Jul 27, 2015

How to Remove a Tattoo in Photoshop

“Do you think we got any bloopers..?” I don’t know, you tell us! And learn how to remove a tattoo in Photoshop while you’re at it.

Section 1: Basic Removal

For this first step, we use the Spot Healing Brush Tool. Be sure that this tool is set to the Normal Mode, and that the Type is set to Content Aware. Sample All Layers should also be checked.

On a new layer, paint right over top of the tattoo. It’s that simple! This works best if you do small sections at a time, making sure to include part of the original skin texture in your section. Sometimes the tool will pull areas from other parts of the photo that do NOT belong on skin! If this happens, don’t worry at all. All you have to do is paint right over it again.

After spending some time with this tool the skin will look blotchy and uneven. As explained in the episode, you might get the “toaster oven” effect. But, as long as the ink is gone, you are ready to move on to the second step!

Section 2: Painting the Skin

Retouchers are also painters! It’s time to bring out those paint brushes.

In this very important step, we will be sampling the skin and painting over the blotchiness that is left over from step one.

Select the brush tool and use a soft round brush. The size of the brush will depend on the area of the skin that you are working on, and also will take a little bit of trial and error.

To paint, sample a color of the natural skin by holding alt/opt and clicking on it. Then, your brush will pick up that color and you can paint over the uneven skin. This will take some practice so that the body doesn’t look completely flat! Just remember that highlights, shadows, and midtowns should all be paid attention to and treated differently. Look for the shadows and how they fall onto the skin – sometimes it is just a small detail but it can make all of the difference. For this example, we bring each tone all the way up the arm and into the shoulder.

 Remember that this is a gradual and gentle process. Set the Flow of your brush to be very low – somewhere between 5 and 20 percent is a good place to start. With a low flow, you are able to slowly build up the color of the skin. This helps to make it look more natural.

Section 3: Adding Skin Texture

After painting over the skin, it will look much too smooth and artificial. Step 3 is adding skin texture back into the image so that it looks completely normal.

Start by making a new layer and selecting the area around the body part you have been working on. Then, go to Edit – Fill – 50% Gray. Change the Blend Mode from Normal to Overlay. This is the base layer for the texture.

Now, go to Filter – Noise – Add Noise. Change the settings depending on what looks best for your image. We choose to select Uniform.

To add to the look of the texture, go to Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur. We add just a touch of blur (about 1 pixel).

Now, go to Filter – Stylize – Emboss. This is where the texture will really turn from just looking like noise to looking like skin! Go for an amount that makes it look as natural as possible.

Lastly, create a black layer mask on your current layer. Then, use the brush tool to paint with white where you’d like the skin texture to show up. You can use a low flow or opacity to build it up gently if you’d like.


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    Gerley Cantor

    Muchas Gracias por compartir este tutorial… excelente canal… excelente trabajo

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    Great tutorial Aaron. I have a use for this one now. Very helpful tip on bringing back skin texture.

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    Hi! im from México! i’ve learn so much from here! thank you so much!
    i have a question, when you create the black layer mask on the current layer what do i do with the square(the one with the 50% gray)? it is shown as a white square

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    Julian Taylor

    Thanks Aaron, this really helped me evaluate how I remove tattoo distractions. Your method is so much quicker than using the clone stamp tool on such a large tattoo.

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    Awesome tutorial! Any chance you can make a tutorial for replacing eyes? Thanks and keep up the great work!

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    Another awesome episode Aaron. Keep it up. I always learn something new from your tutorials.

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    Obi-Wan thanks for this helpful tut, I have been struggling with these skin problems for a long time and this is a nice method to deal with it. The results are promising and I will try them on a next occasion.
    Keep up the good work and good luck with the Phlearn business.

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    Taposy Rabeya

    Awesome post . It’s inspiring to see how you so successfully adopted unfamiliar technologies and transitioned into a new team.

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    Hi Aron

    Grate Tutorial.
    You are a photoshop God.
    Can you please give me some tips on editing baby photos
    I just had my first child .

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    Hey, great tutorial. How about providing a copy of the image. Then we can actually DO what you have shown us. ???

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    Great tutorial thank you. I have a question, in step 2 would there be any likely advantage to using a custom brush, like a natural media or one with a textured edge? I was just thinking it might help to blend the shadow/highlight edge transfers more. Or does the texture in step 3 pretty much take care of that?

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    You make learning fun! Now I hope some tattoo images come my way for retouching!

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    Susan from Vermont

    Very good tutorial. This should help solve a different type of problem, as well as the tattoo removal. Always enjoy your presentations, and the explanations you provide are easy to understand and apply. So thank you!

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    Andy Z

    Love this videos. You break things into bite size chunks that look doable. Plus your personalty is such that I want to buy you a beer and pick your brain and hang out. And I know when I watch your videos, stay till the end. Love the bloopers.

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    William Collins

    Great tutorial….you make it all look so simple…Thank you for doing this for us….William

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    Thanks for this. I am using a lot of your tricks from many videos. One of my favorites was shift + – to scroll blending modes. Your a Rockstar. Drew

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    Andrea Fine

    Great tutorial. Adding the texture makes such a wonderful difference.

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    Karim Behravesh

    Thank you for this presentation. I loved it, specially what you did after implementing healing brush and creating real skin look.

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    Judith Angerman

    Your tutorials always take the viewer to a new skill level. I’ve erased tats, but didn’t know how to approach replacing skin texture. Excellent! Thank you!

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    Another excellent tut!!!

    But I’d have two questions:
    – would it be better to convert the last layer to the smart object in order to have access to the filters (noise and/or blur) in case you need it<
    – would it be possible for emboss to use the Layer Style, in other words is there any different between Emboss via filter and Emboss via Layer Style<

    Thanks a lot


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    Bill Gardner

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise. I learn something new in every tutorial.

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    i really like to watch all of your tutorials,,,great job 🙂

    can you make this tutorial for the image that i upload? i’m glad if u can make this tutorial for me…

    thanx Phlearn,, 🙂

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    Phlearn you later! 🙂 Interesting tuts, so easy to get along with (y)

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    this is cool
    this girl looks like cool now
    i want to date her


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    José Parcerisa Vilatarsana

    WAW my friend Aaron extraordinary tutorial. Incredible the procedure to recover skin texture, it really works. Congratulations and thank you very much for teaching us.
    Your friend José

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    Great video. I just started in photography and Phlearn has the best tutorial out there!


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    Good day Phlearn,

    I would just like to show my apreciation to you. You are a great Photoshop artist. I am going to watch alot of your tutorials. Thanks again man!


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    nice tut,,,this is really useful. i have purchase tutorials but some doubts ,,
    can u brief how many tutorials video give me..

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    This video shows what an amazing tool the humble round brush can be. Provided you know how to use it, of course 😉

    I was thinking if it wouldn’t have been easier if you’d used frequency separation for this removal – the skin texture would have been intact while all the corrections could have been done on the layer with colour. This way you wouldn’t have had to retore the skin texture. Am I right?

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    Great technique for a large tattoo, but for something smaller, with texture near by, what do you think of the ‘content aware fill’ tool? I’ve used it on textured walls and to cover up things in a grassy environment, but never on skin.

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    I’ve purchased your tutorials and listened to quit a few. Plus, was a member of for several years. Aaron you have the best. Sometimes I think, I’ve got it and don’t want to take the time to listen to another tutorial, but I usually do. And, always I pick up something new or I’d forgotten. PS is so awesomely complicated, there seems to be no end to learning something new. Love the 15 minute quickies. Thank You!!!

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    This is THE BEST photoshop tutorial I have ever watched. I switched from the dark room to all digital for my business. Learning all the software has been overwhelming. This video, by far, had been the best & most helpful. Thank you!!!