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Brush Tool Challenge: Can You Retouch a Portrait Using ONLY the Brush Tool?

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Can you do a professional retouch of a portrait photo using only Photoshop’s Brush tool? That’s what the Brush Tool Challenge is all about, and here’s a neat 22-minute video by photographer and retoucher Aaron Nace of PHLEARN showing how it can be done.

Nace says he was inspired to start the challenge after seeing makeup tutorials on applying makeup using only your fingers.

Here’s the photo Nace started with — it’s available for download over on the PHLEARN website if you’d like to try your hand at this challenge:

Nace first uses the Brush tool for skin retouching and blemish removal, painting his own skin color and texture as an alternative to using something like the Spot Healing Brush.

He also does dodging and burning by painting with black and white with a very low flow (about 5%) and the Soft Light blending mode.

Finally, Nace also does color correction by painting in complementary colors and changing the blend mode to Soft Light.

Here’s the retouched photo that resulted in the end:

While the differences are subtle, you can see them in this comparison GIF:

“Remember, this isn’t the way we would normally approach tackling complex tasks in Photoshop,” PHLEARN writes. “We still recommend giving this challenge a try! Exercises like this will really help you master individual tools while also developing the creative problem solving skills you’ll need to knock out your biggest projects!”

You can find more of PHLEARN’s videos by subscribing to the YouTube channel.

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