Beauty Retouching, Commercial Retouching, High-End Beauty & Fashion

5 Mistakes to Look Out For When Retouching Skin

Beautiful, believable skin is one of the tell tale signs of a good retoucher. It takes time and practice to train your eye and your hands. Learning when to stop is as critical as learning all the techniques available to you.

What we don’t want is plastic-y, rubberized skin that looks “overcooked”.

What we do want is fresh, even, well lit skin with plenty of detail. The key is in preserving skin details; the eye needs this to believe what it is seeing.

Below are 5 common mistakes that will lead you astray from the money shot.

1. Not Zooming In and Out Enough as you Retouch

You will be using a variety of tools to even out the skin; but before you begin, zoom out of the photo and look at the overall tone and quality of the skin. Where does it need help? Go in with a plan of what this specific image needs. I usually look for uneven skin tones, blemishes or rough skin texture, distracting fine lines and hair strands.

Once you have a plan of attack, zoom in and work closely area by area. Don’t wait until you’ve finished the area to zoom out, you have to consistently zoom in an out to see the effect you are creating.

RELATEDRetouching Skin with Dodging and Burning

This is a common problem that ends with skin that’s too airbrushed and flat. It is easy to overdo when you are working so closely. At the end it has to look good both from up close and from afar.

2. Removing Birthmarks, Freckles and Natural Creases

Even though you will be working on evening out the skin, don’t go overboard and take away beauty marks or creases. There is a difference between distracting lines and facial lines that we need to make the face believable. I like to leave a couple of lines under the eye where it creases. I usually take away forehead lines, crow’s feet or fine laugh lines. This is another important key to remember because it often separates the amateur from the professional image.

3. Changing the Lighting Pattern of the Image

This is almost never a good idea! Follow the natural highlights and shadows of the image. Make sure to locate where the highlights are in the face and brighten and even them out when Dodging. Zoom out and see how you can balance the image while Burning on the shadows, if needed.

4. Overlooking Bone Structure when Shaping

Knowing the anatomy of a face is vital in retouching. Instead of guessing, you must know where the hills and slopes of a face are, and in turn you are able to accentuate or downplay what you’d like. Cheekbones, jawline, lip shape, brow lines – you have all these gorgeous features to play with, but don’t attempt to change them drastically, or leave them alone completely if you are not yet confident you know human face anatomy well enough.

5. Forgetting Details like Cracked Lips, Veins and Facial Hair

I see beautiful skin in many images but the overall quality of the image suffers when other details such as vein-y hands or feet, vein-y eyes, cracked lips, facial hair or distracting necklines are overlooked. Don’t forget your finishing touches!


Photo and post: Julia Kuzmenko McKim

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2 thoughts on “5 Mistakes to Look Out For When Retouching Skin

  1. C Griffith says:

    Its a very nice and helpful tutorial thanks for share this type of photo retouching blog.

  2. Katie says:

    Some really helpful tips – thank you!

    I ALWAYS overlook retouching the lips if they are cracked…I’ve written a note on my wall to remind me, and this post has just reinforced that note!

    xx La Coco Noire

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