How to Match Skin Tone in Photoshop?

You have a photo where the subject is wearing a beautiful off-the-shoulder sundress that your client wants to promote. She has tan lines on her shoulders that will distract the viewer from the dress. How can you match the skin tone of the untanned skin with the tanned skin? Our Photoshop tutorial will show you how.

Things to Consider When Matching Skin Tones

  1. The sun exposure level. This determines whether or not there’s any difference between the two tones. If they’re both exposed equally, then it doesn’t matter what color you use. However, if one side was more heavily exposed than the other, then you’ll need to make sure that the darker area matches up as closely as possible.
  2. What kind of lighting is used? A flash light source would be much different than natural sunlight. You may want to consider using a high key technique instead of a low key.
  3. Is this just a single shot or part of a series? In some cases, you might want to keep the original image and simply add another layer on top of it. Then you could apply whatever adjustments you like without affecting the underlying layers.
  4. Are these areas going to appear together again later in the shoot? For example, maybe she’s standing next to someone who also has tan lines. Or perhaps she’s sitting down at a table with people around her. It’s best to avoid matching colors when those elements come into play.
  5. Do you plan on doing anything else to the image after removing the tan line? Maybe you’d like to change the background so that it looks less distracting.
  6. Does the person look good either way?

Cleaning the Skin Tone Using Healing Brushes

The first step is to create a selection for each section of the body that needs work. Use the magic wand tool. Click once inside the area that needs attention, hold Shift while pressing the mouse button, and click repeatedly until all of the unwanted pixels are selected. Press Ctrl+A/Cmd+A to select everything within the selection. Now press Delete to remove them. Paste the copied merged file onto a separate layer above the rest of the image. Rename the layer “healing”.

Cleaning the Skin Tone Using Healing Brushes

Now we’re ready to clean things up! Create a new layer below the existing layer called “skin” and name it “new_layer”. Select the Brush Tool. Set its size to about 50% larger than the largest area of the problem. Choose an appropriate soft round brush such as Round Radial Gradient 2px. Change the opacity setting to something like 30%. Start painting over the offending spots. Don’t worry too much about getting every last bit out; you don’t really need to get rid of all of the old paint. Just concentrate on making the new stuff blend smoothly with the surrounding skin. Once you’ve finished, go back through your selections and delete the ones that aren’t needed anymore. Save your project.

If you have trouble selecting the right spot, you can always zoom in close and see where the edges meet. That should help you find the exact place to begin.

Using the Curves Adjustment Tool

You can correct problems caused by uneven exposure by adjusting the curves. This will allow you to adjust the overall brightness level of the entire photo. To access the curve adjustment tools:

  1. Open the Levels dialog box from the Window menu. The default settings are fine unless there are extreme differences between highlights and shadows.
  2. Drag the black point slider left or right to increase or decrease the amount of shadow detail. This will make the dark parts darker or lighter depending on how far you drag.
  3. Drag the white point slider left or right. This will affect the lightest details in the picture.

You’ll probably notice that the changes made to the levels adjustment seem to only affect one color channel. To fix this, open the curves window again and adjust the other two channels independently.

Adjusting Color Balance

Open the Hue Saturation dialog box from the Edit Menu. You may want to set the saturation level to zero if the photo already seems overly saturated.

Adjusting Color Balance

Drag the sliders to balance the red, green, blue, and yellow components of the image. Try not to move the hue too far toward purer hues because they tend to be more difficult to recover later.

When you’re done adjusting the colors, save your document.

Using Multiple Adjustments Layers

This method works best when using multiple adjustments layers instead of just one. It’s easier to control which areas receive different amounts of correction at once rather than having to correct each part individually.

Using Multiple Adjustments Layers

To add another adjustment layer:

  1. Name the layer whatever you’d like. For example, let’s call it “Color Correction.”
  2. Double-click the top most layer to bring up the Properties panel for that layer. Click OK to accept the current values.
  3. Go ahead and click OK again so that the next step is applied to both layers.
  4. Now select the Layer Mask icon. A mask appears around the entire image.
  5. With the Magic Wand selected, click inside the masked area. All pixels within the selection become transparent. Anywhere else becomes opaque.
  6. Use the Brush tool, Paint Bucket tool, or Eraser tool to fill the empty space with some neutral gray.
  7. When you finish filling the canvas, press Ctrl+D/⌘-I to deselect everything. Press Alt+Ctrl+A/Option+Command+A to merge the active layer into its parent group.
  8. Select the original layer and rename it “Original”.
  9. Repeat steps 4–8 until all the corrections are complete.
  10. Finally, name the final layer something descriptive, such as “Final” or “Done!”

Conclusion

We’ve taken you through the steps to create an easy way to remove unwanted elements from photos without Photoshop’s built-in tools. We hope these tips have helped!

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