Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Photoshop wrinkle reduction with the patch tool

When you retouch skin on anyone older than 30, there's a good chance they would appreciate a little wrinkle reduction. Don't get out of control. After all, wrinkles show character, and you still want the portrait to look like the person.

Once again, I'll use a stock photo to avoid embarrassing a client. Here is a mature woman with some fairly prominent wrinkles:

I don't want to do some grotesque transformation that makes her look like a 20-something model. I will use the patch tool to reduce the signs of aging in a subtle way.

What I will show you can be used on any area, but I will focus on the eyes (well, on one eye).

1. duplicate the layer and work on the top layer. We will be lowering the opacity later to let some of the original wrinkles show through from the original layer below.

Before we proceed, a word about wrinkles...
I think it was in one of Katrin Eismann's great books (the best out there for some pretty hard core advanced techniques) that I first heard a retoucher bother to explain how wrinkles work: they work their way out. Those crow's feet that stretch down the cheeks are not uniformly deep. The newer part of the wrinkle will be further away and lighter than the wrinkles that have been there for years. This is good to know because you might want to reduce the newest part of the wrinkle more aggressively than the rest.

2. With the patch tool, lasso a good chunk of the wrinkles closest to the eye. Since you are going to have to drag to a good patch of skin to heal the area, the size of your selection will vary. I usually drag to the cheek or the forehead—whichever has a good sized patch of skin with small pores and no wrinkles.

Once you drag your selection to a good patch of skin, you will get a very unrealistic "healed" spot like this:

For now, you want to eliminate most of the wrinkles (even the newer ones). Keep working, section by section, until you get something like this:

I didn't eliminate every single wrinkle, nor did I try to get a perfect texture. It won't matter when we get to the next step.

3. Now you will reduce the opacity for the sake of realism. I reduced it to 48%:

You can still see wrinkles, but it's a big reduction when compared to this:

4. At this point, you can flatten the image. Next, you can duplicate the now-improved background image and repeat the wrinkle reduction process on the newest wrinkles only. In the photo below, you can see how the lines that extended down the cheek are gone:

5. Reduce the opacity of your top layer (this time I did 30%), merge down or flatten, and the eyes are done.

One more note about wrinkles that I learned from Eismann...
Vertical wrinkles (worry lines) are the worst. Feel free to attack them more aggressively.
You can quickly go from this:

to this:
As before, dial in an opacity reduction if needed (but keep the percentage high this time).

And now, a final look look that shows the retouched side and the unretouched side:

Of course, normally, I would have done both sides at the same time, but this helps you see the difference the patch tool can make.


michelle said...

This reminds me of why I don't like magnifying mirrors! I just don't want to see that much detail. So, good call on using a stock photo, that's all I'm sayin'.

I definitely think it's a good idea to have a semi-transparent layer to let the wrinkles show through. Flattering, yet still fairly realistic.

Anonymous said...


michaela said...

Thank you Marc, I am going to try this on some photos today. Wish this worked so well in real life!

Terry said...

This is cool! I've been using Photoshop for enhancing some of my pictures. I love editing mom's pictures! Maybe I can try this trick for hiding mom's wrinkles on some of her pictures. Next month, she's scheduled for juvederm. Los Angeles is well-known for this kind of cosmetic enhancement. We also found out when we went to Los Angeles, botox is also popular among men and women who want to have younger-looking skin.

Jack Sebastian said...

My friend used to make changes in his mother's photos all the time to remove her wrinkles and unevenly colored patches. But when he had to move out of their house and nobody else knew how to use Photoshop, his mother just let cosmetic surgeons (San Francisco-based) make the changes, which turned out to be better since they were long-lasting.

Unknown said...

these days it is possible to have this changes as real with cosmetic surgery. My mother consult her Breast Augmentation Los Angelesdoctor and he did some botox treatment on her and know she is looking more younger than me

Unknown said...

Surgeons often recommend fat removal via a cheek reduction along with reducing the zygomatic bone. The surgery can make female Asian faces appear more petite and feminine. For men, it can correct asymmetry and facial harmony.