Replace Bad Tan Lines With a Beautiful Bronze Glow in Photoshop

Tan lines. They can make even the most seasoned retoucher want to scream in agony. Summer is near, but never fear; with just a few simple adjustments in Photoshop, those pesky sun-baked streaks can be swept out to sea like a mermaid at high tide.

In this video by one of my Photoshop favorites, the always enjoyable Aaron Nace, we revisit a simple yet effective way to match skin tones in order to remove the appearance of angry red skin and super-white tan lines. In addition to evening out two stark contrasts in skin tone, we will also add back in a nice bronze glow on our subject for a believable, overall sunkissed look. As Aaron explains here, when there is such a stark contrast in skin tones, you really need to adjust both the tanned skin and the lighter skin in order to reach a believable middleground. After making selections of skin, it’s just a matter of making a few Hue/Saturation adjustments until things start to match up.

After cleaning up some spotty areas with the Healing Brush, Aaron goes back in and adds some beautifully bronzed suntan to the skin he lightened, making it all blend together more realistically. Finally, you will learn how to bring back definition and add a little more prominence to your subject’s features using a little dodge and burn. You’ll have your sun-worshiping subjects looking perfectly bronzed in no time. Enjoy!

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9 Comments

why? tan lines are hot as hell

Rob Mitchell's picture

They were a little more like sunburn lines. A little less hot. Unless you forgot to use aftersun lotion, then they burn like heck.

hot as hell in my eyes. the red will eventually go away.

Gion-Andri Derungs's picture

That's no tanned skin, that's burned...

Rod Kestel's picture

Mmm, I could use this technique with this gent a couple of days ago. Okay for an impromptu snap, shame about the Trumpian eye bands (tho from genuine Aussie sun).

Jay Jay's picture

I'll have to watch the entire video when i have time, great results, but looks like a good bit of work involved. Since i edit lots of photos at a time, an effective way to achieve this look (for my workflow anyway), is to brush out the sunburn in Lightroom on the RAW image (I have brush presets that pull red/orange out at various degrees, and can then adjust the color to match the non burned skin tone).

I also have a brush preset that reduces highlights, so that i can tone down the tan lines a good deal. Then in Photoshop, run a frequency separation action, select the color layer, sample the skin tone color i want, then paint it into the tan line to match it with the non-sunburned skin for a perfect match. It's very quick and easy that way, since it doesn't affect the texture underneath.

PROTIP: Wear sunscreen. Skin cancer is no joke.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Or better yet - replace a model with tan lines with a model without tan lines. Or don’t work with that model in the first place. Problem solved. You’re welcome.

Or button up the shirt.