Skin drawing from Svetlana Klimova

Good day! My name is Svetlana Klimova, I do photo art and this is my second author’s lesson on the forum. I am often asked “how do I make such skin”, so this time I decided to show the face completely and describe in more detail the moments concerning the treatment of the skin. I really hope that I will not disappoint and will be able to answer all the questions you are interested in.

As an example, consider one of the latest works “Maria” (2014).

1. Source

I had such a source code for a beautiful girl Masha. Household photo … with staged ones you don’t have to bother yourself much how to put the light on, go from the original one. Here, the cut-off pattern is not so pronounced, you can only see that the light on the left above is drawing volumes, focusing mainly on the contours (they are there for good). So try to choose photos based on your skills and knowledge of anatomy.

2. The separation of the object from the background

Cut out with a pen. I load the selection and hide the extra under the mask. Blur the mask on the pixel and apply. The background is still neutral or close to that shade in which it is planned to have work. Moles, decorations, tattoos are removed immediately – for such a technique, everything native is only a hindrance.

At this stage, all the manipulations with plastic are very important, because later on drawing, having a bunch of layers, it will be extremely difficult to make them, so if there is a need for it, try to do everything as accurately as possible right now.

3. Retouch. Duplicate as clipping mask

Retouching in this case implies further disposal of defects that interfere with the drawing: small glare on the lips and eyes, crooked eyelashes sticking out, excess hair, etc., because I prefer to draw them myself and as I would like.


Beginning photographers, as a rule, abuse blurring, and then draw shadows where they should not be. Our task is not to blur the cut-off pattern, that is, the borders between the light and the shadow should be still visible.

Having tried all kinds of blur, I stopped at the Imagenomic Portraiture plugin (in CC it is already built in Photoshop). I like that it does not give dirt like ordinary methods and does not blur contours, but only softens them. It can be used quite strongly and there is no need to reduce the opacity of the layer. True, on the cut image, it gives a white border, but in this case I go to the trick: I merge the duplicate with a copy of the background and then apply the plugin.

I make a duplicate of the retouched source code and place it on top of all layers, turn off visibility.

4. Tone Alignment

Now I will do my best to kill the volume. I am especially good at it when there is a need to paint over large areas of skin. The brush is soft and wide, I take samples with a pipette and, starting with 5-10% opacity, I go through all the areas, gradually condensing where I just need to paint the hair or the joints of the collage. Pay attention to the ugly shadow from the flash under the chin! There, under the color!

Then again take a pipette sample in medium tones and fill with this color a new layer. Expose him to Hue mode. Wipe eyes and lips from the excess “powder” does not make sense, since their staining in the future will have separate layers.

5. Eyes and lips

I always pay special attention to eyes and lips, so I prefer to have separate adjustment layers for them in order to be able to make changes in shade depending on the general type of work. Usually lip it Color balance (Normal), and for the eyes Gradient map (Soft Light).

It is time to determine the background. It is difficult to predict how harmonious the idea will look in the end, but so far for the image I have chosen a blue-green gamut and outlined the direction of the light, since in the future there will be a task fit the model in the background. That’s right, not the other way around!

6. Chiaroscuro

Now my task is to return the lost volume and draw the missing areas covered with hair using two adjustment layers Curves for shadows and light.
For shadows I lower the curve, for light I raise. Invert the mask.

For the hint of the cut-off pattern I use a duplicate of the source code.

The procedure is as follows: we start drawing from the borders of light and shade and continue to move towards the light. The direction of the strokes follows the forms.

With a wide brush I darken the oval of the face, emphasize the cheekbones (the closer to the light, the less dense these areas will be). Gradually reduce the diameter and draw the eyes. Do not try to darken the areas around the nose and lips, as these are protruding parts of the face, you risk getting extra relief. Light usually affects areas of the cheekbones, under and above the eyebrows, the area around the eyes and the eyes themselves, the nose, the edges of the lips and the forehead, that is, those areas that can be lightened, can make the face more sculptural, expressive. But it is not necessary to put light on all the above areas at once, otherwise you can overexposure a person.

Here, it is advisable to learn from make-up artists and study sculpturing schemes, clearly demonstrating what and how should be dimmed and lightened with different types of face, and the artist’s experience in working on the image together will give the desired result, in other words, teach you to place accents correctly.

7. Enter the model in the background

For starters, I brought in a bit of color variety using Gradient Map (Blue, Yellow, Pink) in Color mode with 10% opacity of the layer.

Color reflexes

The background and the model interact with each other using lighting and reflexes, so if we want to put the model on Wednesday so that it is not an alien element in our work, then we must not forget about color reflexes.
I created two layers in modes Normal and Soft Light, in this sequence: the normal mode should not block the soft light.

In the Normal mode, I take a color from the background with a pipette and a brush with 5-10% opacity going around the edges of the model. Note that the closer to contact with the background, the brighter and denser the reflexes will be; on the right blue, on the left green shades.

I do the same in mode Soft Light, but I am already passing through the shadow areas of the model in order not to overwrite the anatomy.

Usually working with chiaroscuro gives a glut of color, so I wanted to slightly muffle the brightness of the skin with Vibrance. Such corrective layers affecting skin tone should be below all staining layers. Subsequently, I added Hue /Saturation, to darken the model slightly (also the easiest way to reduce redness in the corresponding channel) and Curves for more contrasting dimming.

In the course of all manipulations there is a danger of losing anatomy and / or losing the cut-off contrast, in this regard, you can use the retouched and bleached source in the mode Soft Light. Place it above all layers and rub on the mask the places that should be shown: folds, folds, etc.

8. Detailing

In this case, the detailing concerns a deeper study of the eyes and lips.
For makeup, I created a layer in mode Soft Light and painted decorative eyeshadow in the shape of “swallow”. And for the lips, I selected a palette of three colors with a separate layer: for shadow areas, light and half tones. This mode gives contrast and brightness, but to a more moderate degree than Overlay.

On top of the makeup is a layer for eyelashes and eyebrows in the mode Normal, and directly below it is a layer with a falling shadow from the eyelashes in the mode Multiply. For the shadow, I used the layer styles, using a pipette to take a color sample from the background in the coldest tones, and made this layer independent. Corrected the shape and transparency of the shadow tool Smudge and 10% eraser.

Two layers complete the detail: black in mode Color Dodge for glare and 50% gray mode Soft Light for even more careful work on the eyes and lips.

See the eye drawing tutorial for details.


At the end of this study, at the final stage of the work, a copy of all layers is made in the mode Soft Light and a filter is applied to it High Pass pretty much on average 30 pixels, but with a decrease in the layer opacity to 50%. Hides under a black mask and, alternately loading into the selection, wipe areas of the eyes, eyelashes, eyebrows and lips.

9. Texture

Three layers of texture.

1. New layer is filled with white color, I set the mode Dissolve 1% opacity. Underneath, I create another layer in normal mode. Layers merge and expose mode Overlay. At high resolution it may be that the points on the skin will look too small and frequent, then you have to stretch this layer in two or even three times. Also note that in order not to be unnecessarily harsh, you may need to slightly blur the texture.

2. Under this layer I make a duplicate, invert the color Ctrl + I to black. Then I select Ctrl + A and transform the image Ctrl + T, choosing flip horizontally.

3. When mirroring, black and white dots do not overlap!

4. On top of these two layers, I create the third one, fill it with black and set the mode for it Color Dodge. With the Ctrl + Shift keys pressed, I click alternately on the layers with a black and white texture. The resulting selection of the two layers is filled with white.

I hide all three layers with texture under black masks and start to show with 10% white brush: white texture – light areas, black – shadow zones. These two textures should merge into each other at the edges. Using the third, slightly etching out the locally brightest protruding zones: nose, forehead, above and below the eyebrows, chin. With this method, white dots are amplified and the areas around them are slightly brightened.

10. Contrajour

Drawn in the final stages of work in the presence of all the components of the collage.
This light reveals the shape of the whole object or any part of it, it creates additional glare in the areas illuminated by it, it can also help to detach the object from the background, if the brightness of the background and the object itself coincide, like mine. In fact, contre-dressing is a bright, overexposed outline, devoid of detail, but from an artistic point of view I also want to introduce color diversity here.

A new layer is filled with 100% black and set the mode to it. Color Dodge. 5% soft brush, white color. I draw the lines of the light contour, which expand with increasing intensity or narrow and fade when the light source is removed from the object. I usually create two or three such layers separately for the face, hands and shoulders so that you can hide the excess under the mask for the convenience of drawing even contours, and then mix it so as not to produce excess layers.

This technique is applicable only if there is a layer with dense reflexes in normal mode (point number 7). And the brighter and more colorful this layer is, the more intense the backlight will be.

11. Layer Palette

For clarity, the layers palette looks like this:

12. Final color correction

At a certain point, when it comes to completion, I create on top of all layers a folder with adjustment layers, above which there are always Levels, namely, its parameter interests me. Auto. This layer allows me to keep track of white balance, but it can also distort colors and re-contrast. If you notice black dips or overexposure, then in this case it is desirable to weaken its action.
Toning layers can be quite a lot, base – Solid Color (mode selection), Color Balance and Photo Filter, but if there is a need to correct or change the color, I resort either to Selective Color, Channel mixer and the most powerful of all Curves.

In conclusion, add sharpness to the entire image through High Pass (1 pixel, Soft Light).

Creative success!

The lesson was written for advanced users of Photoshop, enthusiastic photoart, as an exchange of experience.

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