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Head Games: retouching portraits > Removing Blemishes

Removing Blemishes

When it comes to removing blemishes, acne, or any other imperfections on the skin, our goal is to maintain as much of the original skin texture as possible. That way, our retouch doesn’t look pasty and obvious. Here are three techniques we use that work pretty nicely, and when you have all of these methods in your retouching arsenal, if one doesn’t carry out the repair the way you’d hoped, you can try the second or even the third.

Technique #1

Step One.
Open a photo containing some skin imperfections you want to remove (in this example, we’re going to remove the mole below his lips and to the left).


Step Two.
Choose the Clone Stamp tool in the Toolbox. From the Brush Picker up in the Options bar (click on the Brush thumbnail on the left-hand side), choose a soft-edged brush that’s slightly larger than the blemish you want to remove. You can use the Master Diameter slider at the top of the Brush Picker to dial in just the size you need. Once you’re working, if you need to quickly adjust the brush size up or down, use the Bracket keys on your keyboard: the Left Bracket key makes your brush smaller; the Right, larger.

Step Three.
Up in the Options bar, change the Blend Mode of the Clone Stamp tool to Lighten. With its Mode set as Lighten, the Clone Stamp will affect only pixels that are darker than the sampled area. The lighter pixels (the regular flesh tone) will pretty much stay intact, and only the darker pixels (the blemish) will be affected.

Step Four.
Find an area right near the blemish that’s pretty clean (no visible spots, blemishes, etc.), hold the Option key (PC: Alt key), and click once. This samples the skin from that area. Try to make sure this sample area is very near the blemish so the skin tones will match. If you move too far away, you risk having your repair appear in a slightly different color, which is a dead giveaway of a repair.

Step Five.
Now, move your cursor directly over the blemish and click just once. Don’t paint! Just click. The click will do it—it will remove the blemish instantly (as shown here), while leaving the skin texture intact. But what if the blemish is lighter than the skin, rather than darker? Simply change the Blend Mode to Darken instead of Lighten—it’s that easy. On to Technique #2.



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