Photoshop tutorial: Master Adobe Photoshop CC’s new photo retouch tools

Discover subtle ways of making your photography even more beautiful using Photoshop CC’s new filters.


The launch of Photoshop CC has seen the introduction of some major new features, including some excellent photo retouch tools and expanded Smart Object support.

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Smart Objects allow for non-destructive editing, storing layers upon layer of retouching within one visible layer, rather like a family tree, to use a metaphor. When the parent image is altered at the roots (or DNA), its effects are automatically seen throughout the branches (the offspring).

Here we use the new Lens Correction, Shake Reduction and Smart Sharpen filters; and the new Camera Raw filter, which lets you adjust photos using Adobe’s Raw processing engine, rather than just as you import images.

Other new tools in Photoshop CC include better ways to work with vector shapes and paths.

STEP 1

The photo of burlesque dancer Billie Rae I’m using here was the image I used in my first ever tutorial for Digital Arts back in 2011, as I want to show how the advancements in Photoshop have improved what’s possible in retouching.

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Therefore, the original image as edited in Photoshop CS3 is over to the right with the 2013 version, so you can compare the differences.


STEP 2

Open up your image in Photoshop. In the Layers panel, double-click on the background layer to unlock it and name your layer ‘Original’ for reference.

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Naming your Photoshop layers is good practice, but for Smart Objects it’s a necessity, which will become more apparent later on. Once you’re done, press OK.

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STEP 3

On your new layer, right-click on the layer name to open a sub-menu. Click on ‘Convert To Smart Object’ option, which will bring up a small icon on the bottom right of the layer’s preview image.

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This confirms the image has been converted into a Smart Object and can be edited non-destructively.


STEP 4

It’s now time to start editing. First, go to Filter > Lens Correction… and in the Auto Correction tab select the Camera Make, Model and Lens from the drop-down menus. This will correct any distortion caused as a direct result of the camera equipment.

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To get the most from the filter, ensure all the other settings match the ones shown here. Press OK once you’re done.


STEP 5

Next, we’ll perform some basic colour correction, using the new Camera Raw Filter. In general this works just like the pre-processing tool from previous versions of Photoshop – and which still appears when you bring in a Raw file – though it gains support for the latest cameras and SLRs.

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Go to Filter > Camera Raw Filter… and in the right-hand panel, click the Iris icon to bring up the Basics tab. Adjust the Exposure slider to fix any under- or over-exposure. You can also set the White Balance here to remove any unwanted colour cast.

My image had a pink hue, plus a very small amount of yellow from an artificial light in the studio. I’ve removed these.

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STEP 6

Still in the Camera Raw Filter dialog, now’s a good time to open the Detail tab and apply any noise reduction necessary. This is particularly useful for anyone shooting in low light at a higher ISO.

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Once you’re happy with the results, press OK.


STEP 7

Now that the image is correctly exposed and colour-balanced, your Layer Panel should look like this.

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If you need to make any changes at this point to either of the processes we’ve just covered, the dialog boxes for both can be accessed by double-clicking either of the filter names in the Layer Panel.

These dialog boxes appear with your current settings intact, so minor adjustments can be made easily.


STEP 8

Our next Smart Filter will involve some masking that we don’t want to affect our current changes, so we’re going to package our Smart Filters and the original image into a brand new Smart Object.

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Select the ‘Original’ layer and repeat Step 2 of this tutorial. Your filters will seem to disappear from your Layers panel. Rename the visible layer to ‘Sharpen’ and your Layers panel should look like this.

Again, renaming your layers is really important, so don’t forget to do so.

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STEP 9

With the ‘Sharpen’ Smart Object selected, we’re now going to work on improving the sharpness of our image with a new feature in Photoshop CC that can detect and repair camera shake.

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Select Filter > Sharpen > Shake Reduction, which will bring up a new dialog box. Drag the Blur Estimation Region (the selection box) over the area you want to analyse and experiment with different settings until you reach the desired effect.

For this image, I used the advanced features to add a second Blur Estimation Region to analyse both the face and the clothing as they had different motion patterns. Once you’re happy with the results, press OK.


STEP 10

Alternatively, for the last step, you can go to Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen to enhance your image.

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Here you can remove the effects of lens and motion blur with Photoshop’s new and vastly improved sharpening algorithm. Choose your preferred settings by repositioning the sliders and once done, press OK.


STEP 11

Sharpening is great for improving the appearance of eyes, and details in clothing and jewellery. However, it’s not great for skin, which we want to keep as smooth as possible.

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In the Layers panel, click on the white rectangle called Smart Filters and, using a soft-edged black brush, mask over the areas of your image you don’t want sharpened.

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STEP 12

Repeat Step 2, renaming the layer ‘Liquify’. Go to Filter > Liquify and make any necessary changes to your image. I was mostly happy with this photo, but I made a few minor adjustments to the neck and soften the ribcage a little.

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STEP 13

Repeat Step 2 again, this time renaming the layer ‘Blemishes’. Create a new blank layer above it and rename it ‘Blemish Removal’.

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Using the Healing Brush tool (J) at 100%, change the Sample to ‘Current and Below’. Use the Alt key to select your sampling area and then start brushing over any blemishes or stray hairs.


STEP 14

Select both layers this time and – guess what – repeat Step 2 again, renaming the new layer ‘Highlights’.

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Press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + N to create a new layer above this and name it ‘Dodge’. Set the blending mode to Overlay and tick the box to fill the layer with a 50% grey. This is a non-destructive layer that will allow us to dodge out blemishes while preserving the original Smart Image.

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STEP 15

Using the Dodge tool with its Range set to Midtones at 4% opacity, lift any shadows or blemishes on the skin, such as bags under the eyes or wrinkles.

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STEP 16

Hit Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + N to create a second new layer and name it ‘Hair’. Set the blending mode to Overlay and tick the box to fill the layer with a 50% grey as before. Again, select the Dodge tool, but this time set the Range to to Highlights at 4% opacity.

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Brush over the highlights in the hair to give them extra shine.


STEP 17

Once you’re done, repeat Step 2 (for the last time) and rename the layer ‘Effects’. This is where we will now add any required stylisation to our images, as this is the element most likely to need changing in the future.

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Here I’ve used the Camera Raw filter again to apply a Split Toning effect to change the overall tone of the image, bringing out the green in Billie’s costume and pulling back the reds for a more subtle look that still has a really nice contrast to it.

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STEP 18

I’ve also experimented with an Iris Blur to add depth to my photo by going to Filter > Blur > Iris Blur.

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STEP 19

Finally, when you’re happy with your image, right-click on the layer to convert to a final Smart Image, which we’ll call ‘Finished Image’.

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Just remember to save your progress.


STEP 20

Tip 1

If you’re working with Raw images, when you open your chosen image the Camera Raw dialog box will appear. To skip Steps 1 and 2 of this tutorial, hold down Cmd/Ctrl + Shift to change the ‘Open Image’ button to ‘Open Object’, which will open your photo in Photoshop CC as an unlocked Smart Object.

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Alternatively, if you’re an Adobe Lightroom user, you can also use the ‘Edit In Photoshop As A Smart Object’ option.

Image right: Betsy Rose at Murder Mile Studios. Copyright Tigz Rice Studios

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STEP 21

Tip 2

If you’re interested in comparing the differences between the old and new Photoshop algorithms, click on the cog in the top right of the Smart Sharpen dialog box and tick the ‘Use Legacy’ box. The difference in quality is really noticeable.

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Image right: Lou On The Rocks at Tigz Rice Studios. Copyright Tigz Rice Studios


STEP 22

Tip 3

If at any point you need to make changes to your retouching, you can access your root folders by double-clicking on the Smart Object layer itself, which will take you down one level.

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The name of the Smart Object that appears will tell you what retouching was done within that Smart Object Group. Continue to double-click down through the root folder until you reach the layer you need to adjust.

Once you’ve made your changes, remember to click Cmd/Ctrl + S to save your changes and allow them to filter back through the subsequent Smart Objects.

Image right: Tabitha Taboo at the Rivoli Ballroom. Copyright Tigz Rice Studios