Here are five quick tips for doing retouching in Photoshop that are essential to know. Learn them to do better retouching on your photos.
#1 – Load Luminosity as a Selection
In Photoshop you can use the luminosity of an image (the bright pixels) as selections. The easiest way to make a selection out of the bright pixels of a photo is by pressing Command+Option+2, (Windows: Ctrl+Alt+2).
If you cannot remember the keyboard shortcut, you can also load luminosity as a selection by holding Cmd/Ctrl and clicking on the RGB thumbnail in the Channels panel.
With a selection active, you can create an Adjustment Layer to apply the selection to the Layer Mask.
This Adjustment Layer will only target the brighter pixels of your image. If you make an adjustment, you’ll notice that you will only affect the bright pixels and not the dark ones.
You can target dark pixels by inverting the selection. To do so, Select the Layer Mask, and clicking on Invert in the Properties panel.
Now if you make an adjustment, the dark pixels will be affected and not the bright.
#2 – Spot Healing Brush Tool Modes – Lighten and Darken
One way to remove wrinkles, blemishes, and other distractions from the face quickly and efficiently is to use the Modes in the Spot Healing Brush Tool and Content-Aware.
First, think of the blemish, wrinkle, or distraction that you are trying to remove. Is it darker than the skin tone or is it brighter than the skin tone?
In this case, the wrinkles are darker than the skin tone. That means that you want to “lighten” those wrinkles.
With the Spot Healing Brush Tool selected, in the Options bar, click on Content-Aware, and under the Mode drop-down menu, select Lighten.
Then start painting with a small brush and small strokes over the wrinkles to remove them. But you will not lose essential details in the highlights. The Spot Healing Brush tool is only targeting dark pixels which are the wrinkles.
If your blemish or distraction is brighter than the skin tone, such as the bright wrinkles above the lip, then select Darken from the Mode drop-down menu, and paint them away.
To learn more about how this technique works, check out this video on the Spot Healing Brush Tool:
#3 – Open the Same Image in Two Windows
In Photoshop, you can open the same image in two windows and set them side-by-side to work on both details and the overall image at the same time.
This technique is great when you are working with two monitors. But even with one monitor, this technique can be very useful.
To open the same document in two windows, go to Window > Arrange, “New Window for [Name of Document].” Then go to Window > Arrange > Two up Vertical to put the two tabs side-by-side. You can then Zoom into one window, and zoom out on the other.
These are not two separate files. They are the same document, and any adjustments that you make to one will reflect on the other instantly.
#4 – Targeted Selections with Color Range
The Color Range command can be an excellent tool for selecting difficult areas of an image. However, if you simply use the Color Range on a problematic image, it may not give you the results you want. Sometimes there is too much information on a single image, and you need to focus on just one area.
To focus the Color Range in only one area, create a selection around the object that you want to select. A simple rectangular selection will be fine.
Then go into Select > Color Range, and you will see that Color range is now focusing solely on the selected area.
Select a red color on the shirt using the eyedropper, then use the fuzziness slider to adjust the selection.
Keep in mind that it is going to be next to impossible not to select the hands or the railing that she’s leaning on because the skin tones and the paint on the railing are very similar in color to the red that you are trying to select.
But you can use the Lasso tool to quickly deselect those areas, leaving only the red in the shirt selected.
With a selection active, you can create a Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer that will just target the red in the shirt.
Then use the Hue slider to change the color of the shirt.
#5 – Use the Lab Color Mode
Most of the time, you will work with RGB or CMYK while in Photoshop. But there is another Color Mode that you can use that can be very useful in certain situations. If you go to Image > Mode > Lab Color, you will change your photo’s color mode to Lab.
The Lab color mode has three channels: Lightness, A, and B.
- The Lightness channel contains the detail of the image – the Luminance values.
- “A” is the relationship between green and magenta. These are the same colors as the Tint slider in Lightroom and Camera Raw.
- “B” is the relationship between blue and yellow. These are the same colors as the Temperature slider in Lightroom and Camera Raw.
One of the most significant advantages of working with the Lab color mode is that Lab separates detail (luminosity) from color. This separation allows you to work with color without affecting detail and vice versa.
For example, you could turn a red dress green by duplicating the layer, and then selecting “A” from the Channel’s panel, and pressing Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the channel.
Notice that the color of the image changed, but the detail was left intact.
You could then use a Layer Mask to contain the adjustment to only the dress.
Another advantage of using the Lab color mode is that you can sharpen without affecting the color of a photo. If you apply any sharpening filter to the Lightness channel, you will only target the detail and will leave the color intact.
The example below has the same Sharpening filter applied to both the regular image and the Lightness channel in Lab Color. I’ve made sharpening effect an extreme one for demonstration purposes, to make the results more noticeable.
Notice that when you apply sharpening to the Lightness channel (right), the colors on the edges are not saturated or changed. They only become brighter or darker. While the sharpening on the regular layer increases the saturation of the edge pixels.
As a side note, Photoshop doesn’t really add detail to an image when you apply sharpening. It creates the illusion of detail by adding contrast to the edges in the photo. You can see that edge contrast in these extreme adjustments.
You can learn more about sharpening in this video on sharpening photos in Photoshop:
One important thing to note is that the Lab color mode does not have access to all the Adjustment Layers, and some Adjustment Layers will work a bit different than their RGB counterparts.
If you are working with Adjustment Layers and you would like to go back to the RGB color mode, you will have to put the image, and the Adjustment Layers in a Smart Object then make the conversion. Otherwise, Photoshop will ask you to delete the Adjustment Layers or flatten the image.
I hope you found these tips helpful for retouching or editing your images in Photoshop. Do you have any other tips or tricks that you use? Please share in the comments below.