Photoshop Tutorial: Adjusting Skin Tones

Ever take a picture with your digital camera and just can’t get the skin tone to come out like it should? Or, have an existing picture that you scanned that just didn’t come out the way you liked? Now with Photoshop you can correct the color of skin tones to match that of another photo that has the skin tone that you’re looking for!

Step 1: Finding the Perfect Skin Tone
The first step would be to open a file that has a person with the perfect skin tone, or the tone that you want to use as a reference. Once you have that open, use the Eyedropper tool and select an area over the skin that has a medium brightness. Once that is done, click on your foreground color to see the RGB color formula needed to create that color.

Step 2: Identifying the Troublesome Skin Tone
Next, open up the file that you want to edit. This time, using the Color Sampler tool, not the Eyedropper, select an area over the skin tone that has medium brightness. The level of brightness should be similar to the one that you selected from the reference image.

Now, go to the Info palette, which in default is located on the upper right of the screen. By using the Color Sampler, it should have given you an exact readout on the Info palette as Readout #1. Next to the readout, there should be an eyedropper and you want to click on that next. Once that’s done, choose HSB from the menu. The important figure that you need to remember is the B setting, or brightness. After jotting down that number, return back to RGB mode by clicking on the eyedropper again.

Step 3: Modifying the Perfect Skin Tone
The next step would be to return to the reference image. Now, because we want to transfer the skin tone but not change the brightness of the image you are editing, we need to adjust the brightness of the reference image so that no changes in brightness transfer over. To do this, open the Color Picker window by clicking on the foreground color (which should still be the color you selected in step 1) and change the brightness to the brightness number you jotted down in step 2. This can be done by changing the number next to B that is below S. Do not change the B at the very bottom of the window or else you will change the color! Once you change the brightness, the numbers next to R, G, and B (bottom B) will change accordingly. Write these numbers down because they will be essential in the later steps!

Step 4: Selecting the Skin
Now, revert back to the image that you want to edit and select the areas that need to be changed. This can be done in many ways, whether you do it manually using the pen tool, selection marquee tool, or the Color Range option. However you do it, just remember that it doesn’t have to be picture perfect, although it’s always good to get it as close as possible.

Step 5: Using Curves
Once you have all the skin area selected, it’s time to create an Adjustment Layer. To do this, go to Layer, Adjustment Layer, and then Curves. Then, going through each curve: Red, Green, and Blue, add a point on each one. Once that is done, hold on Shift+Command for Mac users and Shift+Ctrl for PC users and click on the area that you sampled earlier (the sample where you checked the HSB settings). Once you have sampled the color, all you need to do is replace the figures found in each R, G, and B curves with the numbers you jotted down in Step 3.

Step 6: Fine Tuning the Selection
Now, take a close look at the edited image. Find any problem areas with your selection and edit it using the mask that comes attached to the Curves Adjustment Layer. This can simply be done by adding black or white to the mask to make transparent or hide the adjustment. If you wanted to, you can even skip step 4 and just use the mask after you finish step 5 to adjust what gets changed in the image.

The first time around, the results may not be that great. This is due to the area that you select in steps 1 and 2. To fix this, all it takes is a little practice. The more you try it, the better you’ll have an understanding of where you need to make your samples. Eventually, you won’t even need a reference image to change skin tones. For example, to make someone look more tan, you just need to putt out more Red from the image. These observations can be made by playing with Curves. The more you familiarize yourself with the effects of taking, adding, or balancing certain colors, the less you will rely on reference photos.

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