming back to the tutorial when I get lost) I sliced the time by half. For my first try I've intentionally picked the most hangover photo I found (not that I look a lot better on a good day) with bits of ketchup on the chin nevermind out of focus. What I wanted to learn was so-called "Frequency separation", or in other words, a fancy way of calling splitting an image in two where one has all the colors and light shades and the other has the color taken away which leaves you with all the texture and outlines. Having it split like that into two layers lets you work on those separately and in a sense repainting skin from scratch. I have accidentally picked up on a few things along the way cos as it turns out working on portraits requires a mixture of techniques to get it done well and learning only one might get you only halfway there, so watched also how to remove eye bags before going into that technique, for my second portrait also watched how to work on lips, add a lipgloss and makeup, trim eyebrows, or remove any unwanted hair... But for that specific bit you might want to watch that toturial to start with :

High-End Skin Retouching & Sculpting in Photoshop

Close up on the eye before and after Topaz Lab

As I said it's a mixture of techniques and in this case certain software as well. The photo was in fact out of focus so before moving to photoshop, I started off downloading something called Topaz Sharpen AI, software that is meant to recover detail from blurry photos. I got to say it does a surprisingly decent job at it. By all means, don't expect miracles but if you need detail you missed in your camera viewer it might actually save a potentially good photo. You can try it for free for about a month. I don't think I do enough to spend money on it now but somewhere in the future, I might actually buy it. There are tutorials and you can get similar effects in Photoshop but me just wanting to get on with it and move to the fun part of the editing that was close to perfect and took under a minute.

Once you do basic corrections (white balance, exposure, contrast, etc) you'll start with removing blemishes, spots and ketchup from the chin, that's quite easy and well explained in PixImperfect youtube tutorial (Again - playlist on everything Portrait here) - and if you like fairly mechanical tasks that you don't have to think about too much it's actually a quite pleasant exercise. By now I've already practiced on three maybe four different portraits and with a bit of music in a background and a drink in the other hand, it's most relaxing and probably the favorite part of post-producing portraits for me.

Now if you are going to attempt "frequency Separation" or already have done it you'll probably realize a couple of facts. For starters, you might need to get better at drawing to repaint the skin, and it will take some practice to get a hang of it. Getting the shades right was a bit of a nightmare for me, even after few soul-sucking hours you'll spend doing it you'll end up noticing later you still did some bits that you are unhappy with. It seems to me that the better are your drawing skills in real life the better you'll get at doing that. The biggest challenge is getting different shades right. It helps to realize that you do change the shape of the face when painting new skin on even if you'd think you don't. Simply because picking brighter skin shade will make it look closer and darker further away, that's it. Not knowing that the next few portraits I really struggled with, changed the shape drastically enough for a face to look unnatural, weather because it was little to flat or the chicks were to round and so on, getting right chick bones is probably the hardest bit for me.

Before and after painting iris

Once all of that is done and it's all getting shape you need to do a bit of "dodge and burn", so add shadows to some areas and brighten up the other to add a dimension to everything and to make it look a little less flat - that's a fairly easy process hence managed to do it fairly effortlessly.

Liquify in Photoshop

And once you went through all that hell you'd normally be done by now, but since I am so pretty I took another 5 minutes to straighten my nose, make my jawline a little wider and forehead a touch smaller, eye a little bigger... you know, got myself Tinder ready.

I am using Photoshop 2020 and liquify option will really do it all for you, simply check out the options on the side.

Now doing that thought me few things - Mostly I realized that if like me you are on Facebook groups and ask about retouching eyebags or removing marks, blemishes, etc first teen people will throw at you "frequency separation". It's a technique that's definitely powerful, worth learning and fun to practice however for some reason, maybe because it sounds cool or some are simply excited they can spell it (I still struggle) but for inexperienced as I am I can tell by now that's a fairly lengthy practice that not always will provide desired results and sometimes healing brush or clone stamp will get you where you need in half the time with better results - that will work in most cases where you are after small corrections, removing eye bags or some hair.

On my second portrait I've ever done I have learned how to work on the lips, including lipgloss as well, cutting eyebrows, removing unwanted hair and quite a bit more. All those videos and more are here. So I guess have fun, it's interesting to see how relatively quickly you can change a pretty shitty photo and seeing step by step all the changes after

And once you do that and you have a minute let me know how your first time went better yet send me a photo of before and after. My Facebook page is

Oh, and not sure if that will help much but together with my playlist of tutorials on portraits (here) if it's any help here's step by step how Ii worked on my own face.

Step by Step proces of work on my photograph. *Doest apply to all but might be useful guideline.e

*For any similar lengthy work in Photoshop do yourself a favor and for the life of god - buy a drawing tablet. It can be any cheapest second-hand piece of crap you can get from a £10 on eBay (I think I paid £15 for mine). I can only imagine that if with the tablet it took me around 3 hours to get it done without it it would be around three days.

**...I did try to do things with a mouse, 15 minutes in had a glass of rum to calm me down, also, the mouse ended in the bin... after bouncing off the wall... shortly after I jumped on it... Let's just say my anger management issues started showing really quickly,


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