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question about gaussian blur skin smooting

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  • question about gaussian blur skin smooting

    Hello all,

    I'm a first time poster in this forum. I've read with great interest many of your posts/threads. My question and help requested is geared towards facial retouching.

    I'm a professional photographer that took the digital plunge about 1 year ago with the Canon D30. Nice camera as long as your understand its limitations and work around them. Camera has long since paid for itself. Will wait for Canon to come out with a larger pixel 1D maybe by next year for my next investment.

    I have been doing my own retouching since last spring. I learned a technique for retouching (after cloning out the zits and other blemishes) that includes masking off the entire face except the features etc....then performing the gaussian blur at about 20 and fading the gaussian blur to about 30-40%. Works great...take a long time to mask. Then along came another gentleman that told me don't use your whole life up masking. He showed me a better way... Select the whole face, features and all, blur, fade the blur for the whole face and then erase the features. Makes sense. Ok, both methods work fine, BUT, what I've notice in the 6 months i've been doing this is that when I blur and fade the skin looks great, but the contrast is lower on the blur layer. Then to compensate, I've went in and pumped up the contrast and backed off on the brightness. Sometimes, around the eyebrows it looks as though outside of them or "underneath" like it is lighter and you can tell slightly that "something" was done there. Am I missing something in my technique, a step perhaps, that would make the erasure of the blur on the features blend more naturally? Maybe many of you have encountered this long ago and long since moved beyond it, but I'm looking for the best and fastest way to deal with it. Thanks for your help! This is a most interesting forum!

  • #2
    Hi Jon,
    Welcome to Retouch Pro. Glad you enjoyed the forums and seem to have gotten alot of valuable info out of them.

    Now, I have never used the technique you are are refering to but
    I do see a couple potential flaws that might be causing your problem. Whenever you have a layer that you only want certain parts to be exposed you are alot better off using a layer mask than using the eraser tool. It gives you so much more control since you can go back later and paint back areas you may have painted out by mistake where the eraser is pretty much permanent.

    To apply a layers mask, go to Layers > Layer Mask > Reveal All. Now you have a layer mask. If you paint with black it's like using the eraser but if you erase too much you can paint with white to bring it back. (Note- If you hit hide all it hides your layer and you use white to paint in the parts you want to show. Use this if you have a small area of the layer to show through.)

    Another problem you may be having is when you use the eraser, you may be using it a 100% along the edges causing to sharp of an edge which makes the transition very visible. Even with the layer mask you might want to soften the edges so it won't be such a visible line between the unaffected area and the area you are working on. You can set your brush at a lower percentage opacity and make sure you use a soft edge brush.

    I think your technique sounds great and something I think I will give a try. Sure hope this helps you.


    • #3
      Hi DJ,

      Thanks for the warm welcome. This seems like such a very, friendly forum. Nice to know they still exist! I have used the quick mask before so I'm familiar with that method. I will have to explore the layer mask method. It probably seems more labor intensive, but I would guess that it produces better results. I also need to step up my pace when retouching...I tend to lay back and get a little lazy with TV going and such. I know I can pick up the pace. And in my business, time is money. I hope to pick up other tips on other sites and drop them in as long as they are germane to the topic. I have a wonderful method that is very exact for printing out wallets in PS if anyone is interested. Thanks for your helpful advice DJ!

      Here is one sample of my retouching of a young lady with a complexion problem.


      • #4
        Hi Jon
        The sample image looks great. It's very professional looking. You do excellent retouching work. She's really a very pretty girl. I bet she was totally thrilled with the results. It's tough being a teen but with acne it's even tougher.

        The layer mask is really no more work than using the eraser tool except that you will have more control. It may seem a little daunting to use at first but once you use them you will wonder how you ever did with out them. There are lots of tutorials on the web and alot are listed in this sites links area. You should be able to get lots of info on how to do layer masks. Alot better than any instructions I can give for sure.

        When you activate a layer mask you will see the little brush icon in your layers palette turn from a brush to a circle and a box will appear on the layer itself. To get out of the layer mode in that layer just click the layer outside the mask box and a brush will appear in the little icon box to the left of the layer. To return to the mask mode just click on the mask box inside the layer palette layer and a circle will replace the brush. It's important to know this or you may end up painting white or black on your layer when you mean to use the mask. Something I learned the hard way.

        As to your printing tip, I think that would be a great tip to add to the Input / Output section of the forum. That area deals with printing methods. I know there would be alot of people interested in a tip like that. Printing is not easy so any help we can get is a real God send.


        • #5
          Very nice work, she looks lovely.

          I think DJ gave you some good advice, especially about using a layer mask, and the correct brush.



          • #6
            Hi Jon

            Welcome to a really helpful web site. I am no professional by any stretch of the imagination, but I used your technique with a soft eraser for a while now. I always liked the results. I just tryed DJ's method. Boy DJ that really works good. I've fooled with layer masks but never felt comfortable with them. I think both of you have given some really useful info.



            • #7
              Hi Jon,

              Welcome to RetouchPRO! And nice job on that retouch!

              I don't have any other tips for you - I use the technique that DJ described (though I'm not a professional.) I think it might be a little more to think about the first couple of times you try it, but once you get the hang of it (and it's really pretty simple), it will go quite quickly - and give you a lot more control.

              Good luck and let us know how it goes! (And you might want to look at the submissions for the retouching challenge here. You may find some useful tips in the descriptions that go along with the challenge.)



              • #8
                Welcome aboard Jon. DJ won't steer you wrong! Use layer masks for a short time, and you'll never understand how you got along without them. I think you'll get your questions answered in short time on this site. There are a lot of very friendly and helpful people here. There are even some who know what they're talking about (myself excluded)!



                • #9
                  Thanks guys for the ego boost.

                  Thanks Jerry. It wasn't that long ago that I thougt layer masks were hard to comprehend and I avoided them. Maybe it was the thought of painting with color (black and white) that went against my understanding where the eraser was something I could definately comprehend. So I decided I really needed learn layer masks and now I wonder how I ever thought they were hard to comprehend. Glad you had success with them.


                  • #10
                    A big thank you!

                    Thanks everyone for making a guy feel really welcomed! It's nice being part of community where the purpose is to help others succeed and further the cause of retouching. I will be visited this forum alot in the near future. There is an abundance of great information on this site and many diverse areas in which to find it. Thanks again everybody and have a great week!

                    And I will incorporate the layer mask technique into my workflow....Like anything, sometimes it's hard to break old habits.


                    • #11
                      That's great. If you have any troubles with getting used to layer masks you can always ask questions. As you can see we are a pretty friendly bunch and eager to lend a helping hand.


                      • #12
                        Alternatives to consider

                        Hey Jon...

                        Late to the party (just finished working on my TAXES!), so a belated welcome, too.

                        I, too, am a hearty supporter of layer mask techniques. Once I started using them, I felt I'd discovered an exceptionally flexible (and non-destructive) method for experimenting w/o screwing up an original layer!

                        In addition to the selective application using black and white as DJ noted above, you can also use the opacity and blend mode settings to further fine tune the effects of the layer (with the layer mask) and the layers below it. Just what you need, right? More options, more flexibility.

                        Besides painting white or black on a regular layer mask (I normally "airbrush" B or W for feathering/blending purposes vs. the hard edge one with get with a regular paintbrush), one can use the same techniques on adjustment layers as well. Doing so enables one to selectively apply "the adjustment" to layers below.

                        To illustrate with a not-very-practical example:
                        1. Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer on top of any color layer.
                        2. Drag the Saturation slider to the far left, resulting in a grayscale image.
                        3. Now choose the airbrush tool (pressure: 25%-35% or so) and a fairly large, soft-edged brush set to black.
                        4. Start painting on the adjustment layer...
                        See how the color starts coming back (or more accurately, how the black suppresses the desaturation effect) on the layer below? Works the same with any adjustment layer. It's a great way, for example, to bump up the saturation of lips and eyes w/o affecting the rest of the face.

                        OK...enough on layer masks. You're probably tired of the pitch by now.

                        Back to blurring, for $200, Alex.

                        A couple other filters that are in the same ballpark as Gaussian Blur, but achieve slightly different affects with varying degrees of control are:
                        * Blur/Smart Blur (tries to retain edges while blurring the rest, with varying degrees of success)
                        * Noise/Median (ditto)
                        * Noise/Dust and Scratches (a different spin on smoothing)
                        Depending on your needs the effects you're trying to achieve, these may (or may not) come in handy in your blurring arsonel.

                        Anyway...good luck and again welcome aboard.


                        • #13
                          Thanks loads Danny. That is one area that I could use as a real tool to my workflow....selectively work on a given area, like in your example of just the lips. I can see myself needing a tool like that alot...rather than use the selection tool to temporarily work on an area. I enjoy working with a bunch of bright, creative and enthusiastic people like this group!

                          The journey is the reward..........Steven Jobs


                          • #14
                            the light just came on

                            As some of you know, I've been confused by masks for quite some time. Well after reading this discussion and following some of the examples, the lights finally came on and I think I see what you all have been talking about!!

                            Thanks for your patience!



                            • #15
                              Hey good for you Margaret. It was the same way for me too. One day all of a sudden the lights came on and they were easy to deal with. After that, I use them in everything. They are powerful tools and well worth the efforts to better understand.
                              Danny's post illustrates just how flexible layer masks can be. He really explains things well so they are easy to understand.


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