Photography & Digital Arts


Beauty Enhancements with Photoshop: Quick and Easy Tips

Photoshop, like any other tool, can be used for good, or for evil: in the cast of digital enhancement, that's a healthy disclaimer to give. That said, if you want to know how to make a person lose a few pounds, pimples, or years in Photoshop, this guide gives you the easiest ways to do so.

Note that it's easy to make someone unnaturally perfect; it's much harder to make people look their best or better without altering them beyond recognition and belief; the following tutorials will help you make the distinction. But first off, some general tips. When possible, have the highest resolution image possible. Not only are there more pixels with which to manipulate and get the proper look, but you can always downsize the image and smooth out any imperfections (either natural or caused by sloppy work :P). Make sure you preview your images at actual size–it's easy to work too big or too small and find out that something's off.

Secondly, make copies! Besides always saving your work, make sure you copy your layers. Keep the original image around as one layer so you can always revert to it if necessary. Then, as you make each alteration, copy the altered layer and make new changes on the duplicated layer. This way you gradually make changes and its easy to see what alterations have been made to what elements, and simply start over from the previous layer if you feel the work hasn't gone the way you like. I like to keep all alterations in a separate folder than the original; this way, by toggling the alteration folder's visibility, I can quickly see the difference between my current output and the original.

Finally, practice, and accept things take time. While all the below tips are very easy to do and you can get the hang of easily if you've had any experience with Photoshop, the difference between a master's work and these techniques is very often time. The slower you do things, the better they will be; the final touchup that makes an image perfect might take twice as long to do as the massive changes you made before. And now, let's look at some basic tools in the Photoshop "body enhancement" sandbox.

#1: Shrink it

Photoshop can be used to make someone dramatically fat or dramatically thin, but if you're just removing a few pounds from Aunt Sally before she sees the reunion pictures, the same tools apply. Your general best friend is the Liquefy tool, located under Filter>Liquefy. Using the brush you can pull or shrink out appendages, turning a sausage-link arm into a slim appendage or shrinking the size of that nose. Aside from the standard "forward warp" tool, you can use the pucker tool to shrink areas or the bloat tool to make them larger. If you mess up with your changes, the reconstruct tool can set areas or even the entire work back to its original state.

It's important to note that the final results of Liquefy are heavily dependent on your brush. On the right side of the screen you can change brush settings: the brush size, density, and pressure, for example. The smaller the brush size, the less effect the warping will have on the image, meaning that "drag lines" will be less common and you won't accidentally warp unintended elements (for example, while shrinking a nose distorting the upper lip.) However its a waste of time for large alterations, and you will get a smoother distortion by using a larger brush: the general rule of thumb is to use as large a brush as you can without causing unintended effects; different features on the face or parts of the body will require different brush settings, so experiment with them to get a feel for their use.

For areas like noses or arms that are isolated from the rest of the body, another possible options for shrinking or modifying elements is to select the desired area with the Marquee tool, and then choose Edit>Free Transform. You can quickly shrink the size of the selection and warp the edges so they match up with the rest of the image. Note that the smaller the change, the easier it is to pull of the change; radical reconstruction takes time.

#2: Heal thyself

The clone stamp tool and healing brush tools (hotkeyed 'S' and 'J', respectively) are vital to touching up someone, whether to remove wrinkles or obliterate blemishes. The clone stamp, as it's name suggests, copies a selection from a source point and stamps it down somewhere else. This is fine for simple areas, but is more a cudgel in the Photoshop toolbox, useful for large areas without much detail or color alterations.

The healing brush tool, meanwhile, is good for averaging an area with its surroundings; for example, reducing the lines in a face without removing them completely or changing the shadows of an area. Like the clone stamp tool, you define your own source point that the tool will draw from; the source often determines the final product, so be mindful of where and how you are using it.

For acne and other small blemishes or dots, the spot healing tool is almost like magic. Simply set your brush size to be just larger than the pimple, etc, and then click. Photoshop automatically interpolates based on the surroundings what "doesn't belong", and bingo! the spot is gone. Make sure that the brush size is larger than what you're trying to remove, otherwise you'll end up with a blotchy mess.

A good technique for smoothing out a face and customizing the results is to perform all healing brush alterations on a separate layer. Create a new layer above the face, etc., and make sure on the top of the tool bar that "Sample:" is set to "all layers" (if you only want to sample the layer right below your healing brush layer, select "current and below". Since there is nothing on your new layer, you are sampling your initial face. If the result looks too plastic, you can reduce the opacity of your healing brush layer to customize the amount of cosmetic alteration.

#3: Changing the colors the easy way

If you want to change eye color or hair color, the easiest method is to alter the hue and saturation of the target. For an eye, copy the iris and past it to a new layer, then go to Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation. The three sliders are self-explanatory; drag them around and make sure the preview checkbox is selected to see your changes. Clicking the "Colorize" checkbox, as its name suggests, colorizes your result. It's easy to turn a blue eye green or what have you.

The downside to hue/saturation alterations is that while they are excellent and easy ways to make light-colored eyes and hair another shade or darker, they are not effective at the opposite operation. Brown or black hair altered this way will often look fake, and requires more time-consuming work.

Another handy trick you can do to add pop to someone is to bring out their eyes. Make a new layer selection the size of their iris, fill it with white (or whatever color you wish, but white generally works best,) and then blur the selection so that there's less white towards the edge of the irises (the blur settings and number of repetitions will vary depending on your image size and other factors.) Then go to the layers tab and change the layer's mix mode to "Overlay". The result is a much more dramatic eye. If it looks too fake, reduce the opacity. Use the eraser tool with a low hardness to erase any bleed so that only the eye is illuminated this way. Combining this effect with a color change as described above can end up looking incredibly fake at normal opacities, but once again lessening the effect and opacity of the layers in question can make the effect more subtle.

If you are interested in more amateur to advanced enhancement tutorials, check out this page from And remember: practice! If you need higher resolution images (which are free to use), images from the Wikimedia Commons or Creative Commons section of Flickr are good places to look. Happy photoshopping!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe Now