How to airbrush photos in photoshop

Updated February 21, 2017

The thing that sets apart pictures of regular people and pictures of models, is airbrushing. Or at least that is what people call it when photos are edited in such a way where skin looks more smooth and clean. Photoshop is an amazing tool for editing photos in just this way.

Open up a photo of a person that needs editing, using Photoshop version CS3.

Remove any major unwanted blemishes with the Spot Healing Tool (which looks like a bandage) on a small radius, just large enough to cover any blemishes. When finished, create a duplicate layer and apply the Dust and Scratches filter. This can be found under the Filter menu under Noise.

Set the radius between two and five pixels with a threshold of zero, after applying the Dust and Scratches filter. You are looking for a smooth blend of features. Do not be alarmed if it looks too blurry, right now you are creating smooth skin that you will later blend onto the actual picture.

Use a Gaussian Blur filter to remove any banding and make the skin have a better complexion. This filter can be found under the Filter menu under Blur. You will likely want a radius between one and three.

Add some texture to prevent a plastic or fake appearance of the skin by using the Add Noise filter. This can be found under the Filter menu under Noise. Select between 0.7 percent to 1.5 percent and be sure to check "Uniform" and "Monochromatic." Your percent of noise added may vary depending on the image you are using.

Apply the new "skin" back to the original image. To do this you will need to add a layer mask and fill it with black. Go to the Layer menu and select "Layer Mask" and "Reveal All." Then, using the Paint Bucket tool, fill with solid black. You will now be working on the Layer Mask using the Paint Brush tool with white selected. When you "paint" with white while using the layer mask, it will be painting on the new "skin" that you just created. Try to leave the details in the eyes, nose and mouth. If you make a mistake, just paint back over that area with black and it will return back the way it was.

Adjust any redness in the skin tone by using a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. This can be found under the Layer menu under New Adjustment Layer. To remove red from skin, you will want to adjust the Hue level between around +4 to +8.

Create a tan skin tone by using a Photo Filter. This can be found under the Layer menu under New Adjustment Layer. Try using a Sepia filter at around 50 percent density.

Select a new vibrant eye color and using the paintbrush paint in a circular motion over the eyes. Set the layer to "Overlay" by right clicking on the layer in the layer palette, selecting Blending Options and changing the Blend Mode to Overlay. This will fix any damage that the previous steps may have caused to the eye color.

Add a Layer Mask just like you did for the skin, so you can edit around the eyes to remove any overlapping color that doesn't belong. If you set the layer to 30% opacity the eye color will appear much more natural. Don't forget to do this for both eyes!

Sharpen the image. Create a duplicate layer of the background image and set it to Overlay. Apply a High Pass filter, which can be found in the Filter menu under Other, adjust the radius so the preview looks slightly over-sharpened. Once applied, adjust your layer opacity to increase or decrease the sharpness of the image.


All of the specific alterations will vary from picture to picture. Be creative and try different amounts of adjustments that may make your image look better.

Things You'll Need

  • Photoshop version CS3 (other versions will work but the menus may be different)
  • An image to alter
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