Here's a quick technique for cooling down skin tones and softening them at the same time. The technique lightens faces by making a layer from the image's Red channel and setting its blending mode to Luminosity. If you want to harden skin tones, try using the Blue channel instead. While I would use this technique mainly for portraits, it can also work with other types of images.
1 Open the image and activate the Channels palette by selecting Windows > Channels You'll see thumbnails of the composite RGB image, as well as thumbnails of the individual Red, Green, and Blue channels
2 Ctrl/Cmd-Click the Red channel—this channel contains most of the skin's color values
3 Go to Select > Save Selection In the Save Selection dialog box, ensure that the New Channel radio button is checked and click OK You will now see a new Alpha channel appear in the Channels palette It should be called Alpha l
4 Select the new Alpha l channel either by clicking on the channel or using the shortcut Ctrl/Cmd-^ (or whatever number is shown next to the Alpha channel)
5 Select the entire channel (Select > All or Ctrl/Cmd-A) and copy it (Edit > Copy or Ctrl/ Crnd-C)
6 Activate the RGB image by either clicking on the composite RGB thumbnail in the Channels palette or by using Ctrl/Cmd
7 Paste the clipboard contents using Edit > Paste (Ctrl/Cmd-V).
8 Open the Layers palette; you should now see a grayscale layer This is the Red channel Switch this layer's blending mode to Luminosity using the pull-down blending mode menu (or Alt/Opt-Shift-Y) and rename this layer "Luminosity"
9 Select the image's luminosity using Ctrl/ Cmd-Alt/Opt-Shift—.
10 With the Luminosity layer active, click the "Add layer mask" icon at the bottom of the Layers palette
11 At this point the image's red highlights may be too bright If so, reduce the Luminosity layer's opacity to balance the image
12 Blur the Luminosity layer if needed Use Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set a small radius (unless you want a really soft effect).
The recipe toned down the warm evening light on the skin tones of this girl's face No blur was needed to soften the girl's face
.ayers ;nels -aths
This fisherman's face was too red. The recipe was used without any blurring.
0 A Luminosity B 75 C 100
Layers 1 Channels 'HsPaths^v
Luminosity ' Opacity] 75% 1 ► Q
ock: ^jf^tt Fill: 100% > Q
g^ G Luminosity
9 ^"j Background Q
aJ O. J i a
Adding a glow
Emphasizing the moment
The sun was directly in this woman's face Using the Luminosity layer improved the skin tones, while the layer mask preserved the blacks
Q A Luminosity I 30 C 100
Gaussian Blur was used with a radius of 2 to soften further the tones in this woman's face
The Luminosity layer made this man's skin tone less red, and a slight blur was added to emphasize his pensive look
Q A Luminosity I 63 C 100
Q A Luminosity I 70 C 100
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