Quick Tips For Retouching Gorgeous Gothic Models

by St Marc
November 30, 2006

I love Goth models, but they can create some retouching challenges not often encountered by mainstream photographers. A lot of them have pale, creamy skin and dark hair. Even with the best of depilation regimes, often you have what appears to be stubble problems, or at least visible dark spots under that glowing skin! What's to be done?

What I personally do is use Photoshop's Healing Brush and/or Clone Stamp tools to get the worst of it - definitely any actual protruding hair, and the biggest and/or darkest bumps. Then, I use an applied Gaussian Blur (usually around 6 pixels, but experiment!) via the Snapshots technique, with my brush usually set for something like 30% opaque, 30% flow, 50% hardness. To use the Snapshots technique (which is useful for all kinds of things) you apply a filter or other change to the whole image, make a Snapshot, undo your change, and then use the Art History brush to brush your change back on to only the areas you want to apply it to. It also works great for things like sharpening eyes or softening skin. If you don't want to edit destructively, create a new empty layer above the layer you're working on, and then switch to it before you start applying the Art History brush. That way you can always just hide or delete the layer, and you'll be right back where you started.

This works fairly well and doesn't take long. If I had an image I wanted both perfect and extremely light and creamy - that "marble statue" look that drives all the boys wild - I'd probably use the Airbrush to go over with a very, very pale white - hopefully sampled from the best available spot on the model's own skin - at 5-10% opacity and 30% flow. The advantage to using the Airbrush as opposed to, say, selective desaturation, is that it will remove detail from the model's skin. Normally, this is bad, but if you are going for the marble look, you want small details obscured anyway. Again, for nondestructive editing, apply the brush to a new empty layer right on top of the current bitmap.

Here's another little retouching tip that's handy with models with pale skin (although breakouts happen to us all, they tend to be most common with younger models.) If they have areas of skin with a reddish cast (like around blemishes, or where they've been wearing something tight or lying on something,) you can use the Channels palette to help remedy the situation.

Switch to Channels (it's one of the tabs in the Layers palette window) and hide all but the Red channel (click the eyeballs next to Blue and Green and they'll go away.) Now, grab the Dodge tool - it's one of the three tools available in the Dodge-Burn-Sponge tool button right under the Paint Bucket. Set it to apply to Midtones and start at, say 10% exposure. (The proper settings will vary according to the model's individual skin situation.) Create a relatively large (ideally you want to cover the whole area with one pass to avoid overlapping strokes) and fairly soft (well under 50% hardness) brush. Dodge the area in question: it should get lighter. (When you're only looking at one color channel, the image appears in grayscale, which makes it easy to see the relative change you have made.)

Now switch back to RGB by clicking the eyeball (actually, the empty box where an eyeball should be) next to the RGB line at the top of the Channels palette. The area should be notably less red. By using the Dodge tool instead of the Eraser tool on the Red channel, you'll just shift the red values, so you won't change the overall color tone of the area too much. If it's still too reddish, switch back to the Red channel and take another pass. If it was too much (the opposite of Red is Cyan: overdoing this technique will make the skin look, well, cyanotic) then hit undo, lower the exposure on the Dodge tool, and try again.

Have fun!


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