My favorite tool for retouching is the Spot Healing Brush tool. (Image 1) This tool is a great time saver and one that gives most noticeable results for things like removing dust from your still lifes or cleaning up freckles, acne scars or under eye bags in your portraits. It's very simple to use, just pick a brush size (for the most part, smaller is better), blow up your image and use the tool to 'circle' the imperfections. (Image 2) The tool interpolates the surrounding pixels and creates a flawless new finish. (Image 2B) The only bothersome thing is that if your flaw is near an edge, it may pick up a color from something beyond that edge. If that happens, just Command-Z (Mac)/Control-Z (Windows) to Undo and try again, it usually picks up different pixels the second time.
If you're retouching a portrait and the subject has bad skin or wrinkles there are a few steps you can take to correct this. First I got rid of Yolanda’s oily lower forehead by copying and then pasting the less oily skin from her upper forehead. (Image 3 & 4) Using Image > Adjust > Curves I pulled the curve upward to get the new skin tone to match the one I was replacing. (Image 5) I then moved it into position and blew it up to cover the entire area. (Image 6) Using my eraser tool, I erased the areas over her eyebrows and smoothed the edges.
I flattened the image before I marquised her entire face (no need to be precise, the Lasso tool will do), copied it, then pasted it into position. (Image 7) Now blur your copy. I usually Gaussian blur it with a small pixel ratio, say 5 pixels. (Image 8A & 8B) You're probably saying to yourself, well that's just going to give me a blurry image, and your right. It's what you do afterwards, that makes all the difference in the world. Our eyes don’t notice the blur if there is something sharp for us to focus on. So, using your eraser tool, erase the eyes, eyebrows and lips from your copy so that the eye and lip areas of your original show through. (Image 9) This might take some practice, but it usually achieves good results. (Image 10)
Author's note: Looking back at this now, I may have blurred this image too much, I would start out with a blur of about 3 pixels and see if that will be enough. I can almost sense my blur here and that is NOT what you want.
There are fast ways to silhouette. You can use the Magic Wand tool or the Quick Selection tool to go around the object you want to silhouette, but take it from me, for anything other than a quick comp, you won't like the results. I've found that the only way to get a crisp edge is to blow up your image, and then use the Pen tool (Bezier curves) to precisely draw around the area. (Image 11) Once you've come back to your starting point, an inactive marquee will form. (Image 12) To activate it, go to Paths on your right-hand palette and pull down to Make Selection. (Image 13) Once active, you can either copy and paste this silhouetted image onto a new layer or into another image. (Of course this one needs some cleaning up around the shoelaces, but you get the idea.) (Images 14 & 14B)
I've never mastered the ‘Selective Color’ but that doesn't mean I can't change the color of an article (say the sneaker we just silhouetted) to any color I want. I simply duplicate the article and ‘paste in place’ onto a layer above. Using the Hue/Saturation color slider, I move the bars around to find the color I want. (Image15 &15B) I say ‘OK’, turn on the layer below it and voila, a perfect sneaker in a different color. (Image 16)
There is one thing we haven’t tackled yet: Cloning. Sometimes you have an image where the negative space is unbalanced and you’d like to put a little something in there. You can actually take an image from anywhere, silhouette it, then place it into your image. The hard part about that is getting the shadows to work. One of the easiest things to do is to use an image, or piece of one that is already in your photograph. Let's work with this odd still life I shot a while ago. (Image 17) The upper right hand corner could use another shell. Easiest way to do it is with the cloning tool. (Image 18) Let’s create a new layer because I know this isn’t going to be a simple clone. Hold down your Option key on the image or piece of one that you’d like to clone. (Image 19) I set the brush size big enough to clone the entire shell in one move, but you can set it smaller and do it in stages. So now Option-click on your target layer (in this case the background) right where you want to pick up the shell. Go to your new layer and click, the shell falls into place. (Image 20) As you can see it’s come in as its original, which is darker than the area where we are placing it, and also with a piece of the shell above it, but that’s an easy two-step fix. First we’ll use our curves (Image > Adjust > Curves) to lighten the clone. (Image 21) And then we’ll use our Eraser tool to clean up not only the top edge of the shell but also the bit of a shadow that came from the shell above. (Image 21). As you can see, this shell now looks like it belongs in the picture. And if you wanted to, you could blow it up a bit so it wasn’t the exact same size as the original but here, because of the difference in color, I don’t think anyone would know that this was the same shell.
So I’ve just given you a good workout in Photoshop. We’ve used almost all the fun tools and applied them to a myriad of objects. And moving forward, happy retouching. :)