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How to get the red out

(Editor’s note: This guest article is by professional retoucher Dennis DunbarHe has been adding the Photoshop magic to images for movie posters and ad campaigns for over 28 years. He loves working on cool images with cool creatives. Learn more and see his work on his websiteFacebook and Instagram.)

When photographing people we’ve all come across those subjects who seem to be plagued by red, blotchy skin that really pops out in the photo. In this photo we see a man who looks like he spent a little too much time in the sun recently. Fortunately there is a simple way to cure for this blotchy condition using Photoshop’s Hue/Saturation adjustment.

©Bobbi Lane

The process for cleaning these blotches up makes use of a very cool option buried inside Photoshop’s Hue/Saturation Adjustment that lets you dial in the range of colors being targeted for adjustment.

Once the photo is open in Photoshop, just add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer, then under the word Master choose the Reds preset. Because the blotches on his face are mostly red, it makes sense to start off with this range first. Notice the two rainbow colored strips in the lower part of the dialogue pictured here? 

(Just as a side note, when using this technique it really helps to enlarge the dialogue box for the Properties panel by grabbing the lower right corner of the panel and dragging it to the right, making it much easier to fine tune your adjustments.)

These sliders control the range of colors being affected by the adjustments, and by fine tuning these we can more accurately target just the colors of the blotches so we can nudge them closer to the rest of his skin color, making them blend in without complex masking etc. that can take a lot of time.

If you look closely you can see there are two sets of sliders. The dark gray ones in the middle control the colors being targeted, while the lighter gray ones on the outside control the feathering that will be used to blend in the adjustment.

As we work we’ll need to make it easier to see just what colors are being targeted. So, after bringing up the Hue/Saturation dialogue and selecting the Reds preset, first slide the arrow slider for the Hue all the way to the right. This will shift the entire image toward green, as seen below.

©Bobbi Lane

Now drag the center of the color range controls a little to the left, this will pick up more of the magenta colors in his cheeks. Watching while you slide the controls around you can easily see when you’re getting close to the right range of colors as seen below.

©Bobbi Lane

Dialing in the range of colors we’re adjusting now is simply a matter of first dragging the inner-left slider right and left to see how this affects the colors. Then do the same with the inner-right slider. Once you’ve adjusted these to your satisfaction, do the same with the two outer sliders. 

When you feel you’ve got the right range of colors selected move the Hue slider back to the Neutral position and nudge it just a little to the right to pull some of the magenta out of his cheeks and neck. In this example a value of +9 seems about right.

With the magenta lessened the splotches might still seem a little too saturated, so often times pulling the Saturation slider down just a little will help as well. In this case setting it to -10 looks pretty good.

Now that we’ve toned down the splotches it helps to toggle the Hue/Saturation layer on and off to see if it’s affecting any other parts of the image we don’t want it to. If you do see that happening it’s a pretty simple fix to just paint black in the Layer Mask to hide the effect from those areas.

With just a few quick adjustments, and minimal masking, we’re able to make those blotchy areas blend in better so we notice the warm smile on the subject’s face, not the distracting blotches.

Here is our final image with the Hue/Saturation adjustments used above.

©Bobbi Lane
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