Aug 07, 2014

How to Match Skin Tones in Photoshop

How to Match Skin Tones in Photoshop

When photographing people you will often notice the skin tone on their face is slightly different from their body. This is due to many factors including makeup, sun tan, blush, skin quality and light quality. If you have never noticed a difference in color look again, it may surprise you.

Matching skin tone from one area to another can be rather tricky if you don’t analyze color first. In this episode we show you how to analyze skin color from highlights through shadows. Then we show you how to change mid-tones shadows and highlights to match face color to body color. You will be able to use these techniques on most portraits.

Tools for Matching Skin Tone

There are many ways to match skin tone in Photoshop, here is a quick guideline to what Phlearn uses.

  • Levels – Levels are more powerful than most people realize. Along with adjusting light and dark values they also adjust colors. Levels are our preferred method for matching skin tone in Photoshop.
  • Hue/saturation – It is common when adding color to skin that too much color is applied. This is not something that can be controlled thought the Levels Adjustment Layer. Instead it is better to use a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and bring the saturation down.

Group Layer Masking

If you plan on creating a few adjustment layers and want them all restricted to the same place on your image try grouping them together first. You can add a mask to a group just as you would a layer. Using a Group Mask allows you to control the visibility of all the layers in a group, saving time and making selections more accurate.


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  • user image

    Pretty awesome. Just wished you would teach it the way to use the Color Sampler. It’s the way I learned as you can adjust the sample points values. I know there a ten different ways to accomplish what you are trying to do, and your way was probably easier so all in all great episode again.

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    Henry Dean

    Matching skin tones in Photoshop is yet another one of your great tutorials. And, you are an excellent teacher. Perhaps you can do a similar tutorial focused on dark skin – African or Latino for example.

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    It is really amazing what you can do in photoshop Aaron!

    I was think of an episode, that would cover an special effect in photoshop or in photoshoot with light.
    What I mean you will see in a picture added. Those light stripes going throught the photo is pretty much amazing, and i simply dont know how to achieve such sharp shawdow stripes.

    Keep on doin what youre doin ,casue you re the best to do it 🙂

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    Barnia Scruggs

    I have seen this problem over and over. Being a boudoir and glamour photographer, I know there can be mistakes in makeup, lighting, etc. I always love these Phlearn episodes and been part of the Phamily since the beginning. Aaron has an open, truthful presentation that gets to the real problems and solutions of photography. And, he has no problem with making a mistake now and then, which teaches us not to be afraid to experiment and mess up at times. Thanks, Aaron, love the new site and may God continue to bless the work you are doing.

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    which lens has to be used for studio for closeup shots. I am seeing your free videotutorils, it is very good and is helps me in photoshop work.thankyou sir

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    Hey great tutorial!! I was wondering if you could do a video on how to remove greasy looking parts from people’s foreheads and noses. I did a quick search but I couldn’t find one of your tutorials for it. Everytime I try to lower the greasy shine it looks better but you can tell it has been edited.

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    What a great tutorial, thanks! I have never used levels before, I will certainly try it! I not a photgrapher but a seller who needs to take the pictures of my products myself, I can’t afford a photographer and a make up artist yet. Therefore my models have not such beatiful facial skin tones. There are many different tones only in the face like green (yeah, lots of green), yellow, red, there are cold and warm areas, like a pachwork quilt. I hope, this method will help me reducing the patchwork look, too!

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    Wow, I love the group idea. I am just curious why you didn’t color correct her hands. Thanks for the great tutorials.

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    I really enjoy your tutorials, you make it fun and very informative. You’re a great teacher!

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    Allison Armstrong

    I love this video primarily because you show how to take a tedious task and do it quickly! Thank you for helping us with efficiency in Photoshop. 🙂

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    Simon Lambert

    Colour picker techniques would have been a really useful angle on this job. An experienced eye may be able to adjust sliders on-the-fly but the techie in me feels so much more comfortable using unequivocal readings as a starter and a check afterwards. Bettelyoun makes a good point.

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    I love all of your Tuts!, they are very helpful, I am working on a 3D project where I don’t have good coll or lighting matches from frontal and side views, Can you help me find a way to make photos of the same person under different lighting conditions look realistic? I usually have to play around with values to get under the chin and back of the neck. and stuff like that. Any tips would be great!.

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    Aaron, I have watched several of your tutorials… a few of them more than once! I always pick up new general information along with the specifics of the tutorial subject. Just want to say I really appreciate your expertise and willingness to share! (Thanks also for being very well spoken, humorous and free of so many trite filler words, such as “right?” and “like” that are prevalent on the web!)

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    I just discovered your web site. These are the best tutorials I have seen anywhere. Well explained.

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    Barnia Scruggs

    Thanks, Aaron.
    A few years back I had this issue while doing glamour and boudoir. As you said, it happens a lot in this type of photography. I believe facial make-up tone versus body tan tone is the problem. When light hits the face with make-up and the rest of the body without make-up falls into shadow…BAM…considerable difference in overall tone. Great solution to fix the problem.

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    This is simply great – helped me out no end & entertaining to watch, well put together, well explained – well done!

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    I’m trying to match color in my wedding photos. My wife’s dad has vitiligo (lightening of the skin)… For some reason when I group my layers the fill becomes greyed out? I’m sure it’s something simple but I can’t figure it out. Any help would be great.

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    Joshua Rubin

    I wrote a free Photoshop plugin that works better than Photoshop’s Match Color function. It works very well on skin tones. You can find it at

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    Lacey Campbell

    I bought DermalMD Even Tone serum for a friend who has age spots and I’m still waiting on her results. She did say she loves the product as a skin serum.

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    Hi guys,
    Recently I had a client who wanted a retouch of her holiday’s photo. She is a travel writer and she writes for magazines as far as I know. The woman is 65 and she wants to look 30. So far so good! I retouched all the hanging skin from arms and chin, removed all the wrinkles, etc. She has dark almost a mulatto skin and she wants to “enhance” her to be white. At this point I have few problems: First when I enhance her skin with levels I wash out a bit the face and the skin texture (which I created while hiding wrinkles and heavy blotches). I’ve tried to use the shadows and highlights adjustment. It worked much better, but then when I make her skin hue normal, she said it’s red. I remove the reds with hue and saturation working just on the red pixels. She says red again. I think she is too yellow and she keep on saying too RED.
    I want to ask if you have some trick how not to lose the skin texture while bleaching her skin, and is there some formula about making an accurate skin hue and tone. After working on this for a while I noticed that when I’ve done so much retouch I lose track of the colours. How do you prevent that?
    Thank you so much. I’ve learn a lot from Phlearn. Hope you can advise me something.