The brush tool is one of the most powerful tools in Lightroom.
Today, I am going to show you four ways to smooth skin.
My son has agreed to let us use his image. I think it is really helpful to see the results on a teenage boy because natural results are so important to them.
I did not remove any blemishes prior to adding the skin smoothing. The results will be more effective with a little use of the healing brush, but I wanted to show the honest effects of the skin smoothing combinations, without added cloning or healing.
The flow was about 50% on the brush for this demonstration. Increasing the flow will increase the effects, but will also result in a more fake appearance. Work with a medium flow and build up the effect where needed for the most natural look.
****All of these images are sooc and have no additional editing applied.****
This is the area that was masked for this demonstration (50% flow, 100% feather, 100% density):
Before image of the masked area (zoomed in to 100%):
Method #1: Negative clarity
Here I lowered the brush clarity slider to -100. This often can result in strange haloing around areas of contrast, such as the nose and mouth. This is best on faces that are small in the frame, such as group photos. It can also lower the exposure slightly. Compensate for this darkening by upping the exposure slightly, if necessary. It can also result in color shifts, so keep an eye out for wayward tones.
Method #2: Gentle skin smoothing
This option lowers the brush to -63 clarity and ups the noise reduction slider to +80. This results in a softer look. It isn’t as aggressive at the negative clarity option, but it is also more natural looking for small wrinkles and larger pores. This is a great go-to option for general smoothing.
Method #3: Moderate skin smoothing
This option works to smooth skin by lower the contrast between tones. The clarity and noise reduction sliders are pulled back toward center from the last version, and a heavy dose of negative contrast is added in to the mix. This option will lighten skin a bit. Use the exposure slider to compensate if skin becomes too bright. This method doesn’t try to cover or hide imperfections, but instead helps to lower the contrast between the shade differences on the skin. This results in a very natural look with real skin texture. It is wonderful for wrinkles because it minimizes the shadows. You can also add in the shadows slider. This will brighten skin even more though, so plan to tweak with the exposure slider if necessary.
The brush settings for this option:
- -45 clarity
- + 31 noise reduction
- -81 contrast
- Optional: push the shadows slider to the right to push this effect farther (not shown)
Method #4: Ultimate skin smoothing
This option is the most dramatic. It adds in a heavy dose of negative sharpness. This method results in a plastic look that may or may not be suitable for your subject. This method is best used for stylized images where loss of skin texture is not an issue. Combine this method with the healing brush for a very smooth appearance. Watch out for areas of high contrast (mouth, eyes, etc.) and be careful to use a soft brush when painting around these areas to minimize a drastic transition.
- -75 contrast
- -67 clarity
- -63 sharpness
- +82 noise
And there you have 4 easy ways to smooth skin in Lightroom!