Of course Photoshop is famous for its simple and effective photo touching tools like the Clone Stamp, Spot Healing Brush and more recently Content Aware Fill. However although they are simple tools to use, they're not always the right ones for the job, and even if they are, they aren't always used in the best way.
In this article I'm going to show you a technique for reducing rather than removing wrinkles from a face. By reducing wrinkles you are more likely to succeed in manipulating an image but keeping it looking natural and un-edited. I find it's never realistic to remove every blemish or imperfection. And besides, if the face belongs to someone mature enough to have a few wrinkles what's natural looking about removing them completely? It just looks weird.
With the image that you're editing already open as a Background press (new layer shortcut) and name the layer "wrinkle free".
Keep this layer selected.
Select the Healing Brush tool or press JJ. In the control panel for the brush choose Sample > All layers.
By choosing all layers you will be able to sample pixels from the background layer but paint them back onto the layer named Wrinkle Free, creating a non-destructive workflow.
Sample a section of skin that has no wrinkles by Option-Clicking with the Healing Brush on the pixels.
Place the brush over the first wrinkle to be edited and resize the brush to be just slightly bigger than the width of the wrinkle by holding down Control and Option together and dragging the cursor up or down to increase or decrease respectively.
Once the brush is the correct size, soften the edges a little by holding down Control and Option agin and this time dragging from side to side. Stop when the brush has an 80% feather of thereabouts.
This will make it hard to see the edges of any edits you make on the skin.
Once the brush is ready start to paint over the wrinkles one by one on the layer named Wrinkle Free.
Paint out as many wrinkles as you can, don't worry about any pixel damage, the picture will soon start to look a little distorted and rather ugly. This is OK.
Tip: Watch out for objects such as eyebrows, lips or nostrils being picked up by the brush source as you paint. To avoid this keep re-sampling by holding down Option and selecting a new source as you go.
Once All the wrinkles are eradicated by the layer named Wrinkle Free the image looks pretty horrible. However all that this layer should be doing is reducing the wrinkles, not eradicating them.
To achieve this, use the layer opacity slider in the Layers panel to begin reducing the opacity of the Wrinkle Free layer until you can start to see the wrinkles on the background layer re-appear. Set the percentage to whatever works best for your picture. Mine is at 61% and I think it works fine.
This technique works for other things too, softening creases on scans of old photos for one, or reducing the impact of a tattoo in a photo, rather than removing it completely. Now you know how to do it, see what else you can apply it to yourself.
After vs Before