The Best Skin Softening Photoshop Action

Skin retouching is an art form in itself, and there are thousands of different ways to retouch skin in Photoshop. Skin retouching is such an essential part of creating the final image in the beauty and fashion industry that there is a whole industry of artists who only specialize in skin retouching.

But for most of us, and for most of our clients, skin retouching doesn’t have to be to the same level as the beauty and fashion industry. Quick skin retouching doesn’t have to be lousy retouching either.

This video by one of my favorite Photoshop channels, PiXimperfect, not only provides a skin softening Photoshop action, but also provides an overview step by step of how the action works. I find this approach to be helpful even if I only ever use the action itself, and never do the steps myself without the action. Understanding what the action is doing helps me to make better decisions for inputs to the action. For example, in the video one of the steps of the action requires input from the user for the radius and threshold of the surface blur step. By understanding what this step is doing helps with selecting values for the radius and threshold for other images as each image is going to require its own unique values.

Of course, this video only addresses skin softening, and for complete skin retouching, many other items might need to be addressed like blemish removal, skin tones, hot spots to name a few. But for skin softening, I found this Photoshop action by PiXimperfect to be an easy general approach that provides good results.

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17 Comments

Awful. If it's the best you've seen then I suspect you must have just got your first internet connection!

Kendrick Howard's picture

And your preferred method is...... to troll I suspect.

Hahaha, how very narrow-minded, anyone that dissents must be a troll? Stupid man

Most of the actions use this kind or another of Frequency Separation.
The real trick about Frequency Separation is choosing the correct radius.

The only Plug In that give a live preview of the result to select the optimal tool is NBP Freqsep Control:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDulHm9EzB0

Also one by Unmesh:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLjMzOkMY90

Rob Mitchell's picture

Opened the site with half open eyes and thought the lead article was one of those miraculous facebooks ads for a fixall plugin that plasticises everything.

To be honest, skin retouching other than cloned zits and a stray hair, I give to one of the professional editors I work with. I don’t put my time into something that I can only do halfarsed. I’ve followed countless guides and tricks but I’m just not efficient enough at it to make it cost effective or give a look other than that of s shop mannequin.

user-206807's picture

No action. Portraiture (Imagenomic)…

Phillip Coveney's picture

OR people actually master the art of photography and embrace the way people actually look.

Lee Christiansen's picture

Would we also tell those same people not to wear makeup for our shoots?

Truth is photographers and painters have been "enhancing" the way people look since the paintbrush or film was invented.

We light to tell the truth the way we want. We process to do the same. We retouch to tell similar lies. because transforming a 3D person into a 2D image is always a representation. A still image focuses the attention on blemishes far more than in real life with a moving subject.

Mastering photography won't make someone's skin smoother and it won't remove the blemishes. Try as we might, if our subject can't pose quite how we need them to for a flattering look, (and some are just plain awkward infant of the lens), then sometimes they need a little help to return them to how we actually perceive them.

Days of old, clients would dictate how the painters portrayed them. We have a similar pressure with photography clients. My retouching is natural unless I'm going for a specific look, but how people look, and how they are perceived are not always the same thing.

The need for retouching is rarely to do with mastering the art of photography.

Phillip Coveney's picture

Sounds like a bunch of non-sense. You've said a lot of words and seem to have completely missed my simple points, but hey you do you bud. 🤷‍♂️

Edit: Upon further inspection you don't even have any photos on your profile, but you've made a lot of comments.

Lee Christiansen's picture

Sorry I'll use less and smaller words next time. You mentioned mastering the art of photography. I simply drew a correlation between that and how retouching is separate from that particular art.

You said people should embrace how they look - I merely commented on how people change how they look by applying makeup.

I have plenty of images on my commercial websites. I have no need to get validation from anyone here.

I'll stop now before my word count gets too high.

Noah Stephens's picture

It’s a stylistic choice. Some people like reportage. Some people like hyper-realism. Both choices are valid.

Ignacio Balbuena's picture

If you do more of the work on the studio you have less in edition ;)

Matthias Dengler's picture

That's an insult to the portrait person and even more to every serious photographer and retoucher.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

I've never been a fan of his skin retouching vids. They always have that overly fake and flat look. They are complex and still end up with a cheap look. With these types of methods in trying to preserve the skin texture, it just ends up looking like clay or Play-Doh.

If you want something quick and easy to apply, I think you are better off using Portraiture by Imagenomic. And, yes, even with this it's easy to go overboard. You just have to apply strategically and sparingly.

Josh G's picture

I too am a user of a frequency separation action, seems to be the best balancing/retouch starting point for my workflow.