The Basic Technique of Airbrushing in Photoshop
Learning how to professionally retouch skin in Photoshop isn’t the easiest task to take on, however with some practice it is something you can learn to accomplish. I will be showing you how to reduce wrinkles and blemishes, how to dodge and burn, and also how to naturally airbrush skin using what is known as non-destructive editing techniques. In order to follow this guide you will have to be using Adobe Photoshop CS2 or later.
You will need to find the picture you are looking to edit and open it inside Adobe Photoshop. Ideally you will want to use a high-resolution image for easier work, but that isn’t always the case. Once you have opened the image you will want to start with a very subtle retouching process that uses the Yellow channel. You will want to go to Image>Mode>CMYK and once inside that dialogue box you will click on the Yellow Channel. Once you have you have the Yellow Channel selected you will want to copy the channel by clicking Select All and Copy.
After you have the Yellow Channel selected you will want to undo everything you have just done by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Z until you have returned to RGB mode. Once back in RGB mode you will want to then past the copied Yellow Channel. It will appear as a new layer. When you have created your new layer you will want to Invert it by pressing Ctrl+I and change the current blending mode to the Soft Light setting. After this point you will have to play with the opacity until you get what you are looking for. At this point if there are any undesired skin blemishes you can create a copy layer of the background image and use the Spot Healing Brush to correct any problems on the skin.
At this point you may be happy with the outcome of what you’ve just done. If that is the case you can stop right here and enjoy your newly edited picture. However for the people that need to go one step further you are going to want to use the airbrush to reduce discoloration in the skin. To start this you will first want to convert all of the layers you have created into a Smart Object by holding Ctrl and selecting all the layers. Right click on the selected layers and click the Convert to Smart Object option. Doing this saves you time in not having to undo and redo everything you perform after this point.
You will now want to Duplicate the layer and use this as a smoothness layer. Go to Filter>Blur>Surface Blur and set the Threshold level to about 255 and adjust the radius so you are barely able to make out the face. When you have done this you will now want to reduce the Threshold until you are just able to make out slight details yet leaving the skin very blurry. Click the Okay button and apply the changes. You will now want to duplicate the original layer yet again and move it to the top of the layers. This layer will be used to bring back some detail that was lost in the smoothness layer.
Locate and Navigate through Filter>Other>High Pass and adjust the radius setting until you are very slightly bringing some detail back into the picture. If you change the bleeding mode of this layer to something like Linear Light you will make the skin look much clearer yet overly airbrushed and fake looing. This can work for some skin but for others it won’t work at all. You will have to take your time in playing with the smoothness and detail settings in order to get a result that suits the person inside your photo. Once you have found the right setting you can save all the changes and save your newly edited photo.