Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Photoshop Tutorial: How to Remove Beard and Sweat!

I confess that today's article is a bit of a repetition from an older article on portrait post-processing. But I do that for two reasons:
a) To give a chance to those who haven't discovered it yet to become acquainted with this remarkable photoshop procedure
b) To show you that post-processing, too, involves imagination. In other words: who said that you can use a skin smoothing procedure only for...skin smoothing?

So, let me repeat the procedure, then I'll show you the results and we'll talk a bit about Photoshop and Scope

  1. Open your Image. Duplicate the Layer (CTRL+J)
  2. Select a brush of the appropriate size (on cheeks and other larger areas it can be bit large, on finer detail - like over the lips - it can be smaller). Hardness at 0%. Opacity 50% (but feel free to experiment with less; I don't recommend more). You can use airbrush qualities, with 50% flow rate. The blending mode of the brush must be set to "Lighten"
  3. Use the eyedropper tool and select a skin area very close to the place you plan to edit. Then, on the duplicate layer you just created, start 'painting' over areas with beard
  4. Continue like that, changing color (with the eyedropper tool) according to the surrounding area.
  5. Adjust the opacity of the layer to achieve a natural result.
Some tips:

a) This is a tweaking procedure; not even Photoshop can reconstruct information that is not there (unless if you plan to paint it pixel by pixel!). In other words, this procedure works fine for "5 o'clock shadow" kind of beard, not  ZZ Top...
b) As I always advise: Less is more. If you overdo it, it will look unnatural
c) The bigger the luminance difference between beard and skin, the better. That means it's easier with dark hair on fair skin; harder with blonde hair on suntanned skin.

So, here's what we can achieve:

So, this is how we can remove beard. But hang on! Repeat the same procedure changing only the brush blending mode from "Lighten" to "Darken", and voila! You can now remove sweat droplets:

As a conclusion, I want to talk to you a bit about scope, as mentioned. You see, technology is a fine thing - in fact we take for granted things such as sharpening, contrast adjustment, all kinds of trivial corrections that, not 30 years ago, would have meant lots of dark room work and messing with chemicals and all sorts of things. But there is also a dark side to it: It can imprison our thinking; it can make us react in a conditioned, pre-planned way. Let me show you a couple of examples. Here's what, subconsciously, many of us might end up thinking and doing because of the way Photoshop or similar programs are structured:
- "I can use the Unsharp Mask only to adjust sharpness". Wrong
- "Dodging and Burning is meant just for local contrast adjustment". Wrong
- "The Lens Blur Tool is like Gaussian Blur, you use it to..err...blur something?". Wrong
- "The Patch Tool is used just for correcting a surface...I think". Wrong
(click on the "wrongs" to read more about it)

Photo editing is a lot like problem solving. If you just open an image and start playing with filters, you'll end up nowhere (experimenting is a great way to learn, I'm not talking about that right now). First you must identify the problems, then you must think what would be the most efficient way to solve them. Be imaginative!

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