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Thread: Portrait airbrushing technique

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    Portrait airbrushing technique

    More questions

    It has become quite apparent with MF that I can no longer get away with some spot removal tools. I know the blur layer, mask and airbrush the mask technique, but find that once I start, I basically have to go over all the exposed skin to keep a consistent look and that it comes out too waxy and fake looking. It's also pretty time consuming. It could just be that I need more practice.

    Are there any tips for airbrushing that could be shared? Not looking for an incredibly detailed step by step guide, just a quick overview of real world usage would help. Also I have problems dealing with hair and fine details.


    Thankyou!
    Paul

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    Senior Member Graham Mitchell's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait airbrushing technique

    I would recommend that you never use the blur tool as a way to retouch skin. There are no one-button solutions to skin retouching, and doing it properly is time-consuming.

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    Re: Portrait airbrushing technique

    Quote Originally Posted by Graham Mitchell View Post
    I would recommend that you never use the blur tool as a way to retouch skin. There are no one-button solutions to skin retouching, and doing it properly is time-consuming.
    Try Portrait Professional, as a Photoshop Plug-in. You can adjust it pretty much to do what you want, from just spot removal through to the something rather too over the top for my taste. Brush in or remove effects selectively. Its far better than using the blur too. Some purists will criticise, but judge for yourself. It is highly customisable.

    Quentin
    Quentin Bargate
    Director of Bargate Murray, Law Firm of the Year 2012 - 2017, ”leading individual”, Chambers HNW guide, 2017, Photographer

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    Re: Portrait airbrushing technique

    I prefer a frequency separation technique which uses a high-pass layer created via the add operation. I then use the healing brush (not the spot healing brush) to sample texture and clone it to the destination I want.
    I only use this for evening skin texture, not removing it. Remember that skin texture varies all over the body, so the texture of "chin" is completely different from the texture of "shoulder"
    -bob

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    Re: Portrait airbrushing technique

    Take a look at onOne Photo Tools 2.6

    I have to do 500 to 600 shots at a time after shooting a wedding, and this program really works ... lots of applications under their Portrait and Image Optimize headers. It stacks all the additive effects in a layer pallet so you can adjust each effect separately in real time. Then when done, it makes a layer in Photoshop so you can further adjust the opacity. Photo Tools also has a batch function if you have a group of similar images that needs work. Click, click, done.

    It is all pretty amazing how it applies the various skin treatments without effecting the other parts of the image, and leaves the skin looking real with texture, etc.

    -Marc

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    Re: Portrait airbrushing technique

    I have been thinking about Topaz, has one one given them a try?

    http://www.topazlabs.com/bundle/

    Much of their stuff seems over the top, but the skin tool looks good.

    Dave

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    Subscriber Member kit laughlin's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait airbrushing technique

    I find the skin controls in C16Pro to be excellent, and do not produce the OOT effects that other programs can.

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    Re: Portrait airbrushing technique

    It depends on the desired outcome, and the amount of work one needs to do.

    If I'm retouching beauty shots, portraits, editorial or people based art work where skin texture and perfection are critical, I'll use frequency separation and soft light layers for dodge and burn and carving.

    If I'm retouching a wedding or something that comes in large numbers and doesn't require the same attention to detail, I absolutely adore Imagenomic Portraiture. I remove the big blemishes with the healing brush, run it pretty conservatively, and then take the opacity down to somewhere around 40-60% depending on the set. It can be made into an action and yields great results.

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    Re: Portrait airbrushing technique

    Thanks for the answers everyone, i have a fair amount of homework to do.

    Mainly my problem is that if I try to remove minor blemishes, let's say a small scar on someone's nose, once I start down that path, that area looks so odd, I have to keep going to get the surrounding area to look consistent. The problem is that I lose all texture.

    As I have capture one and PS already, plus it seems that for my minor tweaking those techniques might be sufficient, so I'll start with those. Incidentally I have Nik ColorEfex but always hated the results of the dynamic skin effect, does anyone use this successfully?

    Paul

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    Senior Member David Schneider's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait airbrushing technique

    Quote Originally Posted by wentbackward View Post
    Not looking for an incredibly detailed step by step guide, just a quick overview of real world usage would help.
    Not trying to throw flames at all, but it really, really helps to get a good foundation in Photoshop and then use all the cool actions and filters available. Better to start with something like dupping the layer, running Gaussian blur, masking back what you want sharper to start. Once you understand that, then go to Imageonics Portraiture filter, or Nik or Portrait Professional. In the long term, you save time knowing what you want and what tool will give you the look you want in your final image.

    With any of these kind of filters or doing it yourself, it's best to work the blems with healing brush, spot healing brush, patch tool first before running any of the filters/actions. I prefer to adjust my levels first before skin smoothing, but it doesn't seem to make that much difference. If I'm batching dlsr images, I do levels last.

    Marc talked about leaving some texture and that's something that's too often not done. While certain markets, like seniors, seem to like that blown out, porcelain look, but getting that skin texture in a mf file is part of the advantage of mf over dslr for portraits.
    Last edited by David Schneider; 30th May 2011 at 16:52.

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    Re: Portrait airbrushing technique

    Quote Originally Posted by wentbackward View Post
    Mainly my problem is that if I try to remove minor blemishes, let's say a small scar on someone's nose, once I start down that path, that area looks so odd, I have to keep going to get the surrounding area to look consistent. The problem is that I lose all texture.
    if skin is looking funny, or you're losing texture using the healing brush...i would prescribe more practice. focus on where you grab texture from and how often, and the settings of the brush.

    oh...and dynamic skin, while not my favorite plugin for this, does work well...but you have to put it on a duplicate layer and lower the opacity a bunch...it can also help to add a bit of noise to trick the eye (but this has to be done carefully, or it looks horrendous)

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    Re: Portrait airbrushing technique

    To get it in camera (best way to do it)
    - better lighting
    - soft lenses (if not possible - alternatives like black veil

    In PP (because digital is too sharp most of time for skin)
    - C1 skin tool is great
    - hand work. Tedious...boring.. but best.

    When it has to be done on uber massive scale (i.e 100> images... ) - either dont do it at all or just something deadly simple like Portraiture , dialed way down.

    Or you can just shoot film.

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    Re: Portrait airbrushing technique

    Most of your retouching needs can be met in lighting. Serge is right, digital is way too sharp. I have found though, if you up noise reduction a tad more than you might normally do, and do not sharpen in ACR or Lightroom, then go back in and mask everything but the eyes and do a bit of sharpening if you need it, pretty much everything but blemishs are gone. Healing brush has always worked for me or clone, go to 100% and literally replace as few pixels as is possible. This is sort of a cheap and dirty, but genuinely if you light it right you shouldn't have much texture to worry about. Joe

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    Re: Portrait airbrushing technique

    I want to thank everyone for the help.

    Joe, that reminds me ... is this not a Monte Zucker trick? I recall something about him using higher ISO and then noise reduction to smooth things out a little.

    I thought I'd provide a summary of where I am currently:

    I do a lot of ambient light portraits and also I prefer a natural look so actually want to retain texture. My problems are that spot removal tools tend to leave a large smooth blob. I generally only want to correct a few small areas, but some minor improvements lead to huge amounts of work.

    I've done some experimenting and found the C1 tools just don't do anything for me, generally I'm dealing with Asian skin tones and it has little effect. Also in many cases the skin tones are not that far from hair tones so this selection approach is a little flawed for me.

    I also tried Nik's tools again and it totally went off in the wrong direction for me, using layers and opacity actually left behind the problems I want to remove, whereas selective masking just seemed to put me back to the same problems I see with spot healing type tools.

    I have a soft focus (Mamiya 145) lens, lovely, really lovely, but limited application. Yes this lens works wonders, I need a hell of a lot more practice with it.

    It seems the frequency separation techniques are going to work for me. I've only started playing with it, but the sheer control I have at applying a correctly toned adjustment to a specific area, whilst retaining the correct texture, this looks very promising.

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    Re: Portrait airbrushing technique

    The corrective lighting techniques can be used with ambient light. It has more to do with knowing how to use it then the source. Look at Dean Collins videos and books, and I cannot begin to tell you the value I found in learning from him. It was over 30 years ago I took a seminar from him, but I found that I could use ambient light afterwards as if I was in my studio. Between that and the lens you should have a lot less problems. Are you retouching at 100%? It helps to go to the pixel level, even 200% if it is really difficult. It blobs less. Also if you mask everything but the blob you can go back in and add noise, it appears a lot like texture on a really small scale. Joe

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    Senior Member CharlesK's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait airbrushing technique

    Excellent discussion! C1 Pro is very good, as is CS5, but for large number of images Imagenomic Portraiture as a plug in to CS5 is excellent. As a layer, you can adjust the effect easily, and subdue the effect until it is just noticeable. Once you find the defaults and adjustments that work for you, it is very quick
    Charles Kalnins
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    http://kalnins.zenfolio.com

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    Re: Portrait airbrushing technique

    You might look into a book written a few years ago titled "Skin—the Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces and Bodies" by Lee Varis. There are many carefully written tutorials on various methods of retouching using Photoshop. It is slightly out of date in that he was using PS CS3, but the various techniques don't really change as the software versions evolve.

    For example, one simple and very effective approach to minimizing wrinkles and lines in a "mature" face is to add a Soft Light layer filed with 50% grey and then use the Dodge tool with a small-tip brush to gently lighten the shadows in the wrinkles. It's subtle and effective. There are many others (like minimizing red "spots" in a complexion) that might come in handy as well.

    Best,
    Tim

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