Simple artistic photo retouching tip and resources


Learn photographic Lighting

The trick to doing artistic photo retouching effects is to keep them simple.

In this image, I used an An image from my Organic Vignette package to bring a slight dreamy quality to the image.

I knew what I was looking for when I started, but let me outline the art theory principles behind what I ‘saw’ in my minds eye before I completed the image.


First, hue I knew that I wanted to blend and tie in the warm yellow skin tones, and the blues/purples of the grooms suit and boutonnière. The dreamlike quality of the image comes from the blended and smudged look of the tonalities so their close relationship in Hue is very important. The clever part of my texture sets is their interrelationships within the close Hue relationships-here that close relationship is yellow to orange, with a vignette in the complementary color of blue. Here is the sample image form the texture set for you to see what it looked like:

Organic Vignette Texture Set by Make Light Real


If you notice carefully there is a rim of natural light on the bride’s right cheek – the sunshine was coming through trees near sunset, and the bride and groom had their backs to it. So the overall contrast in the luminance of this photo is not very high – that’s good for applying a lighting effect or texture…because you can trick the viewer more easily. So it’s important to note that I’m starting with an image basically lit by open shade…nice and soft. The Hue of the overlay image is important because I want a unified color theme – but also because it creates a brighter spot of sunlight (of sorts) on her dress. That dapple of bright highlight where her hair ends and the semicircle of her necklace dips rounds out the counterpoint of her smile in the composition.  The rest of the image’s contrast is burned down by the vignette pushing the viewer’s attention to the warm emotional embrace, and the warm sunshine dappled across their embrace.

The simple steps to getting this done in Photoshop is to use a “Hard Light” layer of somewhere between 15-25%.  You want to look to smudge the tones, but not make the texture file in any way prominent to the main  image’s subject matter.

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Vintage Pinup and Boudoir Retouching tutorial

Vintage Pinup and Boudoir Retouching

tutorial is sponsored by the generously donated pinup images of Kelly @ Bay Area Pinups

This is some of the fun vintage effects achieved with the Vintage packages, video guide after the jump:

Vintage Pinup and Boudoir Retouching tutorial


Vintage Multiple Choice Photoshop Action Set

The Vintage Multiple Choice action produces 11 layers for you to blend into your vintage style.

Vintage Multiple Choice Action Set

The action does not produce automatic results, it’s up to you to finesse the options – but it’s results have an authentic antique, vintage and aged print look.

Who is this action for?

Intermediate to Advanced Photoshop users looking for a starting point for authentic, malleable vintage effects.

How does this action work?

The action produces 11 layers for you to blend and interact with giving you  285311670611 possible combinations for your photo styling pleasure! You can use the layer masks and layer blending modes to reach the creative potential of your images.  The action set is a palette of paints for you to finesse into your masterpiece, it is not a shortcut but a workflow.  If you are really interested in the vintage look, you’ll want to distress the image in custom ways so that it looks aged differently on different parts of the photo.

Here is a series of screenshots of the eleven example layers – first is the original image for reference as you see the changes:

Original Image for reference

^ original image – return for comparisions ^

soft light blended smoothing - Vintage photoshop action

The soft light smoothing layer is a basic retouch method that nearly everyone’s familiar with, it’s at the bottom.

simple vintage BW - Vintage photoshop action

The Simple Vintage B+W layer is one of 6 custom curve layers operating in the LAB color space.  You can quickly paint in a little black into your layer mask to provide a variably aged look.

reddened antique layer - Vintage photoshop action

The reddened antique curve layer complements the green layer below it – if you are hoping to provide a vintage color look, the emulsions of prints tend to fade either red or green – you can custom mix them by local area or overall tonality (see green layer).

funktifier green - Vintage photoshop action

The funktifier green layer has a tone-map auto loaded.  A tone map is a layer mask that uses the same lightness values as the image, providing a green tone to the shadows of the image.  You can alter your tone map with a curve, or you can alter the curve adjustment layer to alter the hue or saturation of the green.

muted bleached sepia - Vintage photoshop action

Muted and bleached Sepia layer which lightens your shadow zones and mutes(darkens) your highlights to a ruddy sepia color.  This is your basic faded sepia look that you can dial in and customize for your image.  Double click the curve adjustment layer to open it and operate with the surgical artistic destiny of your intuition.

light leak option - Vintage photoshop action

Lens Leak layer 1 – Pay attention here folks, this is a trick to mimic the light leaks on film from old or leaky bellows.  It takes into consideration your image as it builds the effect.

lens leak option - Vintage photoshop action

Light Leak option 2 – a stronger effect of the light leak – blend it into your image for that variable look that the years of aging produce.

bleached shadows color - Vintage photoshop action

Bleached shadows color layer – this layer mimics a light bleaching of the print, a delicate darkroom process that would take you a few months to master if you were doing this 10 years ago.  It’s also an effect of the aging emulsion, so build up your taste for the effects of aging by looking at plenty of old pictures.  Good taste makes good pictures – not actions.

basic low color warm - Vintage photoshop action

Basic low color desaturation layer.

vintage film grain layer - Vintage photoshop action

Grain texture layer.

Automatic texture layer - Vintage photoshop action

Vintage texture layer @100% – mix in to taste – this is an auto generated texture, so I suggest a light hand.  Custom textures are included in the Vintage Master package.

Here’s the results of my custom vintage processing of these two example images

Powerful film-noir style bridal portrait photographer

My creative intentions were to capitalize on the dramatic eye contact and the sparkle of that ROCK.  To do so, I went completely black in the shadows, but kept them a warm, chocolaty black, the major desaturation is matched with a slight warm highlight hue – making the overall image nearly a duotone – one highlight value, and one shadow value.  I worked to channel the feminine power in the gaze, into the tonality and impression of the entire image.

Vintage style fashion bridal portrait North Carolina

Completely opposite in tone and intention, I felt the feminine grace of this pose and chose to follow that direction in my retouching.  Whereas the ring shot was sharpened by an increase in contrast this image was softened by gaussian blur and custom texture overlay from the Beautiful Blurs Volume 2.  I used the blur to focus attention on the back of the dress and hairpiece.  Overall this image never gets to completely black, and the highlights buzz with a soft lightening texture.

I hope this discussion is valuable to you as you seek to find the expression in your images.

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Regarding the light and retouching skin

This post in the forums at Model Mayhem caught my eye because it stressed light, even in skin retouching. – Understanding Skin Retouching Regarding LIGHT

First of all, Im only trying to help…. not hinder. Im addressing the small amount of people who want to learn more about the core of retouching, not how quick and easy it is….cause it is NOT.

Countless times this topic arises. Countless techniques. Impatience always prevails.

1) QUALITY skin retouching takes TIME. No quick software filters or 4-step technique applies to everything. Please reread this sentence for as long as it takes to sink in.

2) TEXTURE is about how the LIGHT affects the surface. Understand what that means  and you can understand the techniques behind pros and amateurs alike.

What do I mean about light?

ZOOM in close. For every bump, or pimple….there is DARK side of it and a LIGHT side of it. For every large pore, the same holds true.

The direction of the light determines which side is which. The “softness” of the light we use in photography determines the contrast between the DARK and LIGHT. This is why softboxes placed close to the model produces a more pleasing skin texture. Those of you who shoot with strobes or hard light will see skin texture more pronounced.


The professional retoucher’s technique is to “Lighten” the DARK sides and to “Darken” the LIGHT sides — which produces and more consistent skin texture. Often they work at the pixel level with a 2px brush. VERY Meticulous, VERY time consuming. For most of us, a 4px or 5px brush would suffice.

Continue to MM to read the three great techniques using layer modes and painting the light in

Skin Smoothing Photoshop Actions

Skin smoothing photoshop action for perfect portraits and beauty retouching

Eye of the muse : retouch deconstructed

If you shot this image – would you find something in it?

Image before Retouch

Photo Courtesy of Shane Snyder photojournalist

Golden Touch Monochrome: free sepia style photoshop action

Golden Touch Monochrome: free sepia style photoshop action

Golden Touch Monochrome

Golden Touch - Sepia Photoshop action download


Catching the color blue, photoshop tutorial

I realized again how much I love the color blue when VFXY had a blue theme week.

Ever wonder why blue is such a wonderful color?

Blue is the hardest color for camera sensors to capture, and the hardest color for CMYK printers to print.

So how we deal with it in Photoshop is of utmost importance.

We’re sitting here on this beautiful blue jewel hanging in the galaxy, wouldn’t it be great if you captured some of that uniqueness in your images?

If you’d like to continue learning about the possibilities to accentuate and control the blue channel, purchase the Beautiful Blues Screen cast Training video.

photoshop tutorial video