Retouching Skin

One of the the most useful feature of Portrait+ is the skin retouching algorithm they use. Arcsoft calls it “Skin magic” and it does feel like magic for those who have never retouched skin in Photoshop. Skin magic lets you smooth skin without making it look blurry and improve skin tones. See the image below for a before and after comparison of the skin smoothing effect.

Before skin smoothing
After skin smoothing

So how does Portrait+ know where to retouch? The skin areas are automatically selected and it does a very good job selecting skin tones – we weren’t able to find a photo where Portrait+ couldn’t select the skin tones properly. But in case that you can’t select skin tones, Portrait+ lets you paint in the areas to correct it.

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In addition to skin smoothing, you can also improve skin tones with the “Change Skin Tone” and “Brighten Skin” settings. These settings are useful for evening out skin and removing redness from skin irritations. You can also use it to make skin look more pale or vivid.

Skin tone in Portrait+


Enhancements

After smoothing skin, you’ll want to work on the finer details like the eyes, cheeks, and lips. This is where the enhancement features are useful and also where you have to be careful because you can easily overdo some of the settings.

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You can easily transform a portrait with subtle improvements simply by enabling all the effects. All of the effects with the exception of the “Remove Eye Circles” let you adjust the intensity from low to high. Some of the settings can start to make it look like a different person but they still look natural and realistic as long as you stay below the medium range. Thankfully, there’s a side-by-side comparison mode you can use to remind yourself not to overdo any of these settings.

Portrait Enhancements on Low
Low enhancement settings make faces look more awake and pleasing.

Portrait Enhancements on Medium
At medium enhancement settings, most effects retain a natural look but others may start to look unnatural.

Portrait Enhancements on High
High enhancement settings are just there in case you need them. Some enhancements are safe to use on a high setting while others can make the face look alien. Unless alien looking people are your thing, try not to set everything on high.

Our favorite enhancement is the one that removes eye circles. Because Portrait+ uses face detection, it automatically improves the area around the eyes simply by enabling the setting.

Remove Eye Circles Before
Remove Eye Circles After

Makeup

In addition to smoothing skin and facial enhancements, Portrait+ can also apply makeup. You can add lipstick, make eye lashes look thicker, shape the eyebrows, and more.

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By default, we found that the makeup effects did not align with many of our photos but this is because the facial key points are not properly align. Portrait+ uses face detection and it does a great job but sometimes it needs to be tweaked by hand. This happens more frequently if the head is tilted in the photo. Adjusting the points is as easy as dragging them around. There is even a small thumbnail on the bottom-right to show you where the point should appear.

Adjusting key points in Portrait+

After adjusting the key points, the makeup effects are all aligned. Here’s how the effects look before and after adjusting the key points.

Key points before
Key points after

Before and After Alignment

Here’s a before and after example with all the makeup effects applied. Since I’m not a makeup artists, I had some difficulty picking makeup that would match the subject. Nonetheless, here are the before and after results of the makeup. The effect that amazed me the most is the lip gloss; it’s realistic and the gloss is adjustable. Some of the eyebrows and eyelashes can start to look unrealistic if the wrong settings are used but for the most part, they are easy to use without much adjustments needed. Real makeup will always look better but when it’s not available, Portrait+ makeup effects are your next best bet.

Before and after makeup


Examples

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Summary

Arcsoft Portrait+ 3 scores high in our review because it is easy to use and the results are very good. In fact, you get professional-looking results without knowing how to use Photoshop. The skin smoothing effect is on par with the high/low pass technique that professional retouchers use. Because Portrait+ 3 uses face detection, many adjustments look great from the start. You can use one of the presets or create your own and apply the preset to all your photos. The face detection works well but it doesn’t always work if the faces are cut off or on the side. It can detect side-facing faces on large and high-resolution images, but on smaller faces, it was less likely to find it. You can still apply skin smoothing but we wouldn’t recommend using of the enhancements or makeup effects.

For professionals, Portrait+ 3 will not replace your manual retouching workflow but it’s very useful for quick photo edits that don’t require much attention but for more serious work. Disappointingly, Portrait+ 3 cannot output the effects into multiple layers. The plug-in also doesn’t work on Smart Objects which means you can’t go back to edit the settings after you’ve applied them. Performance-wise, Portrait+ 3 is pretty fast. On our test system, (Intel Quad-Core 2700K processor with 16GB of RAM), the adjustments took only a second or two to change on a 14 megapixel image. The plug-in was stable and responsive and, with smaller photos, had almost-instant results.

Who is Portrait+ 3 for? We recommend it to beginners to intermediate Photoshop users who want to retouch photos without learning all professional retouching techniques in Photoshop. Wedding and portrait photographers will love this because they can get great results with little effort. For professional retouchers, it won’t replace your retouching workflow but it’s a great tool to have for the photos that don’t need delicate manual retouching.

You can buy Arcsoft Portrait+ 3 on their website. The MSRP is $99.99 for the plug-in (not the standalone) and the Photoshop plug-in is currently only available on Windows. If you’re interested in using batch mode to process many photos at once, be sure to get the standalone version because the Photoshop plug-in doesn’t have that feature. Thanks for reading this review – if you would like to purchase the plug-in, use the coupon code Portrait45 to save 45% off your order.

Rating: 4/5

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