In this Photoshop tutorial I will show you how to create a nice soft skin effect for fantasy manipulations. It’s an advanced Photoshop tutorial that will go through several retouching techniques to correct light and shadow problems on the skin and how to correct color.
In this manipulation tutorial we will see the following techniques:
- Create soft skin using the Mixer Brush tool and the Surface Blur filter
- Eliminate shadows non-destructively using the Lighten blend mode
- Eliminate unwanted highlights using the Darken blend mode
- Re-paint hair using the Smudge tool
How to make skin softer – Fantasy manipulation
The soft skin effect is common in some fantasy manipulations so it’s an effect that removes skin texture completely, it’s not like the frequency separation technique where you can smoothen the skin keeping all the texture. Next you will find a short version of the tutorial but for a more details please watch the video tutorial.
The soft skin effect on manipulations
In order to create maximum visual impact, we will use an out of focus background for this fantasy manipulation, that way our model will stand out a lot more and the manipulation will look cleaner and smoother without distracting elements.
Step 1 – Blurred background
Open the background image and blur it using Gaussian Blur. The amount of blur depend on the canvas size and also on your own preference. I like to blur it to a point where small and medium details are no longer distracting but you can still tell what the scene is about, in this case a forest.
Step 2 – Remove model from the background
I used the Quick Selection tool to select the top part of the model. I will use the original ground to blend it with my blurred background. Create a layer mask for the model and try to get something like in the image below.
Step 3 – Blend the two photos
When blending images in Photoshop always use Layer Masks if possible because it’s a non-destructive way and it can be a lifesaver. Use a soft brush with Opacity and Flow 30% and paint with white over the models layer mask and start revealing the original background and blend it with the out of focus image. Brush around the hair to reveal it as well. See the image below.
Step 4 – Soften skin with the Mixer Brush and Surface Blur
Use the Mixer Brush tool with low settings because you will control the effect a lot better. Start with Mix, Load, Wet… of about 10% and activate Sample All Layers. Brush all the skin areas on a new layer so that the new soft skin is on its own layer. After you brushed all the skin (watch video for more details) apply some Surface Blur. I used a radius of 5px and Threshold of 10px.
Step 5 – Add elements on the scene
I added a deer behind the woman to fill a bit more the scene but you can add anything you want: a man walking away, a bear, a wolf, etc it’s up to you let your imagination go wild. I recreated the fur of the deer using the Smudge tool (watch video for more details).
Step 6 – Final color and light effects
Use adjustment layers to create the final color and light effects. I created a warm look using blend modes and color adjustment layers.
For more details please take a look at the video tutorial, it’s a lot more detailed and you will see the techniques a lot better.