A Simple Method To Fix Bags Under Eyes And Mismatched Skin Tones

A Simple Method To Fix Bags Under Eyes And Mismatched Skin Tones

When retouching in Photoshop, there are many different ways to achieve the same thing. Personally, I've always struggled to find the best method to remove shadows under the eyes. Like everything else in Photoshop, there are a slew of methods to correct this, but each of them had their weaknesses. Check out this simple - yet slightly hidden - method that you probably never knew existed. 

This simple and efficient method described in the video below knocks the competition out of the park.

Most tutorials will instruct the user to create a duplicate background layer and use the patch tool or clone. The problem with cloning is the loss of texture. In most cases, the texture of the skin will looked smudged. For that reason alone, that method is problematic. This makes the skin under the eyes look unrealistic.

Patch tool smudge your tones and oftentimes are annoying. Additionally in most cases, it clones the pores from the cheek which are where skin tones are normally patched from. While there are pores under the eyes, the size of the pore is significantly different than that from the cheek, which also creates an unrealistic look.

49 Jerrit Parker Pruyn

50 Therese Rasmussen

These portraits were taken as part of The Project. If you're a photographer feel free to join for a free headshot as I travel the world. As always, don't forget to add me and tag me! I'd love to see your results using this method!


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Graham Marley's picture

I'll totally grant that the patch method is not elegant, but just dragging the patch of grabbed skin and leaving it there isn't the way it's supposed to be done. You definitely have to drop the opacity significantly, and change the blend mode to lighten for it to not look ridiculous. If used in conjunction with other methods, you can get some pretty decent results for such a quick technique.

Dani Diamond's picture

Graham, I agree I didn't spend time perfecting it but regardless the opacity, you are placing 2 different textures on top of each other. As you mentioned, you will get decent results. Decent won't cut it if you want you're retouching to be flawless.

Graham Marley's picture

That's fair, and I'm not looking to die on the hill of the patch tool. I save it for a last-ditch effort when I need to wrangle some particularly rough skin under eyes. My basic point is, I don't think it's a go-to technique, but I also don't think it's fair to dismiss it in it's most blunt form.

Tanya Smith's picture

I had never seen this technique. Nice tutorial! I actually touch up the dark circle with a custom brush in Lightroom and it works pretty well.

Dani Diamond's picture

Thanks Tanya, like I said - There's a dozen ways to do the same thing in PS. This method works best for me.

auskeur's picture

Very simple technique, works a treat, thanks very much!

Quentin Decaillet's picture

If you use frequency separation to clean skin, you might as well do it on the low frequency layer using the mixer brush tool :)

daniel mcgarrity's picture

This is really great, I do a very similar thing with getting a highlight off of skin, however, I'm not familiar with your technique-which I like better.
If you could explain what you do in the adjustment layer AFTER selecting the color with which you will paint in. There is some talk of selecting another color, then inverting, despite watching the video twice, I couldn't pick up on what you were doing.
could you explain in a few sentences Dani?

Morgan Glassco's picture

I felt that portion of explanation went pretty quick too

Scott Mccusker's picture

I missed it the first time too. create a curves layer. in the layers palette, click the curves icon (to the left of the layer mask which will automatically be selected). click the top eyedropper in the properties panel. select your desired color from the cheek. click ok, then no. click once on the dark circle under the eye (this is the part I missed). the image should turn pinkish white everywhere. now click on the layer mask, and hit cmd-I to make it black. your image will now look normal again. paint white with a soft brush at reduced flow over the area that you want to lighten. presto.

matthew balderama's picture


Sean Armenta showed this technique when he did the Fstoppers Post Production Tutorials. In his case it was labeled " How To Use Photoshop For Easy Skin Tone Correction Tutorial By Sean Armenta"

Spy Black's picture

Watching this video I just realized an even faster way to do it. Simply copy the image, invert it, de-saturate it, add an opaque layer mask and turn the layer to screen. Use a very light brush, 3-5%, and just lighten away. Works like a charm!

QuahogStewie's picture

Very nice. I used this technique to remove shiny skin patches by double clicking the white point eye dropper and selecting a darker colour, then clicking the lighter colour to replace and it worked very well. Thanks for the tip.

Tzvi Perlow's picture

This is simply awesome!
Thanks @danidiamond:disqus!

Raoul Brown's picture

I also use FS to fix bags under subject eyes and to clean up skin, but I also like this method. Thanks for sharing. I'll add this to my workflow. RB

Chet Meyerson's picture

Apparently I'm doing something wrong! I do not get a 1/2 moon symbol on the curves layer but a curves symbol. When I click on the top dropper, sample a color, the whole image goes dark. I've looked at the video and I cannot figure out how to get that 1/2 moon symbol? Any suggestions?

Chad Andreo's picture

I'm having the same issue.

Dani Diamond's picture

Make sure you select the curves symbol before you double click the eye dropper. By default the layer mask is selected.

Chad Andreo's picture

I did that and the whole image still goes dark.

Von Wong's picture

You didn't listen carefully, you're supposed to double click the eyedropper tool to bring up the mixer. Not select a sample point. Listen to it again

Sascha Seven's picture

I listened carefully, took notes - double clicked the eye-dropper tool - and alas, the color picker did not pop up. So, I just manually clicked it. One extra step, but it worked.

Sascha Seven's picture

Double clicked the eyedropper tool and the color picker does NOT come up.

Sascha Seven's picture

OK, I was having the same problem. Super frustrating!!! Turns out, I needed to reset my Photoshop preferences. Make sure Photoshop is closed, on your keyboard hold down "CTRL+ALT+SHIFT" and then while holding those buttons down, launch Photoshop. Choose "Yes" to reset your preferences. Everything should work fine after that.

Scott Mccusker's picture

this is a great technique that proves a few things that I've long believed about photoshop: 1. just about anything important involves the brush tool and curves. 2. nothing in photoshop is named intuitively, and no tool that has a name that makes sense works as well as it should--you have to use some secret trick to get really good results.

Von Wong's picture

Sweet. learn new things everyday. Thanks for sharing

CrustyJuggler66's picture

Invert mask, be nice to say the short cut as you do it.. Just little things that stop the rest of us hunting around the app.

Juan Muino's picture

Realy enjoyed this tutorial - thank you .
Juan www.cambsweddingphotography.com

Jason Ranalli's picture

I generally use several passes of frequency separation across the entire face so that will take care of this too, however, this is a nice quick trick to have for an isolated spot like this.

Photoshop...where there's a thousand ways to do every task.

Brurya Dym's picture

Thank you, Dani, the most helpful tutorial I watched so far!!!

nabilalk's picture

Just what I needed, much obliged!

Jason Grover's picture

Can't believe I'm just seeing this now. Excellent video Dani. I was never a fan of the patch tool then I tried to jump onto the dodge/burn and frequency separation train but I'm not a huge fan. Your technique makes sense to me and fits perfectly into my process of retouching. Thanks for sharing.