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Transform Your Portraits: How to Smooth Skin in Lightroom

To smooth skin in lightroom, go to the develop module and use the adjustment brush or the spot removal tool. Lightroom is a popular photo editing software that offers a range of features.

One of the most common edits photographers make in lightroom is smoothing skin. Whether it’s for a portrait or a fashion shoot, having smooth, flawless skin is essential. One of the easiest ways to achieve this is in the develop module.

Here, you can use tools like the adjustment brush or the spot removal tool to specifically target areas of the skin that need smoothing. This can make a dramatic difference in the final image. In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps to smooth skin in lightroom and share some tips and tricks along the way.

Understanding Skin Smoothing

Science Behind Skin Smoothing – How It Works

Skin smoothing is the process of reducing blemishes, wrinkles, and other imperfections on the skin, making it look more even and smooth. In lightroom, this is typically achieved through a technique called “softening,” which involves brightening the highlights and darkening the shadows on the skin to eliminate imperfections.

Here are the key points to understand the science behind skin smoothing:

  • Softening works by manipulating the luminance values in the image – bringing brightness to the highlights and darkening the shadows. This effectively reduces the appearance of blemishes and wrinkles, making the skin look smoother.
  • The technique employs edge detection, which can be set to a certain threshold level. This allows lightroom to detect the edges of the skin and apply the softening effect primarily to these areas.
  • Softening the skin can affect other elements of the photo, such as hair and clothing, so it’s important to be careful when adjusting the settings.

Different Methods Of Skin Smoothing In Lightroom

Lightroom offers several methods for skin smoothing, each with its own specific use. Understanding these methods is essential to produce the best possible results. Here are different methods of skin smoothing in lightroom:

  • Brush: This method allows you to selectively brush on the effect to specific areas of the image. It’s particularly useful when you want to smooth out smaller or more localized areas of the skin.
  • Spot removal: This method allows you to remove blemishes and imperfections with a circle or rectangular tool. You can easily blend the surrounding area to match the rest of the skin.
  • Gradient filters: This method allows you to apply the smoothing effect to a specific part of your image through a gradient, making it look more gradual than the brush tool.

Difference Between Global And Local Skin Smoothing

When it comes to skin smoothing, there are typically two types: global (affecting the entire image) and local (applied to specific areas of the image). Understanding the difference is essential; you don’t want to apply skin smoothing to an entire image if it’s only necessary in specific areas.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Global skin smoothing: This is when you apply the effect to the entire image, which can risk making your subject’s skin look unnatural. It’s best to avoid a heavy-handed approach; instead, increase the radius and bring down the threshold value to soften the skin’s sharp edges.
  • Local skin smoothing: This method is more specific. You can use brushes, spot removal, or gradient filters to apply the effect only to small areas, such as blemishes and wrinkles, while leaving other parts of the image unchanged.

Importance Of Maintaining Skin Texture

A common mistake in skin smoothing is going overboard and eliminating the skin’s natural texture. Natural skin texture is essential for relatability, and it can also affect the quality of the photo. Here’s why it’s important to consider skin texture:

  • Maintaining skin texture can make your subject look more real and relatable. Over-smoothing can make the image look artificial, and your subject may look like they’re made of plastic.
  • Retaining skin texture is essential for maintaining overall image quality. Over-softened skin can look blurred or pixelated, leading to an overall reduction in image quality.
  • Use of grain: Adding a subtle grain can add texture back to the skin that may have been lost during the skin-smoothing process. It’s a great way to give the photo a more natural look.

Following these simple tips and effective techniques will help you achieve optimal skin smoothing and produce a more striking end product. Try them out on your next project and see how well they work for you.

Preparing Your Photo For Skin Smoothing

Identifying Skin Imperfections (Spots, Blemishes, Wrinkles) To Retouch

Before starting the process of skin smoothing in lightroom, it is essential to identify any skin imperfections such as spots, blemishes or wrinkles that need to be retouched. Here are a few key points to keep in mind:

  • Use the zoom tool, available in the bottom left corner of the lightroom develop module, to zoom in on the areas of the face that require attention.
  • Take help from the ‘spot removal tool’ which is represented by a circle with an arrow pointing in the direction of travel. Click on this tool and adjust the ‘size’ and ‘feather’ settings according to the required area. Then click on the area to remove the blemish.
  • Check your work frequently to make sure you’re not overdoing or missing anything.

Understanding The Importance Of The Overall Balance Between Smoothing And Keeping The Natural Look

While you may be tempted to smooth out every imperfection in the skin, it is important to understand the balance between smoothing and keeping the natural look. Here are some important points to keep in mind:

  • Don’t get carried away with skin smoothing, or your final result will look unnatural.
  • Use a lighter touch on areas such as the eyes, mouth and nose to maintain the natural textures in those regions.
  • Vary the amount of smoothing you apply to different areas of the skin, since different parts of the face won’t require the same amount of smoothing.

Importance Of Correcting The Exposure And White Balance Before Applying Skin Smoothing

Before applying skin smoothing in lightroom, it is important to correct the exposure and white balance of your photo to ensure that the final result is optimal. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • Exposure affects the overall brightness and contrast of the image, while white balance affects the overall hue of the image.
  • Use the ‘basic’ panel in the lightroom develop module to adjust the exposure and white balance of your photo.
  • If you don’t correct exposure and white balance before applying skin smoothing, the end result may not look as natural as it should.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to prepare your photo for skin smoothing in lightroom with ease. Remember to identify the imperfections that need to be retouched, maintain a balance between smoothing and natural textures, and correct exposure and white balance before applying any skin smoothing.

Happy smoothing!


Applying Skin Smoothing In Lightroom

If you want to enhance your portrait photography, smooth skin in lightroom will be an excellent start. In this section, you’ll learn how to apply skin smoothing in lightroom, giving your photos a cleaner, more polished look.

Step-By-Step Guide On How To Smooth Skin In Lightroom – Global And Local

There are two common ways to smooth skin in lightroom, and we’ll cover them both in this guide.

Global Skin Smoothing

  • Open your photo in lightroom and click on the develop module.
  • Under the basic panel, find the detail section, and click on it.
  • Adjust the sharpening slider to a negative value – maybe around -50.
  • Move to the noise reduction section and apply a small amount of noise reduction.
  • Increase the values of the color and luminance sliders to smooth the skin.
  • Avoid over-smoothing by keeping the photo’s details intact.
  • If any area of the image’s skin still looks over-processed, use the adjustment brush, and brush over that area to reduce smoothing.

Local Skin Smoothing

  • Open the image in lightroom and click on the develop module.
  • Add a new adjustment brush (k) and set all the sliders to zero.
  • Increase the smoothness and feather sliders to eliminate any hard edges.
  • Adjust the size and flow of the brush and draw over the area of the photo you want to smooth.
  • Avoid brushing over the eyes, lips, or hair as it will blur them.
  • Use multiple brushes if there are different skin tones or textures.
  • Adjust the smoothness and feather settings for each brush as needed.

Understanding The Importance Of Using A Feathered Brush And Proper Brush Size

The feathered brush and the appropriate brush size are essential when you want to smooth skin in lightroom. Here’s why:

  • The feathered brush eliminates the harsh edges of the adjustments. The smoother the edges, the more natural the photo will look.
  • The brush size must match the area you want to adjust, or your edits may look obvious or even blurry. A larger brush will more effectively adjust large areas; a smaller brush will work appropriately with tinier details.

Using The Spot Removal Tool To Remove Blemishes And Spots

When it comes to removing blemishes and spots, the lightroom spot removal tool is an excellent option. Here’s how to use it:

  • Open the photo in lightroom and click on the develop module.
  • Look for the spot removal tool, which looks like a circle with an arrow, or press “q” on the keyboard.
  • Set the size of the brush according to the size of the spot that needs to be removed.
  • Click on the blemish and move the circle over an area that has similar details to replace the blemish.
  • If necessary, drag the circle to an appropriate position where you think the cloned area should be.

Smoothing skin in lightroom is a quick and simple way to enhance your portraits. By following the previous instructions, you’ll be able to achieve skin smoothing effects equivalent to those achievable with traditional makeup.

Refining Your Skin Smoothing

Understanding The Importance Of The Masking Tool When Refining Skin Smoothing

When it comes to skin smoothing in lightroom, the masking tool is an indispensable feature. It allows you to select the areas you want to smooth and refine them with precision. Here are some key points about the masking tool:

  • The masking tool allows you to create a mask that indicates the areas where you want to apply the skin smoothing effect.
  • You can adjust the density, feather, and flow of the mask to blend the smoothing effect more naturally.
  • You can use the brush tool to add or remove areas from the mask, giving you full control over the effect.

Tips For Avoiding Overly-Smoothed Skin And Maintaining A Natural Look

Smooth skin is desirable, but it’s important to avoid overdoing it. Here are some tips to keep in mind when refining skin smoothing in lightroom:

  • Reduce the opacity of the skin smoothing effect to make the effect more subtle.
  • Use a lower value for the smoothing slider to avoid making the skin look too perfect and artificial.
  • If you’re unsure whether you’ve overdone it, toggle the effect on and off to see the difference.

Balancing Skin Smoothing With Other Adjustments Like Exposure And Color Grading

Skin smoothing is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to retouching portraits. Here are some points to consider when balancing skin smoothing with other adjustments:

  • Over-smoothing the skin can make other imperfections more noticeable, so it’s important to make sure that the exposure and color grading are consistent with the skin tone.
  • Don’t focus exclusively on the skin smoothing effect; take a holistic approach to portrait retouching to ensure that the final result is natural and aesthetically pleasing.
  • Remember that skin smoothing is a subjective process, so it’s important to trust your judgement and experiment to find the best settings for each image.

Frequently Asked Questions On How To Smooth Skin In Lightroom

How Do You Smooth Skin In Lightroom?

In the develop module, use the adjustment brush tool. Open the brush options by clicking “effect. ” select “soft skin. ” use the brush to paint over the skin areas. Adjust controls like clarity, sharpness or even saturation to get the desired result.

What Are The Benefits Of Smoothing Skin In Lightroom?

Smoothing skin can improve your portraits by reducing the appearance of blemishes, wrinkles, and fine lines, making the skin look soft and flawless. It can enhance the overall look of your photo and make it more appealing.

Is It Possible To Over-Smooth Skin In Lightroom?

Yes, it is possible to over-smooth the skin in lightroom which can make the image look blotchy and unnatural. Avoid overusing the brush and slider controls, and take breaks and re-evaluate the image to ensure that you haven’t gone too far.

Can You Use Lightroom To Smooth Skin In Other Types Of Photos?

Yes, lightroom can be used for smoothing skin in other types of photos such as beauty, fashion, makeup, or even landscape and nature photos. This technique can be used to create a specific style or mood in an image.

Can I Retain Some Texture While Smoothing Skin In Lightroom?

Yes, you can use texture slider to retain some texture while smoothing skin in lightroom. It is located in the basic panel. Just slide it to the right to add texture back without bringing back too many skin flaws. This way, you smooth the skin yet keep it looking natural.


It’s no secret that skillful post-processing can elevate a photo from basic to brilliant. Whether you’re a professional photographer or an enthusiastic hobbyist, the ability to manipulate your images to create the look you envision is an invaluable asset. And when it comes to enhancing portraits, lightroom’s tools for smoothing skin are indispensable.

With these techniques at your disposal, you can transform your subject’s complexion, giving them a flawless appearance that looks natural and inviting. From the basic sliders to more advanced adjustments, smoothing skin in lightroom is a powerful way to add a touch of polish to your photos.

So don’t be afraid to experiment and refine your techniques until you have mastered this essential aspect of photo editing. With a little practice, you’ll be creating stunning portraits that your viewers will love.


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