Walk Through: Male Portrait Retouch in 7 Steps

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: May 4, 2011

Category: General

Last week I posted a ‘High Speed’ video showing the 7 Steps involved in a recent male portrait retouch, so carrying on from that today I thought I’d do a ‘walk through’ so that you can see a breakdown of what was involved rather than have it rush past your eyes at Mach 3 🙂

Oh and to give you an idea of timing, from start to finish the retouch took approximately 20 minutes with the majority of the time being spent on the subjects eyes and ‘tidying up’ …

Step 1: The Eyes
Actually before I started working on the eyes the first thing I did was make a few minor adjustments to the file in Camera Raw. This consisted of a boost in the Brightness and Clarity plus I reduced the ‘Orange’ colouring in the skin…

Once the image was open in Photoshop the first thing to do was to brighten the whites of the eyes. To do this duplicate the layer then change the blend mode to Screen. This will brighten the whole picture but as we only want the whites to be brighter, all we have to do is to add a black layer mask to this layer which then hides all the brightening. To bring back the brightness in the eyes, simply get a white brush and paint back in the whites of the eye.

At full 100% opacity this is going to make your subject look like something possessed so tone it down a little by reducing the opacity on this brighter (Screen) layer. I usually find anywhere around the 25-30% mark works just fine…

Now that the whites have been brightened the next stage is to brighten the iris. To do this I first of all select the iris using a brush in Quick Mask Mode by pressing ‘Q’ on the keyboard. Once the eyes have been selected, pressing ‘Q’ again brings you out of Quick Mask mode and leaves you with the ‘marching ants’ as you see below…

With the ‘marching ants’ still visible a ‘Selective Color’ Adjustment Layer is chosen and the blend mode of this adjustment layer changed to ‘Linear Dodge’. Straight away this has the effect of brightening the eye but clearly a little too much but that’s not a problem because as it’s a ‘Layer’ we can reduce the opacity to the desired effect. Also, from within the ‘Selective Color’ adjustment if we select the ‘Neutrals’ from the drop down menu we can then change the colour of the iris by playing around with the sliders…

Now this next technique I recently learned from reading Scott Kelby’s latest book “Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers using Photoshop” and it’s a technique I use 100% of the time now when I’m retouching.

Incidentally, if you haven’t got yourself a copy of this latest book by Scott Kelby I highly recommend it. In fact so much so I’d say stop what you’re doing right now and head on over to Amazon and place an order…the book is that good!!!

So for this technique first of all add a new blank layer and make a circular selection just inside the iris using the eliptical marquee tool and fill this with white…

Then change to the rectangular marquee tool and make a selection which includes the top half of the circle you’ve just drawn out…

Once you’ve done that simply press delete to remove the top half of the circle. Next, hold down your CMD/CTRL key and click on the thumbnail of the circle in the layer panel to select it and bring up the marching ants and then move your cursor inside of the selection and position it up a little way as you see below…

Again press delete and this will leave you with a kind of ‘moon’ shape …

Finally to finish off add a 5% Gaussian Blur to this layer and change the blend mode to ‘Soft Light’. Of course you’ll need to do the same to the other eye so you can other eye. This will duplicate the ‘moon shape’ layer and save you a little bit of precious editing time 🙂

Note: In the final edited image I removed the red veins from within the eye.

To finish off the eyes I then brushed over the iris in both eyes with Photoshop’s ‘Sharpen’ brush found in the Tool Bar set to around 20%

Step 2: Tidying Up
Not much to say about this stage really because it simply involved removing any obvious blemishes and dust from off our subjects’ face and background. There were a few hair straggles to remove and this was done really quickly using the Clone Stamp Tool set to 50% and with it’s blend mode set to lighten and then sampling from the background next to them.

Step 3: The Skin
I started off by removing obvious ‘hotspots’ and to do this at first I used the ‘Patch Tool’ on the subjects’ forehead and on a duplicate layer made several selections of the hot/shiny areas and dragged them onto areas of the skin that basically weren’t. For the nose I used the Healing Brush with a blend mode of ‘Darken’ and sampled from areas of skin that again weren’t shiny. At first the result of this doesn’t look 100% realistic but by reducing the opacity on this layer you can control how much of the original ‘shine’ shows through and everything blends in that much better…

Dodging and Burning was next and I tend to do this in two stages. The first stage involves creating 2 new blank layers and filling them with 50% Grey and changing their blend modes to Soft Light. Then using the Dodge and Burn Tools, generally set to ‘Midtones’ and between 10-20%, I then brush over the lighter areas of the face with the dodge tool and the darker/midtone areas of the face with the burn tool. How much you do of this is difficult to say as it’s very much down to personal taste but the more you do this technique the more you’ll get a feel for how much you like to do…

The second stage of the dodging and burning involves using a blurring technique but rather than write about it, here’s a video I recorded that shows that exact technique. Now I will say that in the video it’s actually quite difficult to see the result of the technique but trust me in that when you do the same to your image you definitely will…

Step 4: Changing the Background
This technique couldn’t be simpler! All I did here was to place a ‘texture’ onto a layer above and change the blend mode to ‘Soft Light’…

Then add a white layer mask to the texture layer and with a soft edged black brush paint over the subject to remove the texture and so leave it only showing up on the background…

Step 5: Colour and Tone
Again there were two parts to this, with the first involving a black and white layer above with it’s opacity reduced to 40%…

I then used a couple of techniques to add the final colour and tone to the image and to explain these here is a video I recorded for a ‘Beauty Retouch’ series…

Step 6: Sharpening
I only wanted to sharpen the bristles and hair of our subject and my favourite way of doing this is using the ‘High Pass’ filter. On a duplicate layer add a High Pass filter with Radius around 6% for a High Res’ image and then press OK…

Change the blend mode of this High Pass layer to Soft Light and then add a black layer mask to hide the effect. Then using a soft edged white brush paint over the bristles and hair to only reveal the sharpening in those areas…

Step 7: Blur Vignette
The final stage was to add a blur vignette and all this entailed was to duplicate the layer and add a slight blur to it. (I tend to use the Lens Blur filter for this). Once the blur has been applied I then added a white layer mask and then with a black brush, painted the blur from off the subjects face.

This step isn’t necessary at all but it’s one that I like to use from time to time if it suits the image; again it’s all down to personal taste.

So there you have it, a ‘Walk Through’ of the 7 Steps to the Male Portrait Retouch and to finish off here again is the ‘High Speed’ video showing everything put together…

As always if you have any questions or comments then please feel free to make use of the comments section below, but in the meantime,
Enjoy 🙂

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  1. DaveT

    Wow – very comprehensive and informative. Thanks for all your hard work and sharing it with us.


    • Glyn

      @DaveT…Cheers Buddy 🙂

  2. Nat

    Hi Glynn
    All I’m going to say is WOW! There is so much information here I’m going to be at it for weeks. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your skills with us. I so want to come to your workshop and will make it one day I’m sure.
    There are just not enough hours in the day for me to digest all this photography stuff ;)! Anyhow take care and keep up the awesome work!

    • Glyn

      Hi Nat…Thanks so much for dropping by and for the comment 🙂 I know exactly what you mean about the ‘hours in the day’ … I keep asking for more but alas nothing so far 🙂

      All the best to you,

  3. Richard

    Thanks Glyn – watched the light-speed version the other day and was wondering exactly what you did at a few points, so thanks very much for the detailed break down. Great stuff.

    • Glyn

      @Richard…Thanks for that mate; glad it helped 🙂

  4. Dmitriy

    Hi Glyn. Can You tell what tablet Wacom model you use ? Thanks.

    • Glyn

      @Dmitriy…I’ve got a Wacom Intuos 4 now; only just upgraded and love it 🙂

  5. Scott Wiggins


    Great walk through. Look forward to giving it a go on some images.

    Just got Scott’s retouching book and I agree, it’s a fabulous resource.


    • Glyn

      @Scott…Great to hear you’ve got Scott’s latest book mate; cracking stuff huh 🙂

  6. Joseph Sánchez (Venezuela)

    Sir… I’ll be Wating for you all my life… (,= this is the type of retouch what I Looking for!!! awasome!!!

  7. Anthony Mark

    Really helpful article. I’m going to test it out on my house but I honestly think that the best results would happen when using the tips.



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