Beauty Retouching in Photoshop

Before starting photoshop beauty retouching on any image, it’s important to understand why we retouch. In this show Karl starts with the ‘where and why’ of retouching in relation to ‘where to lead the eye’ and ‘why to lead it there’.

In this live show Karl focuses on the post-production techniques for retouching photos, showing the step-by-step process of retouching beauty photography using Photoshop.

He goes into detail about his retouching workflow and offers great advice on how to optimize what is usually a very time consuming process. With demonstrations on retouching skin in photoshop, as well as retouching hair and eyes, this show explores all the key components necessary to take a RAW image to its final stages.

In this class:

  • How to create aesthetically pleasing images in Photoshop
  • Useful Photoshop tools for beauty retouching
  • How to retain texture when editing an image
  • How to use Burn and Dodge for retouching
  • Working with visual aid layers: What are they and how to use them
  • Optimizing your workflow
  • Hue, saturation and luminance: How they influence an image
  • The best lighting types for minimal retouching

For more information on retouching photos, make sure to visit our Post-Production section.

To download the actions from the show, visit our Downloads page.

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. It’s fascinating with Photoshop, that the limits are your own creativity/imagination. I have been working as retoucher for decades, and I have not seen the way you use “unsharp mask” at 1:58 into the video. I just wanted to compare with “clarity” in Camera RAW, and also with “high pass” filter on “overlay” blend mode to see if you’re method is similiar. I can see that the contrast effect can be applied as well with those 2 techniques, but the difference is that with “unsharp mask” in this way, there is no sharpening, only contrast. Really usable tip, thanks!

    1. Thank you, also it’s worth noting that the USM trick is dependent on the resolution of the image, for example I find that a slightly lower percentage and slightly higher pixel amount is better for 100mp images, 10/50 for example instead of 20/40 but it’s worth experimenting a little. If you also check out my other classes you will see how I use the apply image command instead of high pass for texture separation.

  2. Hello Karl, I am a beginner at retouching, so when I am trying to clean up blemishes my spot-healing brush reveals stains in the brightness layer that I downloaded from The Setup. Could you help, thanks.

    1. Hi, that will be down to your layer position if you move the healing layer to a position above your ‘setup’ layers then it should be fine. Also though at this point you don’t really need to be using the ‘setup’ layers at beginner level. If you start with our ‘photoshop for photographers’ course you will find that you only need to concern yourself with our burn and dodge downloadable layers to begin with. The ‘setup’ layers are more for the Advanced Retouching course.

  3. Is there and advantage to using the curves adjustment layers to dodge and burn over the photoshop tool?

    1. Hi, yes as explained in this and our other post production courses if you use Curves adjustment layers you can easily edit back and forth on the mask or adjust the curve to change the exposure amount. If you do it with the PS B&D tools you are limited but I do find the PS Dodge tool in highlight mode useful for adding sparkle to highlights which you will see me use in other classes.

  4. Hi Karl,

    In the dodge and burning you were constantly changing the brush size. It is ok for local D&B. But for global ones like on forehead or under the eyes why were you changing the brush size? Would it not save time if big size brush is used?

    1. Hi, I find changing the brush size to create a more realistic overall effect. Please refer to my Photoshop for Photographers course in the post production section.

  5. For what it’s worth, I can see the color shift pretty easily, even zoomed out, on your hue adjustment layer. That said, I have trained my eye to see those kinds of changes by learning to exactly match colors in in landscapes when painting outdoors. There are photos of me painting in a landscape where the colors in my painting blend right into the landscape because the colors are so closely matched. I agree that color variations are unlikely to be noticed by most people except on a subliminal level. I think that cleaned up color, while not directly noticeable to most viewers, is likely more pleasing to them even if they cannot identify why.

  6. In what format do I deliver the photos to my clients, Tiff to 16 bits .. JPG 8 bits ..? and what color profile should you embed in the photos when you deliver them: Profoto RGB, Adobe RGB ..? Thank you!

  7. Hey Karl! Thanks for the Perfect Retouching live show 🙂 But i can’t find the B&D action in the Downloads section. Could you please upload it on the downloads category? Thanks!

    1. Hi Shawn, it’s the first one in the list in the ‘Photoshop for Photographers’ block, in the Downloads section.

  8. ksporry

    Finally managed to finish this show! Very nice tutorial and very educational! Definitely gonna try dodge and burn now!

  9. Hi Emma, Karl ist talking about the Burn & Dodge Action that we can find in the download area. Actually I could’t find it. Could you please help and send me a direct link or describe more detailed the way to the file. Thanks for your efforts.

  10. 1 Conversion of the shot RAW file
    2 16 bit Tiff
    3 Visual Aid Layers
    4 Clean up blemishes
    5 B&D 1
    6 Fine Hues (optional)
    7 Saturation Levels (recommended)
    8 Liquefy
    9 B&D 2
    10 Overall colour “Feel”
    11 Overall contrast
    12 Local contrast
    13 Sharpening

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