In general, there are four “famous” skin-retouching techniques on the photography and retouching market to achieve a smooth skin:
- Gaussian blur (for me not a skin-retouching technique, but I see it a lot)
- Inverted high-pass
- Frequency Separation
- Dodge & Burn
(Yes, there are more, but these are the “biggest” ones “inside” Photoshop)
This article will compare these skin-retouching techniques to show the pros and cons for each of them. However, this article will not show you how to do them, but what the “good and bad” sides are about these techniques – they might be not “black or white” but can be both (like grey-shades).
Tip: You will find tips for dodge & burn and frequency separation on my blog and are able to learn it with my new video-training. I also offer personal-coachings (online & in person).
A table showing you some important points… I am sure like this you are able to see the differences better than in a long text. I am a professional retoucher, but keep in mind you also need to think for yourself – maybe you think different and that’s OK.
|Gaussian blur||Inverted High-Pass||Frequency Separation||Dodge & Burn|
|Final Look||blotchy/blurred skin (no texture)||blotchy (smudged colours)/changed texture (decreased texture)||“plastic look” / “airbrush-look” – changed colours & shadows &highlights, decreased pores, etc. (if using FS only and over “huge” areas)||texture there, but smooth looking, if lots of D&B tiny colour-shifts / (too much zoomed-in work: decreased pores)|
|Level||PS-Newbie||Beginners||Advanced & Professional||Advanced & Professional|
|Pros||very fast & very easy||fast & Easy||faster & easier than Dodge & Burn, good for tiny (only some pixels) + fast corrections, less destructive* than IHP/Gaussian Blur if working with empty layers, get back texture by copying texture to somewhere else||non-destructive*, original, but smooth looking texture (natural/ ”untouched” look), complete control by yourself and not “by Photoshop”, very good for adding manual highlights/shadows|
|Cons||destructive, Blurred image & texture, very obvious that image is retouched, unnatural look, cannot use on “hard edges”, not as much control as other techniques||destructive, Blotchy image & changed texture, quite obvious that image is retouched & decreased pores, sometimes “blury”-effects, cannot use on “hard edges”, not as much control as other techniques||“Plastic”/”Dolly”/”Airbrush”-effect if used a lot & over huge areas (for example whole check or whole nose, whole face, etc.) => not natural looking, more time consuming than IHP or Gaussian Blur, changing texture by copying wrong texture||time-Consuming, after lot of D&B colour-shifts (less/more saturated areas), if working on zoomed in level combined with lots of D&B: decreased pores, if not enough practise blotchy skin (too light/dark)|
Using only one technique over a whole image might not always be the best result. The more techniques you know the better. Feel free to combine these techniques for achieving the best result. Remember, at the end it does not matter what techniques you used – the final result counts.
There are retouchers who say “DO NOT do this, DO NOT do that, THIS is not…” – ok, in some points they might be right, for example if it comes to filters and how they work (mathematically) or the current market situation, but in general keep in mind the following lines…
Remember: Retouching is not controlled by lawyers, it’s more “art” than “law”, so don’t be afraid to find new ways.
Don’t restrict yourself by negative or bigoted thinking of others It is always good to learn from the professionals and listen to their opinion, but don’t forget to have your own and individual mindset.
This helps you to create your own brand and shows you have a strong personality – this is what people will book you for. If they want a “Julia Kuzmenko”-style, why should they go to you if they are able to book Julia directly? Ok, you might be cheaper, but still never achieve exactly her image-look. Would be the same if painters try to re-paint a work of Leonardo Da Vinci
*destructive: you can’t go back that easily and you can’t go back after putting new layers on top // non-destructive: you can always go back and/or change layers
For example: You merged an image for IHP or FS and after you are done with this technique you notice you made mistakes below the IHP/FS layers(s). This means you have to delete the whole IHP/FS to go back or use layer-masks (if possible). If you always work with empty or adjustment layers you are able to go back and do adjustments even after putting lots of layers above the layer you want to re-correct.
About The Author
Lisa Évoluer is professional high-end retoucher from Malta in Europe. she is also an apprenticed make-up artist, hairstylist and studied graphic-designer. However, retouching is her first love and she specializes in high-end beauty and fashion retouching. This article was originally published here, and shared with permission. Photographer: Sergey Moshkov, High-End Retoucher: Lisa Évoluer