The Smart Brush tools contain a number of different categories including Portrait.  This category allows for modification of an image in a variety of different ways, including ...
  • Bright Eyes
  • Details
  • Lighten Skin Tones
  • Lipstick
  • Pearly Whites
  • Spray Tan
  • Very Pearly Whites
As you look at the list it's easy to see that there's no adjustment for making that perfect, creamy skin we see on high fashion models.

The reason is that that kind of skin is simply a function of digital editing and doesn't exist in the real world (OK - it probably does somewhere - but most of us will never encounter it in our lifetime).

The purpose of this category in the Smart Brush is to give you the tools to make some modifications to any portraits you shoot and they can be used alone or in combination with other Elements Filters such at Lighting Effects.

All of the adjustments that follow are much easier to do with a Wacom pen (Intuos or Bamboo).  As a matter of fact, the Smart Brush tool has a Pen Pressure setting which is quite useful.

Let's use this image to try out the different adjustments in the category ...

portrait original

NOTE:  throughout the discussion of the different adjustments the Blend Modes will be referenced - if they are confusing to you then check out the Blend Mode Tutorial ...

Bright Eyes

portrait bright eyesThe first adjustment in the category is Bright Eyes.

What it does is add a Levels Adjustment Layer above the Background at 100% Opacity and the Blend Mode set to Screen.

What this does is create really, really white eyes - maybe too bright.

Well - it's actually kind of creepy to have the whites of the eyes that bright, don't you think.

The brightness can be modified in a coup0le of different ways. 

The Opacity of the Bright Eyes layer can be lowered to between 30% and 50%, or ...

The Blend Mode can be changed from Screen (which lightens) to one of the other Blend Modes (such as Multiply which darkens or the Normal mode).

The thing to do is try out each method to find the one that looks the best  (lower opacity or changing the Blend Mode).


portrait details
The second adjustment, should you decide to use it, is called Details.

What it does is add a Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer at the top of the layer stack.  The default setting for Details sets the Brightness at zero and sets the Contrast at 50.  The Blend Mode of the layer is set to Soft Light.

Now take your Wacom pen and paint in the details where you want them - eyebrows, eyes, hair - wherever you want more detail.

In the image to the right the Bright Eyes layers opacity was lowered to 39% and then the Details adjustment was selected.

I used my Wacom pen to paint over the eyes, the eyebrows and the eyelashes (the last one with a one pixel brush).

This adjustment didn't overpower the portrait so it was not modified in any way.

Lighten Skin Tones

portrait lighten skin tonesLighten Skin Tones uses another Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer with different settings from the Details adjustment.

The Brightness of the layer is set to 25,  the Contrast is set to zero and the Blend Mode is Normal - it's amazing how different settings can make such a big difference in the image.

Now simply paint over the skin and when you're done you can change the opacity of the layer or change the Blend Mode to see how things change.

The two sliders on the Adjustment Panel can also be modified - the Brightness can be either lowered or raised and the Contrast can be modified.

So here's our Portrait now and it is coming along nicely.


portrait lipstick
Lipstick adds a Solid color Adjustment Layer at the top of the layer stack with the default color being bright red.  The Blend Mode is set to Soft Light and the Opacity of the new layer is 50%.

As with all of the other adjustments, the Blend Mode and the Opacity can be changed to give a more pleasing or realistic look.

In addition, the lipstick color can be changed by double tapping (double clicking) on the red color in the Lipstick layer and then moving the color picker around to a new color.

When you look at this version of the picture it would seem the skin is much lighter than the previous version - but it's not.

When I first looked at the two images (this one and the previous one) I figured I had messed up.  I re-did the screen capture of the Lighten Skin Tones version but it still looks darker than the version with Lipstick added.

It's amazing how one little change (Lipstick) can have such a profound effect!

Spray Tan

portrait spray tanSpray Tan adds a Photo Filter Adjustment Layer to the image   The color is dark brown (Red - 90, Green - 60, Blue - 6), the Blend Mode is set to Soft Light and the layer Opacity is 50%.

With this portrait it seemed kind of silly to use the Lighten Skin Tones Adjustment to brighten up her face and then add a Spray Tan.

Rather than doing that, what I did was add a vignette around the portrait with my Wacom pen.  What this does is direct the eye to the most important part of the picture.

Like all of the other adjustments, this one can also be modified by changing the Blend Mode (Multiply is very dramatic), changing the layer opacity or selecting a new color for the Photo Filter.

This version has the Blend Mode set to Multiply because the default setting was just too quiet.

Pearly Whites

Sadly, our model cannot be used to demonstrate the only two settings we've not yet looked at - Pearly Whites and Very Pearly Whites.

These two settings are digital dental hygiene at it's finest and they use the same kind of layer used by Lipstick - Solid Color.

Pearly Whites is set slightly off white (Red - 249, Green - 229, Blue - 50) with the Blend Mode set to Soft Light and the Opacity at 50%.

Very Pearly Whites is more pure white (Red - 253, Green - 247, Blue - 237) with the Blend Mode set to Soft Light and the Opacity at 75%.

It's easy to see that the Very Pearly Whites will produce a much whiter smile.

portrait original teeth
por pearly white
Pearly White
por very pearly white
Very Pearly White

The great thing about the Pearly White adjustment is that the teeth get whiter yet maintain the underlying textures.

Like the other portrait adjustments, Pearly White can be modified by changing the Blend Mode or the Opacity or by selecting a whiter (or darker) color.


Here's something else you can do with a portrait to make it look great - mess around with the Lighting Effects filter (found in Filter > Render).

portrait lighting effects

And here is the modified portrait ...

portrait lighting effects

This may or may not be to your taste, however it is easy to see how useful the Portrait category in the Smart Brush can be in combination with Lighting Effects or whatever filter your fancy!

Page Links

Bright Eyes


Lighten Skin Tones


Spray Tan

Pearly Whites

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