Retouching An Image

In the following retouching steps two layers and an adjustment layer will be used to make improvements to the image from the first technique.

This is a three step technique to modify the appearance of

  • the eyes
  • the teeth and
  • the lips

of the final image from the previous technique.  This is the starting point ...

final image

Step One - The Eyes

When we meet someone we always look at their eyes - either consciously or unconsciously.

With a portrait photograph it is easy to sharpen the eyes making them the focal point of the photograph - the first step in retouching

Here is how to do it ...

  1. Open your photograph in Photoshop and zoom in on the eyes.

  2. Select the Lasso Tool and select one of the eyes.

  3. Press the shift key and select the other eye. Pressing the shift key when making a selection adds to the selection. When you are finished you should have both eyes selected.

  4. Press Ctrl-J (Windows) or Cmd-J (Max) to jump the selected eyes to a new layer. If you click the little eyeball next to your background layer only the new layer with the eyes will be visible - like this ...


  5. Now lets sharpen the eyers.

  6. Select Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. Keep the Radius and Threshold at 1.0 and move the Amount slider around and watch what happens in the Preview box.

  7. If you left click and hold on the preview box it will change from being sharpened to original. The Amount in my example is 149.

  8. Experiment with the amount slider until you are satisfied and then click OK.

    layers two

Step Two -The Teeth

It's amazing how a little bit digital dental hygiene retouching will improve a picture!

Our digital hygiene will be done with a Soft Light Layer.

Cue the digital cleaning brush and let's go ...

  1. Zoom in tight on the teeth in your photograph so they fill most of the screen.

    red head teeth
    Soft Light Layer

  2. Select Layer > New Layer and when the dialogue box comes up name the layer Teeth, drop down the Mode, select Soft Light and put a check mark in the Fill with Soft-Light-neutral color (50% gray). Click OK.

  3. Now comes the fun part! Press the D key to make black and white the foreground and background colors and then press the X key to make White the foreground color.

  4. If you are using a pressure sensitive Wacom tablet the next step is very easy. Select your brush tool and make sure it is close to the size of the teeth you will be cleaning. In the Brushes Palette click Other Dynamics and make sure that Pen Pressure is visible in the Control drop down menu. If it isn't, make it visible.

    red head teeth 2
    Some Digital Dental Hygiene

    Make sure you have the Soft Light Layer selected, take your brush and very lightly start painting white over the teeth.

    Check your work as you go by turning the Soft Light Layer off and on. If you think you have gone too far press the X key to make Black the foreground color and darken the area that is too light.

  5. If you are using a mouse decrease the opacity of the brush and follow the same procedure.

  6. Here are the teeth after they have been cleaned ...

    red head after cleaning
    After Cleaning

All done with the teeth, now let's move onto the lips ... 

Step Three - The Lips

The final retouching stop will make the lip color stand out a bit more with a Hue and Saturation Layer.

  1. Zoom in on the lips so you won't be distracted by the rest of the picture.

  2. Add a Hue and Saturation layer by clicking Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation. Click OK.

  3. Hue and Saturation Layer
    Hue and Saturation Layer

  4. When the dialog comes up, drop down the Edit menu and select reds. You may see a bit of a change.

  5. Start moving the Saturation slider (the middle one) to the right and watch your image. When you are happy with the new lip color, click OK.

  6. Zoom out and check the overall picture. It is likely that the overall image will have a red cast that you want to remove. The easiest thing to do is to hit Ctrl-I (Windows) or Cmd-I (Mac) to invert the layer - now all of the red is gone.

  7. Press the D key to select the default color and then press X to select White as the foreground color.

  8. Select your brush tool and if you are using a Wacom Tablet, select Shape Dynamics to change size with pressure and make it a soft edge brush.

  9. If you are using a mouse select a small brush size with a soft edge brush.

    Now zoom in on the lips and carefully paint over them with white. That will bring back the red you applied with the Hue and Saturation Layer.

red head end
Final Image

There you go - three small changes that make a big difference in the end image.

And here is the final image of technique one and the addition of different layers.


Retouching Using Layers

Page Links

The Eyes

The Teeth

The Lips



Layers are one of the most useful tools in the digital editing field especially when retouching an image.

New users are typically very unsure of how to user layers.

This technique uses layers and they really are much easier to use than you may think.

 glamorize left image

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