4 ways to smooth skin in Lightroom

  • 4 ways to smooth skin in lightroom by Caroline Jensen

4 ways to smooth skin in Lightroom

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.****

Unedited image:

4 ways to smooth skin in lightroom by Caroline Jensen

This is the area that was masked for this demonstration (50% flow, 100% feather, 100% density):

4 ways to smooth skin in lightroom by Caroline Jensen

Before image of the masked area (zoomed in to 100%):

4 ways to smooth skin in lightroom by Caroline Jensen

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.

4 ways to smooth skin in lightroom by Caroline Jensen

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.

4 ways to smooth skin in lightroom by Caroline Jensen

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.

This method does not work well on heavily shadows faces. Use a method without the contrast adjustment on portraits in split or Rembrandt lighting. You may also create various masks for different areas of the face if you wish to customize the negative contrast effect.

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)

4 ways to smooth skin in lightroom by Caroline Jensen

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.

Brush settings:

  • -75 contrast
  • -67 clarity
  • -63 sharpness
  • +82 noise

4 ways to smooth skin in lightroom by Caroline Jensen

And there you have 4 easy ways to smooth skin in Lightroom!





About the Author:

Caroline Jensen, a Sony Associate Artisan of Imagery, is a photographic artist living on the prairie. Her favorite things include cozy nights in front of her natural wood fireplace, an expansive tea collection, and read alouds with her children. Photography is her expressive outlet and features emotive black and white portraiture, unique macro work, colorful landscapes and food photography. Her gear includes her Sony a7s II, vintage lenses, and her favorite Lensbaby lenses that express her photographic voice perfectly. She has been featured in the magazines: Dreamer Journal, Sony Alpha Universe, and numerous times in Click magazine.. Visit Caroline Jensen online.


  1. Monica N. Aug 02 2014 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing these tips! I recently had a couple of sessions with teens that had mild to moderate acne, and I wish I had these tips while editing. I may go back and re-edit some virtual copies just to try these.

  2. Michal F Aug 04 2014 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    Just set up my new brushes! Thanks for the tips!

  3. AnnaVanDemark Aug 18 2014 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much, Caroline! I’m just catching up on blog reading after a vacation and found this post to be super helpful. This summer, I switched to Lightroom from Aperture, so I’ve had a lot to learn. I’ll be putting these tips into practice!

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