Photoshop Methods #1: Softening Lines and Wrinkles

Okay, so thought I would do something a bit different: a tutorial! If people seem to find them helpful then I will do more tutorials in the future. First, let me state that I am not an expert in Photoshop. I have learned what I know by trial and error, experimenting, and watching videos.

My first tutorial is how to soften fine lines and wrinkles in portraits. I learned this method from just experimenting. There are many ways to do the same thing in photoshop, and this is only one way. I am not saying it is the best way, but it is the way I usually prefer because it looks natural.

I do not always want to soften lines, sometimes I like them, but this particular example is a portrait that a person may want to use as a family orientated shot. Think along the lines of wallets, a 5×7, or an 8×10. A photograph one would give to family members and friends.

For my example, I am going to use a shot I took of my parents this past weekend. Specifically, I will be showing you how I soften the lines in my dad’s face. I love my dad just the way he is, but I want to soften him up just a bit for this image.

Here is the finished shot:


Now I am going to zoom in on Dad’s face to show you the “before.” This is the Raw file and nothing has been done to it at all. It is straight from the camera.

dad raw

Before shot. Raw and unedited close-up.

The first thing I am going to do in Photoshop is make a copy of this layer. I have an iMac and the shortcut is Command J. Now I am going to click on the healing brush tool. I will zoom in very, very close on Dad’s face. I will make my healing brush quite small. The area it covers should be just slightly larger than the deeper creases. Next, I will select a clean area next to the wrinkle I want to cover up and very slowly cover up most of the wrinkles in this way. I may leave some of them alone, like the deeper smile lines. I may also use the healing brush on other blemishes. By the time I get done, Dad will look something like this:

After using the Healing Brush on Dad's face.

After using the Healing Brush on Dad’s face.

That looks pretty terrible. Dad does not look real. Besides, he is 71 years old and this is not going to fool anyone. The next step is obviously important. Above this layer is an opacity slide. I normally bring it down to 30-40% opacity. It looks much better and more natural. But some of the highlights in his face are dull now, so I carefully dodge and burn back in the highlights and remove any other little blemishes with the healing brush. Now dad looks like himself, just a bit final edit

And here is a before and after:


So that is a very basic way to soften fine lines and wrinkles. You may notice I did not soften all of them. I left the lines on his forehead as well as the smile lines below the nose untouched. So this is also a selective and versatile way to soften. You can take it as far as you want, or make it very subtle. If I wanted to go even further, I could even out the skin tones even more, but for this type of shot, and for the way it will be used, this is where I will stop.




2 thoughts on “Photoshop Methods #1: Softening Lines and Wrinkles

  1. Great job – with the photo, and the tutorial – very clear, and I appreciate the way you explain your thinking on how much to keep and how much to change. Oh, and he’s got great eyes! What a nice, straightforward expression there!


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