Luz Tapia has only been retouching photos since the end of 2012 but has already created some outstanding works. Like a lot of retouchers, she finds the fine line between an edited image and a realistic image the hardest part. “I think the biggest challenge is retouching the skin and making the final result look natural,” she says. “I make most errors on the skin. That is always an area that I need to improve.”
Tapia’s choice of tools will be familiar to most retouchers – the usual suspects of the Healing Brush, Clone Stamp tool and Curves all feature. But her start point isn’t the most obvious; “I begin every retouch job using the Liquify filter to correct the symmetry of the face or body. No exception.” Despite having her set routine for starting an edit, Tapia realises the importance of expanding her skillset to get the best results. “I used to retouch skin only using the Healing Brush,” she admits. “Now I use Curves and the results are 100 per cent better. Curves enable you to preserve the texture of the skin, which is essential for keeping results realistic. However, I experiment the most with altering the colour of the image. It´s the part that I enjoy the most too!”
Tapia plans to produce a series of photomanipulations, mixed media work and photo rectouches, all based around her original characters. On a professional level, she aims to carry on with retouching but to also branch out to illustrating book covers. To see how she progresses, visit her website at www.luztapia.com.ar but for now, read on to discover her retouching workflow.
Step 1: Correct the expression and face
The first job is to correct the expression of the model and edit the shape of the face. For this I went to Filter>Liquify and with the Forward Warp tool I started making corrections.
Step 2: Add hair
The empty areas on the hair needed filling out. This proved a simple job, starting with the Lasso tool to select areas of hair and then copying and pasting it into position. Edit>Transform>Deform ensured that the shape fitted with the rest of the image.
Step 3: Remove the bra
If a studio shot isn’t cropped enough you often see things you shouldn’t. This is the case here with the bra. As with the hair, I copied and pasted areas of skin to cover it up and then with a soft Eraser, removed any hard edges. A good tip its to match the skin tones with the Dodge and Burn tools.
Step 4: Prepare the Curves
To remove the skin imperfections, I created two new Curves adjustment layers. The first one with Input: 97 Output: 158 and named it Light. The other one with the opposite values, Input: 158 Output: 97 and named it Black. I then clicked the white mask box and pressed Ctrl/Cmd+I to invert the mask to black.
Step 5: Dodge and Burn
On the Light Curves layer, I used a white brush with Flow set to between 2 and 6% to paint on the areas that needed to be lightened. On the one named ‘Dark’, I painted with white on the areas that needed to be darkened.
Step 6: Highlights and shadows
I created a further two Curves layers and with the same values, added highlights and shadows in areas like the cheeks, shoulders, hair, etc. Remember to use a Soft Round brush to get softer results.
Step 7: The Background
The background was fixed by creating a new layer and adding a gradient with two values of grey. This not only looked better, but made it easier for me to remove some loose hairs near the neck and on top of the head. I removed them with a layer mask.
Step 8: The Colours
This step is where I can play the most and I recommend simply trying what fits your image. I used another Curves layer to lighten the image a little bit, lowered the saturation, applied a Magenta Photo Filter and used Color balance to achieve the look I wanted.