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Tips & Tricks

Photoshop Skin Retouching | How to Micro Dodge & Burn with Curves

By Brittany Smith on July 23rd 2017

Beauty retouching is an art. There is a common order in which the retouch is typically handled: clean the skin, micro dodge/burn, global dodge/burn, color grading. The beauty lies within these steps as there are various methods of each that deliver a fantastic result.

We here at at SLR Lounge have become quite the fans of photographer and retoucher Zoë Noble, and she has released a new retouching video focusing on the micro dodging and burning component of the workflow. Like many retouchers, she also uses two separate curves adjustment layers with an inverted black layer mask as an added safety net in case the retouch goes too far. The way she uses the curves adjustment layers is what sets her method apart.

Rather than setting the blend mode of the curves layer to luminosity, Zoë sets the blend mode normal. This, in addition to her gradual buildup by means of repeating the subtle dodge/burn layers, is what differentiates her workflow from numerous other tutorials out there.

Zoë creates a separate group consisting of a hue/saturation layer set to -100 as well as a separate curves layer. The lack of color information allows the focus to remain on the areas of tonal shifts that need attention. With the blending mode of the curves layer set to screen, it will help identify the darker areas that need attention while the blending mode set to multiply will help reveal the brighter areas.

A separate hue/adjustment layer is created on top of the individual dodge/burn layers to reverse the tonal shifts. This can be clipped onto the individual curves adjustment layer by holding down the alt/opt key and then clicking the layer below it. This ensures that the desaturation only has an effect on the areas that were dodged or burned below it.

There are several key takeaways from this tutorial. The first is the creating of two separate brush presets; one that is specifically for using a tablet as well as  one for retouching sans tablet. The main thing to take away is when Zoë explains the importance of following the facial bones when dodging and burning. This keeps a level of authenticity and realism in the final image.

You can subscribe to Zoë’s YouTube channel here.

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Brittany is a fashion and beauty photographer who works between NYC, Montana and LA. She photographs the way she has always wanted to feel and believes in the power of raw simplicity. When not behind a camera she can usually be found at a local coffeeshop, teaching fitness classes at the YMCA, or baking something fabulous in the kitchen.
Instagram: @brittanysmithphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Royi

    Her voice is so great, love it. Really great guide.

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