Smooth Skin Quickly
in Photoshop Elements

I really like this technique to smooth skin for a couple of reasons.

One is that it gives realistic results by retaining some of the original skin texture.

The other reason I like it is because once you know the steps you can get those realistic results really fast.

Here's a look at the before and after photos:

Smooth Skin technique before and after

Click on the video below to see exactly how it's done.

Under the video is an illustrated step-by-step guide showing how to smooth skin in Photoshop Elements.

The Step-By-Step Guide

STEP ONE- Duplicate The Background Layer.

Start by making a duplicate Layer of the Background Layer.

To do that press Command+J on a Mac or Control+J on a Windows PC.

Now we have an exact duplicate of the Background Layer and it's named Layer 1 by default.

STEP TWO- Invert The New Layer.

Next we want to Invert the new Layer.

To do that press Command+I on a Mac or Control+I on a PC.

That gives our photo a very strange look.

Our photo looks like an old film negative after inverting it.

STEP THREE- Change The Blend Mode To Vivid Light.

Click on the box that says "Normal" in the Layers panel.

From the drop-down Blend Mode menu choose "Vivid Light" by clicking
on it.

That result in another strange look to our photo.

STEP FOUR- Apply The High Pass Filter.

Go up to the Filter menu and choose Other>High Pass....

The High Pass dialog box appears. There's an adjustable Radius slider.

Radius Slider outlined in red.

Adjust the Radius Slider until the skin looks smooth but not so blurry that there's no detail in the photo.

The screenshot below shows the range of smoothness you want to have.

Use the Radius Slider to make the skin look smooth but not too blurry.

Click OK to close the High Pass dialog box and accept the change.

STEP FIVE- Apply A Gaussian Blur.

Go up to the Filter menu again and this time choose Blur>Gaussian Blur....

The Gaussian Blur dialog box appears. It also has an adjustable Radius slider like the High Pass dialog box.

We want to use the Radius slider in the Gaussian Blur dialog box to bring back a little bit of the original texture of the skin.

So just use the slider until you see some of the texture appear. For this image a Radius setting of 4 pixels looked about right.

Click OK to close the Gaussian Blur dialog box and accept the change.

STEP SIX- Add A Black Layer Mask.

Hold down the Option key on a Mac or the Alt key on a PC as you click the "Add a Mask" icon in the Layers panel.

Hold down the Option or Alt key as you click on the "Add a Mask" icon to add a black Layer Mask.

Now we have a black Layer Mask added to Layer 1 which conceals that Layer and we just see our original Background Layer in the Active Image Area.

STEP SEVEN- Brush In The Smooth Skin.

Make the Brush tool active by clicking on it in the Toolbox.

Go down to the Tool Options panel and click on the Brush Preview box.

The Brush Preview box in the Tool Options.

From the Brush Preview popup menu choose the set that's labeled "Basic Brushes" by clicking on it.

From the Basic Brushes preview window scroll down through the hard-edge Brushes until you see the soft-edged Brushes.

The soft-edged Brush previews from the Basic Brushes set.

The only difference between the various soft-edge Brushes is the size of them which is identified by the numbers to the left of each preview.

We will size the Brush interactively a bit later in the Active Image Area so don't worry about the size of the Brush at this point.

Just double-click on any of them to close the preview and make a soft Brush active.

Next move your Cursor over your image in the Active Image Area and adjust the size of your Brush by using the left and right Bracket keys on your keyboard.

The Left Bracket key [ makes your Brush smaller each time you press it. The Right Bracket key ] makes your Brush larger each time you press it.

Adjust the size of your Brush by using the left and right Bracket keys.

Make sure that the Black Layer Mask is active in the Layers panel by clicking on it.

And make sure that the Foreground Color is White. If the Foreground Color is Black just click on the double-headed curved arrow next to it to switch it to White.

Now click-and-drag with your cursor to start brushing over the skin area to apply the smooth skin effect. Avoid painting over details like the eyes, nose, and mouth.

Sometimes it looks better not to paint over highlight areas but that will vary from image to image.

Use the Left Bracket key to make your Brush smaller to fit into smaller areas like between the eye and the eyebrow.

Brush Cursor made smaller with the Left Bracket key.

Continue Brushing over all of the skin that you want to smooth out.

If you accidentally Brush over some area that you don't want to be smoother you can temporarily switch the Foreground Color to Black. Do that by clicking on the tiny double-headed curved arrow next to the Foreground Color.

With the Foreground Color set to Black just brush back over the area that you accidentally made smooth to revert it to its original state.

Then click the tiny double-headed curved arrow again to switch the Foreground Color back to White if you have more areas that you want to be smoother.

STEP EIGHT (Optional)- Lower The Opacity Of Layer 1.

If you want the effect to be less intense you can lower the Opacity of Layer 1 by clicking right on the word "Opacity" at the top of the Layers panel and dragging to the left.

In the screenshot below you can see the Opacity has been lowered to 70%.

Opacity of the "Smoothing" Layer lowered to lessen the effect.

And that brings us to the end of this tutorial on how to smooth skin in Photoshop Elements.

Until next time, this is Rick saying . . . Take care!

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