Glamorizing a photograph sounds like a single technique you can apply to your friends and families portraits, doesn't it?

The truth is that there are many different Photoshop techniques that can be applied to achieve the desired results. 

It's also useful to keep in mind that overdoing these techniques can produce results that have no real basis in reality.  Most of the time - less is more.

We've all seen the results of an overzealous portrait editor - really now, pores and small blemishes are fine and in a lot of cases they're part of ones character.  

Sometimes you will use all of the tools at your disposal and at other times only a few of them.

The tools and techniques used most often with portrait photographs include:

  • Clone Tool
  • Patch Tool
  • Healing Brush
  • Sharpening
  • Levels
  • Curves
  • Layers
  • Selections

Pretty much everything you have available in Photoshop, really.

The question is, then, how do you use these tools on an image?

Generally, the process will include some or all of the following depending on the image.  If you want to jump directly to a specific section just click on the link ...

  1. Blemish Removal.
  2. Sharpening and coloring eyes.
  3. Crow's Feet.
  4. Whitening the teeth.
  5. Skin Smoothing.

It can be a challenge and it's generally a lot of fun with the added benefit being that the person you are 'glamorizing' generally appreciates your diligent efforts.

The techniques used to 'retouch' an image range from the very basic and simple to high end Photoshop work. One thing for sure - using a Graphics tablet like the Intuos tablet will make your efforts much, much easier.

These examples start with basic techniques and provide quick and easy photo retouching.

As you move through the steps be sure to save your work and save as a .psd file with a unique name for each save.  This tends to eliminate tears, anger and throwing things!

Blemish Removal

Now that I've gone off about keeping glamorizing real because we all have flaws, I'm going to demonstrate how to take the technique beyond natural.

Open your photograph and do an overall evaluation of the image. Are there some blemishes to eliminate? How is the overall color? Do you need a little or a lot of skin smoothing?

This is a great shot of an attractive person, however there are a few things that can be fixed.

In the sample picture there are a few blemishes (forehead and under the nose), and a nasty scar just below her hairline - having said that, she is pretty much OK the way she is!

Before digging in with some serious glamorizing be sure you make a copy of the background image - just in case ...!

The Forehead

Here's a close-up of the forehead.

There are a few small blemishes close to the eyebrows and a much larger blotch that looks like a scar.

In pretty much any glamorizing project the essential tools are the Healing tools and the Clone Tool.

The small blemishes can be easily and quickly handled with the Spot Healing Brush Tool or the Patch Tool.  

I prefer the Spot Healing Brush Tool set to Content Aware and changing size with pressure.  Simply stated, this tool does a fabulous job!  Spot Healing is done on the Background Copy rather than on a layer and that's one good reason to copy the original.

The scar is too large for Spot Healing so the Clone tool was pressed into service on a separate layer. The tool was set to change opacity with pressure, All Layers was set in the Sample drop down and Aligned was checked.  

Zoom in tightly on the blemish, in my case the scar, set a source close to the area to be covered and make absolutely sure the color and texture of the source matches the area to be fixed.

Original Forehead

Cleaned Forehead

The Nose

The nose needs a bit of work.

The shiny spot can be covered up and the blotchy part just below the bridge of the nose need some work.

This was done with the Clone Tool on a new layer appropriately named "The Nose".  

Chin and Cheek

There are a couple of shiny spots and some blemishes in this area.  Once again, the Clone Tool did great service - set to change Opacity with pressure.

Directly above her upper lip is an area that was difficult to deal with.  I cloned and un-did my work many times and still wasn't satisfied.  

(When you find yourself in a difficult situation with the Clone tool, whether it's a glamorizing project or simply making a change to an image, the following procedure may be helpful ...)

Here's how I fixed it.  I un-checked Aligned on the Clone Tools Options bar so the Source would return to the same place every time I lifted my pen off of the tablet.

I also went into the Wacom Tablet Properties and changed the Tip Feel from my normal setting (close to Firm) to a much softer feel.  When the Tip Feel was close the the Firm setting I had to tap my pen vigorously and that caused me to miss the mark more often than I hit it.

These two changes (Aligned and Soft Tip Feel) made it easy to choose a Source which remained in one place and then I simply tapped the pen lightly over the area I wanted to eliminate.  After each tap, I lifted the pen just a bit and that re-set the Source back to the original place I wanted it to be.

It worked quite well ...!

Here's how the Cheek and Chin area looked after working this area.

Crow's Feet

There are some crow's feet near her right eye that can be easily removed.

This was done with my favourite dodge and burn technique - a soft light layer filled with 50% gray.  Go to Layers > New Layer to bring up the New Layer Dialogue.  At the bottom of the dialogue put a check mark in Fill with Soft-Light-Neutral color (50% gray).

You can also press and hold the ALT key and click the new layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Palette to bring up the New Layers Dialogue.

(Once again - this technique is invaluable in so many different situations from glamorizing to restoring a badly damaged old photo ... learn it - use it ...)

I'm using an Intuos Pro tablet so my Pen was set to change Opacity with pressure.

I zoomed in really, really close, lowered the opacity of the brush stroke (in addition to the pen set to pressure), made the brush really small (couple of pixels) and carefully painted white over the dark areas of the crow's feet.

The goal is to maintain realism so go easy and go slowly.

The technique worked quite nicely as you can see in the before and after screen captures.

Original Crow's Feet

Crow's Feet Painted Out

That's it for fixing the very minor flaws in this image and here's the side-by-side comparison of the before and after.

I originally removed the shiny parts on her nose cheek and chin and it made the image too flat. Here's the beauty of Layers - the Cheek and Chin layer was deleted and all of the other adjustments remained.

If you've not been saving your work - do it now!  Save it as a .psd (Photoshop format file) because it will save all of the layers intact.

Original Picture

After Cloning, Spot Healing and Dodging

Before moving on to the next steps, I flattened the image and made another copy of the Background.

Now we can move on to some additional glamorizing techniques ...

Skin Smoothing

This may be the one glamorizing technique that is way over-used by some digital editors - perhaps you've seen some of their work in fashion shots.  

It's also very easy to do with two of the Blur Filters - Surface and Gaussian.  If there are any additional blemishes anywhere then this step will likely eliminate them.

Surface BlurBlurs an image with precision. You can specify a radius, a threshold, and a blur quality. The Radius value determines the size of the area searched for dissimilar pixels. The Threshold value determines how dissimilar the pixels must be before they are affected. 

GaussianQuickly blurs a selection by an adjustable amount. Gaussian refers to the bell-shaped curve that is generated when Photoshop applies a weighted average to the pixels. The Gaussian Blur filter adds low-frequency detail and can produce a hazy effect.

Whichever one you use there is some clean-up to be done after the filter is applied.  Both of them are applied to the whole image so things you may want to be sharp (eyes, lips, hair, etc) will also be blurred.  

Unwanted blur is removed by adding a white (Reveal All) layer mask to the blurred layer and painting black over the areas that you don't want blurred.


After blemish removal, shine reduction
and skin smoothing.

The Eyes

One of the first thing people notice are the eyes and we can make them sparkle quite easily.

Zoom in on the eyes and use your favorite selection tool to select the eyes.

Promote the selections to a new layer with Ctrl-J or Cmd-J.  Now you can easily do something with them.

The first thing I did was sharpen the eyes the Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask (a good idea - you know - to grab viewers eyes).  

Next was the addition of a bit of color.  Add a new layer above the eyes and change the Blend Mode to Color - you can add color to this layer and the underlying texture remains so it's not just a blob of color.  I turned her eyes brown and at full layer opacity they were just overwhelming.  I lowered the opacity  of the color layer to about 25%.

The final step was to lighten the whites of her eyes.  This was done with another Soft Light Layer filled with 50% gray and white at a very low opacity was painted over the white part of the eyes.  While we're at it - run your brush carefully over the spectral highlights just to make them sparkle.

After finishing the eyes I made a Layer Group and dragged all of the eye layers into their new home.  It just tends to keep things organized.

Each eye adjustment has its own layer and each one is labelled.

The group is also labelled.  It can be collapsed to save layer space and keep things reasonably easy to navigate.


Often, it's necessary to do a bit of digital dental whitening to finish off a glamorizing project.  

With this image that's not necessary - she looks fine just the way she is.

If you find you need to do some tooth whitening then you can use a couple of different tools, including the Dodge tool.  My preference, however, it to use the tried and true Soft Light Layer filled with 50% gray - the perfect dodge and burn layer.

With the layer added simply set your pen pressure to Opacity and lightly paint over the teeth with white.  Alternately, set pressure to change size with pressure and lower the Opacity in the Options bar.  Whatever you choose to do go easy because if you go too far the result will look nasty.

The picture we're working on doesn't need any teeth work so I rummaged around in my files and found some that need a bit of work.  I used the Soft Light Layer to complete some digital dental whitening.

Original Teeth

Whitened Teeth

The Lips

The final step to this glamorizing procedure is to add some color to the lips and here's how to do it.

Select the top layer of the palette and add a Hue Saturation layer.  Near the top of the palette drop down the menu that shows Master and choose Reds (this will allow you to adjust the reds in your image).

Move the Saturation slider to the right, keeping an eye on the image as you go.  Everything will turn redder as you go.

Select the Layer Mask of the Hue Saturation layer and press Ctrl-I or Cmd-I to invert the Layer mask, filing it with black - the color just added will disappear because a black Layer Mask conceals whatever adjustment was made.

Select the Paint Brush and make white the foreground color.  Zoom in tight on the lips and carefully paint in the lips to bring back the red color.  It may be easier if you set the pen to change size with color and if you rotate the canvas.

When you've finished zoom out and take a good look - if the color is to brilliant then lower the opacity of the Hue Saturation layer.

Here's the two palettes ...

And here's the before and after with the Opacity of the Hue Saturation Layer lowered to 40%.

For sure, these techniques are not the only way to go about glamorizing a portrait but the do a great job.

In our example nothing is done to excess and all of the techniques combined make an acceptable change to the image.

Hopefully this will help with any glamorizing project you may have!

Glamorizing Video

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