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Are you new to photo retouching?
It can be a pretty daunting process to start with, so it’s definitely help to follow along with a real workflow and learn by doing.
Today we will be focusing on a portrait that we will be beautifying and manipulating with some handy retouching tips. We will first concentrate on improving the overall look of our model image and then from there we will build off of the foundation that we have created to add some cool effects. We will combine photography with textures, custom brushes, vectors and 3d elements to create a unified design.
Many of the techniques that we are going to be covering can be applied to almost any portrait and in most cases probably should be used especially when you are working with a raw image that hasn’t undergone any post-production work.
Let’s dive right in!
Here is a preview of the image that we are going to be creating:
To start things off we will open our portrait image from the resources folder, which is a free image courtesy of Morguefile.com.
The first thing that we will do is press Command/Ctrl + J to duplicate the original layer so that we can work from a copy just in case.
After you’ve done that we want to add a layer mask by clicking the icon highlighted at the bottom of the Layers Palette as shown below:
Hopefully you guys are plenty familiar with Layer Masks but I always look to keep things as simple and straightforward as possible so that users of all levels can follow along.
Next, create a new layer and place it between your original and duplicated layers. You can pick any color you like here but I want to use something on the brighter side so that as we begin to mask out our model we can clearly see our progress. Simply fill the new layer with your color using the Paint Bucket Tool (G) or by first selecting your color and then pressing Alt/Option + Delete with your layer selected. This is a quick shortcut command that will automatically fill your layer with your foreground color.
If we were to use a gray color or something too similar to the background of the original image we are more likely to miss certain parts and not get the clean cut out that we want.
Switch to your Brush Tool (B) and using a hard round brush with a solid black color, begin to silhouette the portrait by painting into the layer that is attached to the Layer Mask. Luckily this image has mostly sharper edges so it makes this step fairly easy. I still like to zoom way in to ensure a nice clean cutout.
Once you have silhouetted your image you should be able to see the colored layer underneath as shown below:
Because our image is tall but rather narrow, I’m going to add some extra space on the left side. To do this, we want to go to the Image Menu and choose ‘Canvas Size’.
Normally when you change the height or width values in this dialog box it will add room on both sides, but in this case we ONLY want to add space on the left. To make this happen we will select the middle right box as I have indicated here:
Next, change the width to about 11 inches so that we have a document that is roughly A4 size.
Press the Enter Key or click ‘OK’ to apply the changes. Now you will notice that we have this big empty white space where our canvas has been extended.
Select your color layer that should be between your silhouette and the original image and press Command/Ctrl + T to initiate a Free Transform Command. Grab the left handle of the color layer and drag it all the way out so that the color fills the entire background.
We may end up cropping some of this off later on but it gives us a nice amount of breathing room so that the image doesn’t feel so confined.
The next thing we are going to do is add a few Adjustment Layers to our model portrait to help bump up the contrast and values a bit further. With your model layer selected, click on the Adjustment Layer Icon at the bottom of the Layers Palette and then choose ‘Levels’ from the pop-up menu that appears.
Once the dialog box appears move the middle slider to the right slightly so that it’s set to about ‘0.89’ as shown below:
After moving the slider, hold down the Control Key and click on the Levels Adjustment Layer in your Layers Palette. You should now see a dropdown menu where you will want to select ‘Create Clipping Mask’.
Once you’ve applied the Clipping Mask you will see a little arrow on the Levels Adjustment indicating that it is only affecting the layer directly below it. This is a great way to ensure that your adjustments are contained within a certain area rather than EVERY layer below.
Select your model layer once again in your Layers Palette.
Return to the Adjustment Layers Icon at the bottom of your Layers Palette and this time select ‘Hue/Saturation’.
Once the dialog box appears move the middle Saturation slider to the right so that it’s set to about ‘34’ as shown in the image below:
By first selecting our model layer before we add an Adjustment Layer we can create a nested Adjustment Layer that will automatically be given a Clipping Mask. You will notice how this layer is kind of sandwiched in between the two layers and has the same little arrow icon as our Levels Adjustment Layer.
Repeat the previous step to add a Curves Adjustment Layer that will also automatically have a Clipping Mask applied to it.
Create three points on your Curves Adjustment Layer – one in the middle, one in the upper quadrant, and one point in the lower quadrant. For each of these points, make sure that you have the same Output and Input settings as the image below:
Eric is a Graphic Designer, specializing in Print and Web Design. He's a graduate of the New England Institute of Art in Boston and has over 4 years of professional and freelance work experience. He lives in Brooklyn, New York working as a Graphic Designer and he has been featured in Advanced Photoshop Magazine, The Art of Fashion Art Exhibit and Artists In The Station Art Exhibit. Visit Eric's portfolio at ericvasquez.net.
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