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Create Skin Texture From Scratch In Photoshop

Mar 25

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Create Skin Texture Using Clipping Masks

After we’ve brushed over the shadows underneath the eye, it’s important that skin texture we create is applied only to the brushed area. Using a clipping mask is a great way to achieve a seamless transition between the original skin and our homemade skin.

Using Smart Objects & Filters

Using smart objects will allow you to treat your filters such as gaussian blur almost like layers, letting you change the opacity and visibility after they’ve been applied. To create a realistic skin texture, you can create a layer with 50% grey, add noise, and turn it into a smart object. using a combination of the gaussian blur and emboss filters will create a perfect skin texture over the brushed area.

  • iamjohnwhite

    Wow, great tutorial Aaron! Loved this one.

  • yamaha83

    This is actually all one exposure. It was an 8 second shutter speed. Einstein modeling light camera left geld red in a large Octa with grid. Einstein strobe in beauty dish with grid cemera right and hotshoe flash as rim light geld with full CTO. Only thing I did in photoshop was a couple curves adjustments.

  • Ben

    Graet tutorial Aaron, thanks. We still can’t see from the Tool Option Manu Bar up. It’s out of the frame.

  • Abigail Russell

    You did it again! Thanks for another wonderful tutorial!!

  • Jason Hermosa

    Wow! Thanks! I had this problem last night where unwanted light is passing through my model’s hair hitting her face. I was just about to send you the image so you could show us how to fix it. Thanks!!

  • Socratic1

    Wow…I have been trying to figure out how to do this for literally a year. Actually I gave up, because I could not make it look realistic. I knew somehow that noise and emboss should work, but the clipping mask and the smart object make it so targeted and “tweakable” – that is a major shift in how I think about about this. Also the sequence of blur THEN emboss is cool…thought it would have to be the other way round. AND I did not know you could apply opacity settings to individual FILTERS…I learned so much in just a few minutes – what a great tutorial.

    So creative and inspiring.

    Thank you Aaron!

  • memol

    it was awesome thanks

  • Chuks Sunesis

    excellent tutorial.

Episode Transcript

Today I’m going to show you how to make skin texture from scratch in Photoshop.

Hey there and welcome to Phlearn, my name’s Aaron Nace. You can find me on Twitter at AKNACER to chat with me about this or anything else that you guys want. That’s what I’m here for. Today I’m going to show you a revolution, a breakthrough, a marvel in technology, I’m going to show you how to create skin texture from scratch, completely from scratch. This means if there’s any area you find you need to really do quite a bit of retouching on someone’s face and all of the skin texture is like totally gone, I’m going to show you guys how to make it completely anew.

This is our image today. This is from Jason, it’s a self-portrait. Very, very cool self-portrait; he was one of our winners from the Low Key contest, which ended yesterday. We’ve got a new contest going on now, so make sure to submit your images to the Close Up Contest. It’s the episode right before this one in case you need it.

One thing we’re going to do for this is I’m going to show you how to create skin texture. To get there what we’re going to do is I’m going to zoom into Jason’s face. He’s a good looking dude so I don’t think he’ll mind any of this stuff. What we’re going to do is I’m just going to get rid of this little area. These are areas under your eyes. I have them. Everyone has them. Sometimes in photographs you want to get rid of them.

I’m going to show you a way to get rid of them using the brush tool because I use the brush tool quite a bit. Using the brush tool, you can use a closed end tool or healing brush tool. Let’s just say, for an example say you’re going to use the brush tool and sample these colors and then just paint right over this area. There we go.
Now, using the brush tool is actually a really good way to get rid of this sort of thing because you’re not really restricted to really anything in your image other than what you’re sampling and painting. In other words it’s very similar to the traditional painting in that you can pretty much shape things however you want. Let’s just zoom out and maybe get this a little bit lighter as well.

I use this method a lot when I’m retouching because it’s just a very nice way of getting everything nice and even. All right let’s erase that just a little bit. There we go. As long as it looks relatively decent from far away then you know you’re shape and everything like that’s pretty good. Let’s just bring that a little bit dark in there. There we go.
Okay, we’re basically just getting rid of that. Let’s paint this a little bit darker from the right to left and there we go, kind of fix this out, make it nice and even there. This is all just using the brush tool.

I’m not saying you guys have to do this, but there are going to be techniques that you use throughout time when you’re editing in Photoshop that probably are going to just destroy a little bit of skin texture, but this is just going to show you guys how to get it all back if you want to. We’ve done that, we’ve painted over the area. You can see from zoomed out it looks pretty good. It doesn’t look like… Well it’s a little bit dark right there, but other than that we can see we’ve basically just gotten rid of that area.

If you zoom in you can see we’ve got a bit of… It’s just paint right over here. There’s no skin texture at all. Now what we’re going to do is show you guys how to add that skin texture completely from scratch. The first thing we’re going to do… It’s kind of complex, but I think you guys will get it because you’re awesome.

The first thing we’re going to do, we’re going to create a new layer and I’m going to grab my marquee tool and we’re just going to make a selection over the area that we actually want to affect. A larger area, it doesn’t need to be accurate or anything like that. Now we’re going to hit shift/delete and we’re going to fill this using 50% gray. On a new layer we’ve filled it with 50% gray completely full and we’re good to go.

Let’s go ahead and now to go filter. We’re going to go down here to noise and I’m going to go to add noise. There we go. This is the first part, very important. First fill with 50% gray and then add noise. You can just keep all this stuff checked. I’m going to click on monochromatic, just going to make things black and white, which is going to look good. All right, we’re going to hit okay.

Now what we’re going to do is a couple of things. I’m going to go ahead and let’s deselect. We’re going to convert this into a Smart Object because there are a couple of filters that I want to apply to this, but I want those filters to be able to be edited later. This has to be a Smart Object for this to work and I’ll show you guys why in a second.

We’re going to right click on this and I’m going to go over here to Convert to Smart Object. Okay, everything still looks the same, just got a little bit of an icon there that says it’s a Smart Object. I’ll show you guys why that’s really cool in a second. Let’s go ahead and change this from normal, we’re going to change this to soft light. We’re just going to make some of these areas darker and some of them lighter. You can probably start to get the idea like dark/light, dark/light. It’s like skin texture; it has little bumps in it and things like that.

Okay, that’s the first step in the process is getting your noise on there and getting it to be a soft light. If you guys have been watching Phlearn you’ll know that we use things called Clipping Masks quite often. What that’s going to do is it’s going to keep one layer visible where another layer is visible. I’ll give you just a quick example in case you’ve never seen a Clipping Mask before. They’re really cool.

On a new layer, I’m just going to paint over here, just like that with some pink. Why not? On the layer right above it we’ll just grab green and I’ll paint over like that. Now, if I want this green to only be visible where the pink is, all you have to do is right click and go to Create Clipping Mask. Now this green is going to be visible only where the pink is. It’s got a little arrow to tell you what layer it’s clipping down to. It’s just a very cool way to be able to restrict these guys. If you want to unclip it, just right click and go to Release Clipping Mask and it’s totally normal layers. You can still change blending modes, you can do all kinds of things, and it’s just a way to create a quick mask.

All right, let’s delete those and now it’s the same principal that’s going to apply. We have this noise, but I don’t want it showing up all over his face and over here and I don’t really feel like making a layer mask. What we’re going to do is just the area that I painted with my paintbrush here, the area that in your photo probably doesn’t have a lot of skin texture, we’re going to take this right above it and I’m going to right click and go to Create Clipping Mask.

There we go. It automatically now only shows up exactly where we painted. See we have skin texture where we painted. Now it’s a big rough I know, but it’s in the right place, so that’s already we’re off to a good start. We painted over there; we’ve got a rough skin texture on there. Now it’s time to add our filters.

What we’re going to do is I’m going to go up here to Filter, we’re going to go to Blur, and I’m going to go to Gaussian Blur. We’re going to blur the skin texture a little bit because right now it’s just a little bit too rough. Now we can bring our radius up and down and we can see here what it looks like there with our skin texture. We can see that radius is too high. As I bring it down you can see it starting to blur less and less and something like that we’ll just keep it right there. We just want it to keep from looking like it’s really grainy. We’ll hit okay there.

Because we’re using Smart Filters, we can turn these off and on. I can turn my Gaussian Blur off and on anytime I want on that layer. Not only that but I can change these settings in a little bit. We’re going to get to our second filter and then we’re going to go start to play around.

Our second filter we’re going to go to Filter, I’m going to go down here to Stylize and Emboss. I don’t do this every day, but some days I do. Now the emboss filter is going to make things look like they’re just kind of… You can see it right over here in this little preview. It’s going to make it look like some of these grains are higher and some of them are lower. Again, this is looking a bit more like skin texture.

All right, let’s turn the Gaussian Blur off real quick and look at just the Emboss. You can see it’s making these look higher and lower. The cool thing about this is we can double click on this filter and I can change things like my angle at any point in time. Because we used the Smart Object to do this I can change all of these settings at any point in time. If I want my height to be, you know… If it was too much we can bring our height up and bring our height down. We can change the amount. If we want more skin texture you do that. If you want less you can do this as well.

There we go, we’re going to hit okay. All of these settings are important because I won’t know the exact settings that are going to work. I need to go in here and play around. That’s why you made it a Smart Object, which then allows you to change these things after the fact. You can change your filters after you’ve applied them if you’re working on a smart object.
You can also click right here and you can change your actual opacity as well. If you want the Emboss opacity to be lower you can do that here as well, which is very, very cool. Let’s turn this Gaussian Blur on again, which you can see it’s blurring that emboss we had. It’s too much, so we’re just going to bring this down a little bit and hit okay and there we go. We can turn that off and see that maybe that’s too little, 0.2, just give it a little bit of a blur. There we go.

Having both of these on, I’m just kind of… Emboss is a good way to get something to do looking like it’s actually interacting with light. The Gaussian Blur just takes those tiny little specks that we put on there from the noise and just makes them a little bit larger and softer edges. Again, we’re just recreating skin texture by doing this. With these Smart Filters it really does help out.

Let’s go ahead and zoom out and we can see what our skin texture looks like that we’ve added completely from scratch in Photoshop. There’s the before the skin texture and there’s the after. Again, the best reason… Let’s just zoom out and you can see. It really does look just like skin texture here. The best reason to use this is you can totally change any of these things at any point in time.

Also keep in mind this is clipped. If I decide on this layer, remember we selected a rather large area. If I decided on this area to continue painting around, there we go… We can see that no matter what I paint here on this layer, it’s going to have that same skin texture applied, even if I completely paint everything away. Look at that. It still has that skin texture applied because this is our skin texture layer that’s just over and above it.

This isn’t how I would recommend you edit your entire image. Obviously skin texture around an eye is going to be very different from a cheek, so keep that in mind as well. It might be a little bit smaller grain and things like that. But if I did continue to decide to paint over here, you can see obviously I’m totally changing the shape of his face at this point, but it’ll still all have skin texture because I’ve added it on this layer and it’s always going to show up right over top.

I’m just going to erase that away. I was just showing you guys that it’ll continue to work over on top of everything else. That is how we create skin texture from scratch in Photoshop. Awesome tutorial guys and I hope you got all of this. Using the Smart Objects is a really great way to go in there and change those settings after you’ve already applied them and get the perfect amount of skin texture. Perfect size, perfect amount of blur, perfect amount of embossiness to make awesome skin texture.

Thanks so much for watching Phlearn guys. I hope you enjoyed this. We have a lot more tutorials here on We’ll see you guys later. Buy everyone.
What do you get when a retoucher needs to get their way, embossiness.

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