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Reduce Wrinkles in Photoshop

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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.

Step 1 - Create a Wrinkle Free Layer

With the image that you're editing already open as a Background press (new layer shortcut) and name the layer "wrinkle free".

wrinkle free layer

Keep this layer selected.

Step 2 - Set the Brush

Select the Healing Brush tool or press JJ. In the control panel for the brush choose Sample > All layers.

brush settings

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.

Step 3 - Prepare to Heal

Sample a section of skin that has no wrinkles by Option-Clicking with the Healing Brush on the pixels.

brush size

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.

Step 4 - Soften the Brush

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.

soft brush

This will make it hard to see the edges of any edits you make on the skin.

Step 5 - Start Healing

Once the brush is ready start to paint over the wrinkles one by one on the layer named Wrinkle Free. 

wrinkles painting

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. 

Step 6 - Return of the wrinkles

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. 

opacity slider

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

After vs Before

Check out our Photoshop: Body Modifications course!

David Smith

David Smith | Articles by this author

David Smith is Scotland's most qualified Apple and Adobe certified trainer. Having completed his education at Edinburgh College of Art's BAFTA winning Film School, David moved straight into TV production, first as a Vision Mixer then quickly becoming, at the age of just 24, a director of live TV studio productions. In 2001 he moved into Higher Education where he became a lecturer in TV Production, specializing in post-production and live studio production. During this time, and working with the support of the BBC, Channel 4 and independent production companies, David was instrumental in the design, development and implementation of industry-approved vocational courses across Scotland's Colleges. In 2006, after working closely with Apple Computers to create a unique multimedia studio for education at the Music and Media Centre in Perth, David became Scotland's first Apple-Certified Trainer for Pro Apps. This led on to David forming the first Apple Authorized Training Centre for Education, north of Manchester. In 2008 David made the move to full time training and joined the ranks at Academy Class, Ltd. where he continues to train industry professionals as a certified trainer across the Adobe Creative Suite and Apple Pro Apps range.


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