When you photograph portraits, you’ll spend time editing the photos so your clients look their very best. A lot of that time is often spent smoothing out the skin. But while some smoothing is okay, doing it too much can change the look of the person.
Here’s how to create a simple and easy Photoshop action that will have you smoothing out skin faster without over-retouching it.
What is a Photoshop Action?
A Photoshop action is where you record various steps in an editing process and save them so you can then reapply those steps simply by ‘playing’ the action.
In this case, the action will have three steps. When you press ‘Play’ it will apply those three steps quickly and automatically so you can get to the fun part – the retouching.
Create the action
Step 1: Open a photo (any photo will do) so you can create the action.
Step 2: Make sure the Actions panel is open. If it isn’t, go to the Window menu and make sure Actions is selected. If you can’t find the Actions panel on your workspace, deselect and re-select it in the menu.
Step 3: Create an Action Set, which will create a master folder for your action to live in and help you organize your actions. (You can skip this step if you already have one.) Click on the three lines in the Actions panel and select New Set. You can also create it by clicking the folder icon at the bottom of the Actions panel. You can give it any name you like. (In this example I named it “My actions”.)
Step 4: Now it’s time to record the action. Select New Action from the Actions panel menu, or click the New icon at the bottom. Choose a name for your action, select the set you want it stored in, and click Record.
Note: Once you hit record, everything you do in Photoshop will be recorded – including the things you did accidentally. Fortunately, you can click the Record and Stop buttons at any time while you’re recording the steps.
Step 5: Once you start recording your action, duplicate your layer in the layers panel or by hitting CMD/CTRL+J.
Step 6: From the Photoshop menu select Filters ->Blur -> Gaussian Blur and choose a value between 10 and 25 pixels. (Don’t worry. Your photo won’t stay blurry.)
Step 7: Create a mask layer, then hold down the Alt/Option key and click on the mask. This will add a black mask on your blur, and your photo will be back to normal. We’ll be using this mask to add the smoothing rather than erase the blur, which is a lot more work.
Step 8: Select the Brush tool (or press B on the keyboard), and choose an opacity between 10% and 20%. Make sure your foreground color is set to white so you can paint back the smoothing.
Step 9: Hit Stop to stop recording.
Your action is now ready to use.
To test your action, open a new photo and hit Play in the Actions panel.
You’ll see the actions you recorded re-applied to the new photo.
How to use your action
Open a photo with the skin you want to smooth out. It’s best if you retouch any imperfections or blemishes beforehand. This action simply smoothes out the skin lightly to make it look natural and clean.
Hit Play on your action, choose a brush size that’s best for your photo and start painting in the smoothing in small strokes. Make sure you paint in the mask layer or you’ll be painting white onto the skin.
You should see the difference after a few strokes. You can also change the opacity if you need more or less smoothing.
If you accidentally record extra steps, simply stop the recording and then delete the steps that aren’t part of the action.
You can also delete the action and start over. So don’t worry if you don’t get each step right the first time.
Retouching skin can often take time away from photographing clients. But by using actions, you can streamline your editing by automating steps you use regularly.
This action also helps you retouch photos lightly and more naturally.
Let us know if you find it helpful.