Photo Retouching

Fix Blown Out Skin

Blown out skin can be an annoying problem with daylight photos. Learn how to use Photoshop to fix overexposed skin areas without creating a gray color cast. This Photoshop tutorial works with all versions of Photoshop and will introduce beginners to the Burn and Blur tools and the Color blend mode.

Before and After Fix Blown Out Skin Photoshop Tutorial

Original Image

Fix Blown Out Skin Photoshop Tutorial

Fix Blown Out Skin Photoshop Tutorial

Step 1: Open a photo into Photoshop

Run Photoshop and open the photo you would like to retouch.

Step 2: Create a new layer

Click on the Create a New Layer button. This should create new layer called Layer 1.

Step 3: Get the skin color

Select the Eye Dropper tool from the toolbar. Then click on an area of the skin that isn’t blown out or too dark. This will record the color of the skin as the foreground color.

Step 4: Paint the blown out skin

Before we begin, make sure that you have Layer 1 selected. Select the Brush tool from the toolbar and paint over the areas that are blown out. You don’t have to be too precise with the painting but keep the paint inside the skin. When you’re done, you should have a blotchy paint effect that covers the highlights of the skin.

Step 5: Duplicate the layer

Select the Background layer and press Ctrl+J to duplicate the layer. You can also find the Duplicate Layer option from the Layer menu. Once you have a duplicate layer, change the blending mode of that Layer 1 to Color. The Color blend mode will make the layer only affect the color.

Step 6: Select the Burn tool

Now select the Burn tool from the toolbar. If you can’t find the Burn tool, find the Dodge or Sponge tool, click and hold on it, and a menu should appear with the Dodge tool. Once you have the Burn tool selected, you can adjust the settings from the option bar near the top of the Photoshop application. In the option bar, enter in the following settings:

Brush Hardness: 0

Range: Highlights

Exposure: 10%

If you have a pen tablet, you can use the pen instead of the mouse to paint. Click on the enable airbrush capabilities button located to the right of the Exposure field. With this enabled, you can use a pressure-sensitive pen to paint the areas instead of a mouse. The thickness or size of the brush will change according to the pressure you put on the pen.

Step 7: Burn the highlights

Paint over the highlights of the skin that’s overexposed or blown out. You can quickly adjust the size of your brush with the [ and ] keys.

Once you have all the highlights painted, the skin tone should look smoother.

Step 8: Fix the color blotches

If you look closely at the image, you may notice color blotches that make the skin look artificial. To fix this, we’ll use the Blur tool to blur out the edges. First, select Layer 1 which is the top layer with the skin color. Then, select the Blur tool from the toolbar. The Blur tool may be hidden with the Smudge or Sharpen tool. If you can’t find the Blur tool, find the Smudge or Sharpen tool, click and hold on it and a menu should appear with the Blur tool you can select. Once you have the Blur tool selected, blur the edges of the blotches to make it blend into the skin.

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