Photoshop Tutorial: Retouching Shiny Skin

Without a makeup artist at your disposal, even a great portrait can be ruined by shiny skin. So if you’re looking through the results of your most recent portrait shoot and there’s a lot of shine there, here’s a fantastic tutorial that shows you how to get rid of it without making the photo look like it’s been doctored.

The tutorial was put together by Los Angeles-based photo illustrator and commercial photographer Lee Varis, and in 25 minutes he covers a lot more than just how to get rid of shiny skin. From retouching minor blemishes, to fixing the gentleman’s red complexion, to making some minor changes to the background, there is a lot to learn here.

Here’s a look at the before and after:


As you can see, he’s improved the portrait a lot, but the main technique he put the tutorial together to show was fixing shiny skin using Frequency Separation. Basically, he’s placing texture and color/tone in two separate layers, which allows him to re-shade the photo while leaving the texture intact.

He does a much better job explaining the technique in the video than we could do in words, so be sure to check out the tutorial at the top to see it for yourself. And if you want to see more great post-processing tutorials by Varis, head over to his website by clicking here.

(via Fstoppers)

  • Rob Elliott

    if I could figure out how to do this in Corel Photo-paint program I’d switch from adobe, this is the single technique that keeps me tied to them… I’ll eventually spend some time a figure it out, but it is one of my favourite techniques for this purpose.

  • x95charlie

    wow…great tutorial!

  • Mescalamba

    GIMP despite being bit clumsy to use, can do it. It can do most that PS can, sometimes (rare occasions) even more. Just I wish it was less “beta”. :D

  • Rob Elliott

    ya my biggest issue with Gimp is how clumsy it is, and how poor some features are.. (like Heal) at least the last time I used it. Though I haven’t given it a try in a few years, I’m not sure how much development has been done.

    (and the lack of some of the plug ins of course)

  • Michael Ault

    Is there a quick solution in lightroom ?

  • kodiak xyza

    yes, and perhaps much simpler.
    as with everything, you have to play with it and see,
    and be easy with the dialed number.

    1. use the Highlight and/or White slider to recover and bring down the highlights.

    2. use the Hue to reduce the red and shift them to orange
    2a. for the Saturation, bring down the Majenta and Purple.

    3. use the Split Toning to bring in a sepia (Hue=42, or so) to the highlights (only)… this makes it more uniform. dial the saturation to something small.

    4. use the brush and turn Clarity to a negative value to smooth out the skin

    it works well in most conditions.
    I am not sure how many portraits like this one you are going to encounter.

  • Michael Ault

    Thanks Will have a go once I done all the photos.

  • harumph

    I haven’t watched the video yet, but the skin tone change is pretty extreme. Great job on the shiny bits, but if the guy’s red he’s red. It looks like the first screencap has been exaggerated for effect, but the “after” shot has drained every bit of red to the point that anyone who knows the subject in real life would probably wonder why he’s yellow.

    And as kodiak xyza pointed out, the highlight slider in Lightroom does essentially the same job with the shiny bits.

  • luk

    agreed. also notice how the red tones in the lips are also nuked. either way i learned a lot from this tutorial. thanks for posting it, DL.

  • jrconner

    The Portrait Professional plug-in does this kind of enhancement very quickly.

  • tal

    the frequency separation drill all looks like an over-sophistication to me. a much simpler method would be to select the highlights and brush it with a low opacity brush, set to multiply with skin color.

  • Adept Clipping Path

    Good Job!

  • Matthew Wagg

    That before photo is way better than the flat dead edit.

  • veramats

    This video was so helpful to me! I especially liked learning the skin color correction via hue/sat. I’ve been learning various methods for correcting skin tones, but this was new to me, and I’m anxious to try your method! The other retouching methods were definitely new to me as well. The whole smooth and texture method of lightening and darkening bright spots and dark spots was fascinating. I suppose that if I make an action for that series of steps, I may incorporate that method into my workflow. I’d love to learn more about the subtract blending mode and those important numbers you mentioned. That went completely over my head.

  • veramats

    I wondered the same thing about LR and the adjustment brushes for the bright spots on skin. I may try that. As for hue/sat in LR, I shoot outdoors, so I prefer PS so I can use layer masking.

  • kodiak xyza

    yes, it is unfortunate that the brushes in Lr don’t quite have additional sliders for more subtle control. I can think of BW conversion that would be nice to be changed according to the brushes.

    as I shoot mainly with natural light, I still have not had to use Ps but for some alternate-process that I cannot effect in Lr. the background being affected by face/skin hue/sat is not that critical, and at worst, I apply a desaturation brush to the background to have the masking — this is just a savings of having a PSD file in between. I would say it falls under the what-we-are-the-greatest-ease to do something.

    (unless one wants to work in Lr exclusively to avoid the whole Cloud thing with Ps, if that is an issue.)

  • Simon

    Spot on! I use that technique, and it works brilliantly – and much faster!

  • thunander

    I have a faster method.

    You make a new layer on top of the background layer.

    Grab the brush and set opacity to 10-15 % and choose blend mode darken.

    Use the color picker to choose a color nearby the shiny area (pick a non shiny part) and just draw on top of the overexposed areas.

    This guy was shiny before i did this on him:

  • Cole

    I do mostly photography and some times people ,but NEVER use photoshop or lightroom, I want my photos natural ,what you see in my photos was what I saw unchanged into something they are not

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  • Al Borrelli

    Thanks for the great tutorial, it worked wonders on some of my images that I didn’t have time to set up individually for since I was shooting about one every 2 minutes!

  • Rachel Ramey

    Wow; that is really cool! I’m a PhotoShop newbie, so I appreciated knowing how to do these things. (Although I am also in the camp of “if he’s red, he’s red.” I’m not a big fan of such a significant alteration to someone’s natural skin tone.)

    I have a self-portrait with a LOT of glare on the face so I’ll have to give this a try.

  • Peta Williams Photography

    Great tutorial… I will have to try some of your techniques on my next set of photos.