How to Smooth Skin in Lightroom

Smoothing skin in Lightroom requires the use of two different tools: the spot removal tool and the adjustment brush. Lightroom may not contain the functionality required for ex treme makeovers or photo manipulation, but you will be able to perform the edits required for a typical portrait shoot. Keep reading below to learn how to use the spot removal tool and the adjustment brush tool to smooth skin in Lightroom.

Just like whitening teeth, smoothing skin and removing spots are very common requests by clients and are edits that will really take a portrait to the next level and ensure the subject looks their best. When it comes to detailed portrait touch-ups, Photoshop does tend to be the tool of choice, but if you are a Lightroom user you may actually be able to do everything you need to do during a typical portrait touch up without leaving Lightroom. You just need to know where all the right tools are and how to use them!

Spot & Blemish Removal

Step 1: Zooming In for a Better Working View

The spots you are going to be removing will probably be pretty small, so you will want to zoom into your photo so you can see the spots you are trying to edit and not end up editing out areas of your photo you didn’t want to! Zooming in greatly increases the accuracy of your edits.

To do this, you can change the zoom options found on the top of the Navigator panel, which can be found on the left side of your screen. There are a few options already on the top of the panel, like “Fit”, “Fill”, and a few more, but there are also more options available in a drop-down menu you can open using the arrows in the far right of this panel. Try a few options until you find the one that gives you the best view of the spots you will be editing. Once you have zoomed in, you will be able to move around to other areas of your image by using the hand tool.

Step 2: Spot Removal Tool

The Spot Removal Tool can be found right below the Histogram, on the right side of your screen in the Develop Module. It is the second icon from the left, and looks like a circle with an arrow coming out the right side of it. Once you have selected the tool, the spot removal options will appear below it.


Step 3: Adjusting the Heal Mode Options

Before adjusting any settings in your Spot Removal tool, make sure it is set to “Heal” mode. This setting can be found in the top right corner of the panel, and “Heal” will appear in white when this mode is selected. Heal mode works by automatically sampling nearby “best guess” pixels that will blend with the area you’re retouching and remove the spot.

There are a number of options you can adjust within the Spot Removal tool, most of which are similar to the options in the Adjustment Brush tool. The first setting is the brush size. In this case, it is important to use the smallest brush size possible, meaning your brush is just big enough to cover the spot you are trying to retouch. This keeps your edits precise and ensures you are not applying the adjustment to areas that don’t need it, creating a more natural look for your portrait. The “Feather” setting dictates how hard the edges of your brush are. This can come in handy as an edge that is too hard can be more noticeable in some instances. When you adjust the “Opacity” setting you change how opaque your edit will be. This can be helpful when you do not want to fully cover up a spot. For example, you may want to tone down wrinkles, but not completely delete them. In this case, an opacity below 100 is useful.

Smoothing the Skin

Once you have fixed all the blemishes and wrinkles you want to remove or edit, the final touch on your portrait will be to apply the Soften Skin effect. This effect removes pores and fine lines, and gives the skin of your subject an overall healthy look.

Step 1: Select the Adjustment Brush Tool

The skin softening effect is found within the Adjustment Brush tool. (If you have never used the Adjustment Brush tool before and want to learn more about what it is and how to use it, check out our previous blogs: What are Lightroom Brushes? & How to Use Lightroom Brushes.) To start, select the Adjustment Brush tool from the right side of the screen, below the histogram, and just a few icons over from where you selected the Spot Removal tool. Once this is selected, the effect menu and brush options will become visible.

Near the top of the brush options panel, you will see the word “Effect”. Click the arrows next to this to open a drop-down menu of different brush options and select the “Soften Skin” brush. Just like the Spot Removal tool, you can choose the brush size and feather, but now you also have options for “Flow” and “Density”. The Flow setting controls the amount of the effect that is applied, and Density controls the brush transparency.

Step 2: Applying the Soften Skin Effect

Once you have selected the Adjustment Brush tool and applied all settings the way you want them, simply brush over the parts of your image you would like to soften. When you first start brushing, a black and white pin will appear as an indicator that the brush is active. To be able to see where you have already brushed, select the “Show Mask Overlay” option from the bottom of the screen, just below your image. This applies a red mask to any areas you have brushed, showing you where you still need to brush.

If you brush over areas you did not want to, simply switch your brush over to “Erase” mode by pressing “Alt” on a PC, or “Option” on a Mac, or clicking “Erase” and switch back to brush mode when you are done erasing.

When you have applied all the edits you want to, click “Done” in the bottom right corner of the screen.

With this two-step approach to smoothing skin, you will be able to achieve flawless, but natural-looking edits for all your subjects. There is no need to go through all of Photoshop’s complicated tools for edits like these! Simply learn to use the Spot Removal tool and Adjustment Brush tool in Lightroom and you will have professional-looking portraits in no time at all.