Editor’s Note: Don’t miss this week’s free event on when to jump from Lightroom to Photoshop.

I get a phone call from Sandy Parks, an award winning action adventure author. Her current book REPOSSESSED was in the final editing process and she needed a new portrait for the back cover of her book. We collaborated on a few ideas and scheduled a shoot the following day.

Sandy is an attractive woman in her late 50s. She already looks great. Normally we have a makeup artist on set fixing blemishes and softening wrinkles. For this shoot, we were on a time crunch and we didn’t have access to makeup artist. I compensated by using light modifiers to achieve a soft, pleasing look during a hot Florida afternoon. After the shoot, I started my edits following the Retouching Golden Rule.

Retouching Golden Rule

If the subjects own mother can’t recognize them, you have gone too far in your retouching. Make the subject look good, but natural.

A Non-Destructive way to Heal Wrinkles and Blemishes

Step 1: Duplicate the Background Image by using the keyboard shortcut [PC] Ctrl + J, [MAC] Command + J . This will preserve the original image in case we need to start over.

Step 2: Create a blank layer by clicking on the create new layer icon on the bottom of the Layers palette. Name the layer Healing Brush. Having the Healing Brush edits on a separate layer gives us more control of the edit.

Step 3: Select the Spot Healing Brush from the tools palette. With the Healing Brush selected, click Content-Aware next to Type and place a check next to Sample All Layers. Draw short strokes in the direction of wrinkles. For blemishes, a single click should be fine. The Spot Healing Brush does a good job at analyzing pixels around a selected area and looks for the best match. For best results, take your time and change brush sizes using the left and right bracket keys to fix wrinkles. When finished, experiment with the opacity slider to dial in or dial back the effect. You can eve apply a layer mask for a more precise control.

Step 4: Create a blank layer and name it Patch. Like the Healing brush, edits we make using the Patch tool will be on its own layer. For this to work, we need to adjust a few settings in the next step.

Step 5: Select the Patch tool from the tools palette. With the Patch tool, choose Content-Aware next to Patch, enter a value of 5 for structure, 3 for color and place a check next to Sample All Layers. Draw a selection around the infected area and drag it to section that has the texture you are looking for The only way to master this tool is to use it and experiment with the three settings.

Understanding Content-Aware options

Structure: Enter a value between 1 and 7 to specify how closely the patch should reflect existing image patterns. If you enter 7, the patch adheres very strongly to existing image patterns. If you enter 1, the patch adheres very loosely to the existing image patterns.

Color: Enter a value between 0 and 10 to specify the extent to which you want Photoshop to apply algorithmic color-blending to the patch. If you enter 0, color blending is disabled. A Color value of 10 applies maximum color blending.

Sample All Layers: Enable this option to create the result of the move in another layer using information from all layers. Select the target layer in the Layers panel.

Bonus Step

Finish the portrait with your favorite skin retouching tool. Ive been using Perfectly Clear. The program is intelligent enough to know if the image doesn’t need a certain effect, it won’t add it.

The portrait should realistically resemble the subject. An over retouched image making the subject appear 20 years younger could cause confusion. Imagine Sandys embarrassment if a fan asked her where is your daughter. If you question if an image is over processed, remember the Retouching Golden Rule and retouch approactly.