I think this is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get a nice portrait in Photoshop. Again, it isn’t beauty retouching. Unlike the Dreamy Glow effect this should 🙂 be a little more realistic. You can use the image here to start with or use one of your own.

Once you have the image open, duplicate it and then you are going to run the Surface Blur filter. If you are working with a version of Photoshop prior to CS2 you are going to have to use the Median filter, this filter isn’t quite as good as the Surface Blur filter but you should still be able to achieve a similar result. I’ve divided my image into two so that you can see what is going on – don’t you do this 🙂 unless you want to of course. You are looking to keep the lips, teeth, eyes to a certain degree – see image below. If you are working on the same image you can just punch in the same numbers.

Still working on the blurred layer, hold down the Alt key and click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette. This will make the mask black (hide all) which is exactly what we want, because we are going to brush back in the Surface Blur. Make sure your f/ground colour is set to white and you have a comfortable size soft edged brush – start painting back in the face avoiding the eyebrows, eyes, mouth and teeth. If you make a mistake, just switch your f/ground to black by pressing x key on the keybaord, fix it, press x again to switch back to white. If you want to make sure that you have painted back in every bit of blur, Hold down the Alt key and click on the mask this will give you a B&W version – see below – and you can fix it from there. Alt click on the mask to take it back to the normal view. I’ve taken the opacity of the surface blur layer down to 80%, you can choose whatever you want.

Normally, this is the time where you would start evening out the skin tones, but you’re not going to do that 🙂 Before you go any further, rename the layer you just did the surface blur on to ….. hmmm …. Surface Blur. Making sure that layer is active, hold the Alt key and click on the new layer icon at the bottom of the layers palette – a small dialogue box will appear.

If you don’t change the mode in the dialogue box, you won’t get the ‘Fill with soft light neutral colour 50% grey’ Now you’re going to pick a colour from the original b/ground to use on the face – so, with a soft edged brush selected hold down the Alt key and the brush will change to the eyedropper tool – once you have the colour selected just release the Alt key to go back to the brush. I used R-192 G-141 B-121. This is going to look terrible when you first brush it on – panic not – just dial the opacity of the layer down to about 40%. You will have to be quite careful with this layer, remember you are not working on a mask. The image below has the opacity at 100% and is not completely covered so that you can see what is happening. Turn the opacity down and complete the skin.

The image below shows the completed colour with the opacity at 40%

You can try some things now, like reducing the opacity of the surface blur layer … if you are using this image try about 55% and you could stop here if you wanted to – but there is more. Leave the opacity of the surface blur layer at 80% for the moment and the colour layer at 40%. All skin has some texture in it and you are going to replace some of the texture that was wiped out with the surface blur filter. Hold down the Alt key and press on the new layer icon at the bottom of the layers palette – fill out the little dialogue box as you did earlier. Now go to Filter>Noise>Add Noise and use 5, Uniform, Monochromatic – press OK to accept. Now go to Filter>Stylize>Emboss and try an angle of -90, height 15, amount 100%. Next go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and on this particular image try a radius of 0.5 pixels. And there you have the texture for the new skin. Once you are happy with the portrait, flatten the image duplicate the layer change the blend mode to overlay and sharpen with the High Pass Filter – Alt click on the layer mask icon to get an inverted mask (black – hide all) and with a soft edged brush, brush back in the areas you want sharp.

Try different opacity levels for the surface blur layer and the texture layer. I’ve gone ahead and lowered the opacity of the colour layer to 20%, left the blur and texture layers at 80% then used seperate layers created in the same way as you did before but without clipping them with the previous layer, to burn the eyebrows, eyelashes, eye makeup and hair – then did the same to use some dodge on the eyes and hair.

You could also use another layer to slightly sharpen the image overall to give the skin a less blurred look, as I have in the image below.