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We’ve all seen the beautiful, airbrushed people on magazine covers and wondered how their skin can look so perfectly polished. The porcelain skin effect doesn’t require thousands of dollars of studio lights and hours of editing, but can actually be done with just a few simple steps in Photoshop.

Even if your subject already has smooth, flawless skin, this tutorial can help bring an extra touch of brightness and polish to their face.

Start by opening your portrait in Photoshop. You can use either a portrait shot in a studio or one shot using natural light. This works best when your subject is placed against a darker background because the contrast will help make the subject’s face and skin stand out as the focus of the image.

Go to Select>Color Range, and you’ll see an editor box pop up.

Click on Skin Tones in the drop down menu, then click the Detect Faces box. Use the slider until you’ve selected all of the skin in the photo. Don’t worry if it you end up selecting more than just the face – you’ll be able to darken those areas later.

Click OK, and you’ll see dashed lines surrounding the selected areas.

Then go to Select>Save Selection. Once you’ve saved the selection, go to Select>Deselect.

Click on the small black and white circle in the bottom right corner to create a new adjustment layer. Select Solid Color.

A Color Picker editor box will pop up. Select pure white, in the top left corner, and click OK.

Then, in the drop down menu next to the opacity setting, select Soft Light.

Then go to Layer>Layer Style>Blending Options. An editing box will pop up. Select Soft Light in the Blend Mode drop down menu. Hold down Alt and drag the right half of the marquee tool, located underneath Underlying Layer, most of the way to the right, until your subject’s face has a bright glow. Don’t worry about the effect being too drastic – you’ll tweak it in the next few steps. Click OK.

Then, use the opacity setting to adjust the brightness effect. Focus on the effect in your subject’s face. You’ll darken the background next.

Duplicate the Color Fill by double clicking on the layer, and selecting Duplicate Layer.

Select both of the layers, right click on the selection and select Create Group. Then go to Select>Load Selection, and click on the selection you saved earlier.

Add a layer mask by clicking on the rectangle with the black circle inside of it, located in the bottom right corner. Check the two boxes in the bottom left corner, and make sure the foreground is set to black. Then select the brush tool and brush over the background, and everything that you don’t want to have the porcelain effect.

Hold down Alt and click on the small photo icon in the layers panel to switch the image to black and white. Make sure everything except for the skin is shaded in black, and brush over any parts you missed.

Zoom in on your subject’s face to fill the screen. Using the brush tool, darken the eyes, lips and eyebrows. Turn down the opacity and bring some shadows back into the subject’s face, following their natural bone structure.

Tweak the effect until your subject’s skin is shining through the screen.


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