Fix blown skin highs tutorial

Started Jul 2, 2007 | Discussions
Redcrown Senior Member • Posts: 1,566
Fix blown skin highs tutorial

Blown skin highlights is an unfortunate but common problem on portraits that are otherwise well exposed. I've read and tried many techniques with mixed results. So I developed this technique, using the best steps I've found in the work of others. Would appreciate feedback and improvements.

The process uses three common techniques. First it targets "blown" highlights using the Threshold adjustment. Then it changes that target area to a light neutral gray using Levels and Hue/Sat. Finally it paints color over the target area.

1. First step is to find the blown highlights.

1A. Add a New Adjustment Layer/Threshold and set the Threshold Level between 225 and 230. Start with 225.
1B. Select/Color Range and from the top drop down menu choose "Highlights"

1C. Delete the Threshold layer, no longer needed. The selection remains active and ready for the next step.

2. Next create a layer group to hold the following adjustments and apply the selection as a mask to the group level so it applies to all adjustments.

2A. Layer/New/Group.

2B. Add a Layer Mask to the Layer Group. The active selection from step 1 will automatically become the layer mask.

2E. But that mask has a hard edge, so apply a Gaussian Blur to it. The radius of the Gaussian Blur will depend on your image and its resolution. Start with a radius between 15 and 20 and experiment.

2F. You might need to modify the mask by hand if there are areas outside of the skin that are also over the 225 to 230 level. Watch out for the whites of the eyes. Just paint those areas on the mask with black.

3. Now we need to lower the level of the blown highlights. Later (in step 4) we will apply color to the area, but the color layer will not apply well to pure white, so we want to make the area a light gray.

3A. With the Layer Group selected, add a Levels adjustment layer and set its opacity to 50%. In the Levels dialogue box, do not adjust the "Input Levels" sliders as you normally do. Instead, adjust the "Output Levels." Change the high output level from 255 to the same level you used to create the Threshold Mask in Step 1, which was between 225 and 230.

3B. Now add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to the group, and set the Saturation to -100 to desaturate the area. Making the area neutral gray allows the color painting that follows to work a little better.

4. Now we are ready to fill the area with color.

4B. Add a new blank layer to the Layer Group with Layer/New/Layer, and set the blending mode to "Color".

4C. Use the Eyedropper tool and click somewhere on the face to choose a color. Click on a point outside of the adjustment area but close to it.

4D. Fill the layer with this color, using Edit/Fill or the Paint Bucket tool. If you don't like what you see, choose a different color point and re-fill the layer. Experiment until you are satisfied.

4E. As an alternative to a solid fill, you can paint by hand. Select a soft round brush. Alt-Click near, but outside the edge of the adjustment area to pick a color. Then brush over the area. Keep working around the edge, reselecting the color and painting until you have filled the entire area. You can even do both. First, fill the entire area as in step 4D, then paint by hand around the edges to touch up.

5. These steps will restore tone and color. But there may be no texture to the skin. No pores, no blemishes, probably a bit too smooth. You can add some noise with this optional step for more realistic looking skin.

5A. Layer/New/Layer. Select Mode:Soft Light and check "Fill with soft-light-neutral color"

5B. Filter/Noise/Add Noise. Use a low Amount, between 5 and 10. Uncheck the "monochrome" box, and play with "uniform" vs. "gaussian." I think "uniform" works best.

6. In spite of the Gaussian Blur on the Threshold mask, the edges may still be a bit too distinct for you. If so, you can clean them up with the Clone or Healing Brush tools.

Note, this process was developed primarily for skin tones and was tested on high resolution images (4000 by 2700 pixels). If might work well for other types of blown highlights. For lower resolution images you may want to reduce the amount of Gaussian Blur and Noise levels.

Here are three images showing before, during, and after. The "during" image shows the light gray target area ready for painting.

Kent C Forum Pro • Posts: 25,803
Re: Fix blown skin highs tutorial

Nice tutorial. I have long advocated going to grayscale first - something I did by accident originally Another thing that isn't evident so much in the image chosen is the 'neon outline' that occurs many times with blown faces that has to be included in the grayscale cover even though it has color pixels in it.

A followup that I do in place of using the healing brush if there isn't enough good skin texture, is to use Filter> texture> texturizer> sandstone at the lowest possible settings (and sometimes using the 'invert box' - "pores" - and getting the light direction the same as in the image) and then following with Edit> fade reduce even more to match adjacent skin texture. You can also tweak the hues in Selective Color addressing whites (even though it's gray) and neutrals - usually adding magenta, yellow and using the black slider to match luminance.

Thanks for posting this. Going in the archives.
--
Kent

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For prior discussions on most questions:
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or d/l 'archives' at:
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historical retouch dpr:
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Pictus
Pictus Veteran Member • Posts: 6,310
Re: Fix blown skin highs tutorial

Thank you!
I was looking for this stuff.

hiivari Regular Member • Posts: 177
Thank you

I tried this and works for me but only thing what I didn't understand/find was this.

5A. Layer/New/Layer. Select Mode:Soft Light and check "Fill with soft-light-neutral color"

This "Fill with soft-light-neutral-color"?

What you mean by this?

thanks!

GGB Senior Member • Posts: 1,526
Thanks! Appreciated. n.t.
-- hide signature --
Lynn Towns Senior Member • Posts: 1,111
Nice technique...

I used a different method of selecting the highlights, and I also added a Color Balance adjustment layer above the Layer Group to change her skin tones a little.

Original:

My version:

Lynn

Ronny Harris Veteran Member • Posts: 7,142
Works great! ...

That definetly needs to be Actionized!

Ronny

OP Redcrown Senior Member • Posts: 1,566
Re: Thank you

When you add a new layer with the menu Layer/New/Layer a dialogue box appears. The "Fill with 50% gray" option is not there until you change the "Mode" to Soft Light. Then a check box magically appears.

The 50% gray soft light layer is a common tool for lots of adjustments. Initially it does nothing to the image. But when you make changes it starts working.

A common use is dodge and burn. Paint on the layer with white (dodge) or black (burn) to get a much better effect than with the dodge/burn tool.

You can texturize such a layer, or add noise.

tbnj Contributing Member • Posts: 805
Great info. Thanks (nt)
-- hide signature --

Tina

millie morris New Member • Posts: 18
Re: Fix blown skin highs tutorial

thank you very much,it will be of great help....

selwynbr Senior Member • Posts: 1,491
Similar process

Sam B pointed me to a similar tutorial - link below. There is an action for the tutorial.

http://retouchpro.com/tutorials/index.php?m=show&id=144

Ronny Harris Veteran Member • Posts: 7,142
Re: Similar process

Sam's method basically points out where the blown highlights are so you can paint over them with a brush and a steady hand. Great method for an artist like Sam.

Redcrown's method selects out the blown highlights, turns them gray, then applies the paint with a click of the button. You can adjust it with the opacity on the levels adjustment layer and color picker on the Solid Color Adjustment layer. This method is great for an old Klutz like me!

Don't know if you have tried Redcrown's method yet but I find it better than sliced bread. You can set up an Action, like I did, that lays out the Layers for you. It's easy going from there. The levels layer is at 50% opacity and the 50% gray layer is in soft light mode but no noise applied yet. Next chance I get I will record making the texture layer a smart object.

I just duplicate and run the action. Then my screen looks like the following:

Thanks Redcrown.

Ronny

Ralph Ramirez Veteran Member • Posts: 7,056
Thanks Redcrown, saved in my archives......

Redcrown wrote:

Blown skin highlights is an unfortunate but common problem on
portraits that are otherwise well exposed. I've read and tried many
techniques with mixed results. So I developed this technique, using
the best steps I've found in the work of others. Would appreciate
feedback and improvements.

The process uses three common techniques. First it targets "blown"
highlights using the Threshold adjustment. Then it changes that
target area to a light neutral gray using Levels and Hue/Sat. Finally
it paints color over the target area.

1. First step is to find the blown highlights.

1A. Add a New Adjustment Layer/Threshold and set the Threshold Level
between 225 and 230. Start with 225.
1B. Select/Color Range and from the top drop down menu choose
"Highlights"
1C. Delete the Threshold layer, no longer needed. The selection
remains active and ready for the next step.

2. Next create a layer group to hold the following adjustments and
apply the selection as a mask to the group level so it applies to all
adjustments.

2A. Layer/New/Group.
2B. Add a Layer Mask to the Layer Group. The active selection from
step 1 will automatically become the layer mask.
2E. But that mask has a hard edge, so apply a Gaussian Blur to it.
The radius of the Gaussian Blur will depend on your image and its
resolution. Start with a radius between 15 and 20 and experiment.
2F. You might need to modify the mask by hand if there are areas
outside of the skin that are also over the 225 to 230 level. Watch
out for the whites of the eyes. Just paint those areas on the mask
with black.

3. Now we need to lower the level of the blown highlights. Later (in
step 4) we will apply color to the area, but the color layer will not
apply well to pure white, so we want to make the area a light gray.

3A. With the Layer Group selected, add a Levels adjustment layer and
set its opacity to 50%. In the Levels dialogue box, do not adjust the
"Input Levels" sliders as you normally do. Instead, adjust the
"Output Levels." Change the high output level from 255 to the same
level you used to create the Threshold Mask in Step 1, which was
between 225 and 230.
3B. Now add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to the group, and set
the Saturation to -100 to desaturate the area. Making the area
neutral gray allows the color painting that follows to work a little
better.

4. Now we are ready to fill the area with color.

4B. Add a new blank layer to the Layer Group with Layer/New/Layer,
and set the blending mode to "Color".
4C. Use the Eyedropper tool and click somewhere on the face to choose
a color. Click on a point outside of the adjustment area but close to
it.
4D. Fill the layer with this color, using Edit/Fill or the Paint
Bucket tool. If you don't like what you see, choose a different color
point and re-fill the layer. Experiment until you are satisfied.
4E. As an alternative to a solid fill, you can paint by hand. Select
a soft round brush. Alt-Click near, but outside the edge of the
adjustment area to pick a color. Then brush over the area. Keep
working around the edge, reselecting the color and painting until you
have filled the entire area. You can even do both. First, fill the
entire area as in step 4D, then paint by hand around the edges to
touch up.

5. These steps will restore tone and color. But there may be no
texture to the skin. No pores, no blemishes, probably a bit too
smooth. You can add some noise with this optional step for more
realistic looking skin.

5A. Layer/New/Layer. Select Mode:Soft Light and check "Fill with
soft-light-neutral color"
5B. Filter/Noise/Add Noise. Use a low Amount, between 5 and 10.
Uncheck the "monochrome" box, and play with "uniform" vs. "gaussian."
I think "uniform" works best.

6. In spite of the Gaussian Blur on the Threshold mask, the edges may
still be a bit too distinct for you. If so, you can clean them up
with the Clone or Healing Brush tools.

Note, this process was developed primarily for skin tones and was
tested on high resolution images (4000 by 2700 pixels). If might work
well for other types of blown highlights. For lower resolution images
you may want to reduce the amount of Gaussian Blur and Noise levels.

Here are three images showing before, during, and after. The "during"
image shows the light gray target area ready for painting.

Great technique and tutorial....Ralph

dloop Regular Member • Posts: 143
Re: Fix blown skin highs tutorial

I learned a lot from this tutorial. Thank you!!

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Paul Turton Contributing Member • Posts: 855
Thanks Redcrown! It works great as an action.

Thank you Redcrown.

I used your tutorial to put togehter an action that works well for me but others may want to tweak it to their liking.

http://www.iaw.on.ca/~pturton/dpr/fixblownskintones.zip

CS and CS2 users must turn off "Convert to Smart Object" which is the 3rd last line.

Ronny Harris Veteran Member • Posts: 7,142
Thanks Paul...

Now that does make it easy!!

Ronny

digitalphoto Senior Member • Posts: 1,140
Thanks Redcrown and Paul

This one is worthy of high praise. I feel very lucky Redcrown that you took the time to share and that Paul took the time to make an action.
--
http://www.pbase.com/char39/root
http://www.myspace.com/charlottelegath

WineO Veteran Member • Posts: 4,321
Re: Fix blown skin highs tutorial

Thanks to Redcrown and all who contributed. This is a good one to learn and will be put to good use.
Claude

OP Redcrown Senior Member • Posts: 1,566
Re: Fix blown skin highs tutorial

Thanks to all for comments and feedback on by "Fix Blown Skin" technique.

The technique posted by ByRo on RetouchPro was one that motivated me to develop an alternative. I had trouble painting on a "psychedelic" image, and learned from that technique that painting on white does not work very well.

Thanks to Paul Turton for posting an action. I wrote one too, but was too lazy to make it fit for publishing. Been trying to figure out a way to automatically pick a color for the fill as a first guess.

Thanks to Kent for suggesting a sandstone texture instead of just adding noise. That seems a little more effective in many cases.

And thanks to some other dpReview poster, whose name is long since lost, for pointing out the use of adjusting "Output" levels instead of "Input" levels on a Levels adjustment layer. I remember seeing that as part of a process to proof and prep for printing. Supposedly, most inkjet printers can't really print a tone above 230 or below 30. Adjusting output levels to these limits is supposed to give a more accurate proof and avoid banding on the print. But I admit to not following that advice.

elboertie2 Senior Member • Posts: 1,609
Thanks for this blown-skin tutorial Redcrown (nt)
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