Neil December 4th, 2008
Following in the footsteps of my retouching tutorials:
I know these are written to a more abstract level and so today I’d like to provide a more hands-on experience and so I have posted this L*A*B* colorspace photoshop file for you to download. There are eleven layers in this file, from the starting image, on up through the finished look.
Let’s dig in
The original image was posted in a retouch thread I was participating in and was not shot by me. Sometimes I find using an image in which I am not invested so heavily in it’s creation, frees me to respond more clearly to the image elements for retouching. Consider a stock image, if you are doing the assignment:
Take a high key image, and manipulate it to a low-key image. Then revel in your new understanding, and sense of accomplishment for such a dramatic change. Reflect on your feelings about the image in it’s differing stages…. your resistance to some changes, and your acceptance of others – this is the path of your creativity.
The Retouch Tutorial in LAB colorspace
So to begin we have a high-key image.
I start my image retouching workflow with the ONE ACTION, that gives me a ‘shaping step’ allowing me to manipulate the overall contrast and the contour of any of the various sized shapes in the image. The action also loads up a basic set of adjustment layers because specific dodging and burning with image specific curves are how I get at the heart of my retouching goals.
The shadow side of the subject’s back seems blotchy and too dark so I duplicate my layer, apply spot specific retouch with the healing/clone lasso and adjust the layer with a lightening curve. I mask the layer out using +F6 (for those using the ONE ACTION set) and paint in the area I need softened.
Meditating further on the overall tone, the lips seem too light. I would like them to balance closer with the cheeks so I create a curves adjustment layer and darken the dark point and light point. That looks too flat so I put two points between the endpoints giving it an S curve. The pink was added by inserting a midpoint in the A* Channel and raising it a couple points.
As I started out my retouch without any big assumptions, I wasn’t intending to completely reverse the tonality of this image. But in the moment I was in, I didn’t appreciate the coldness next to the pink of the cheeks, it seemed to add coldness to the image. So I went about giving the image a warm tint by editing the B* Channel. I added a midpoint to the curve and raised it a few points, I changed the endpoints of the curve to lower overall contrast in the B* Channel so that the yellow created was by no means a saturated hue.
To accentuate and smooth the highlights for the glamourous look I used a basic Gaussian Overlay layer. To get the effect, start a new layer – Photoshop Menu item “Image –> Apply Image” with the settings:
- Layer: Merged
- Channel: Lab
- Target (double check that it’s your new layer)
- Blending: Normal
- This will have created a layer that looks like everything you’ve done
- Photoshop Menu “Filter –> Blur –> Gaussian Blur”
- Select a size of 10-20 pixels
Change the layer mode to soft light and pull back the opacity 80% or to taste for your image. The F1 command in the ONE ACTION workflow, will set this up for you – you should run it after you’ve retouched the majority of the elements of your image, as the final smoothing kiss.
The warm, golden touched image above is nice, but the bright highlight on the side of the subject’s face and shoulder seem to be distracting me. The ‘presence’ of the image flows from the subject’s penetrating eyes. SO, I go to my collection of textures looking for answers….
Grabbing a quick Beautiful Blur, I drop it in and change the layer blending mode to COLOR, allowing for the luminosity (lightness or darkness) to flow from the underlying image – but all color to emanate from the COLOR layer. Above is a close up of the resulting look. One layer is not regularly enough when it comes to achieving sophisticated color, so I dove back into my collections and grabbed a darker image from the Organic Vignette set (still being developed) and applied it with a layer mode of multiply.
The result of the blurry and colorful image set to multiply is seen here. To help you visualize what kind of images work well as texture overlays, shown here is the image used in Multiply mode.
While interestingly flat in contrast, I feel the urge to give it a slight boost, and so I follow that creative urge with another adjustment layer. As I paint I paint with the intent to make light real.
Notice the S curve adjusting the highlights – painted in with my pressure sensitive Wacom tablet I achieve a touch of contrast across the subject’s near cheek, forehead, eyes, near shoulder, and nape of the neck.
The light becomes real as I have understood the suggestive power of darkness – my creative urge feels calmed and satisfied.
Here’s a good look at it in a screen filling size:
Thanks for reading, I hope this tutorial enlightens your understanding and creative path.
These Elements were used in the making of this image: