Smooth Tone Technique using Photoshop CC or Photoshop Elements
There are times when you may capture too much detail in your photographs. Harsh lighting and high-resolution digital cameras can produce unflattering portraits or harsh looking landscape photos. By applying this smooth tone technique you can soften the harsh details you find displeasing. You may also want to apply this technique as a “special effect” to change the smoothness of your image.
Begin by opening the image you want to modify in the main editing space of Photoshop.
1. Create a duplicate layer of the image by choosing one of the following:
Drag the layer down to the new layer button
Right click (Control-click on Macintosh) on the layer and choose “Duplicate”
Use the “Duplicate Layer” command under Layer in the main menu
Rename the layer “Blur”.
2. From the main menu choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Use the blur filter to smooth the details from the image. Make sure not to over blur by keeping the overall shapes of the image visible. The number you choose will depend on the resolution and detail of the image.
3. From the mode menu of the Blur layer choose “Multiply” to blend the blurred pixels with the pixels in the layer below. You should notice a significant smoothing and darkening of the image. We will restore the proper tonality to the image in the next steps.
4. We will begin restoring the shadow detail by creating a new levels adjustment layer. It’s important to clip this adjustment layer to the Blur layer below. This will limit the effects of the levels to the Blur layer.
Raise the black Output Slider and Gamma on the input slider to restore the proper tonality to the shadows in the image.
5. To restore the highlights and mid-tones create a second levels adjustment layer. DO NOT clip this to any other layers.
Set the blend mode to Screen and drag the white Output Slider to the left to restore the proper tonality to the highlights and mid-tones.
6. By making these adjustments we have added saturation to the image. To remove this effect create a Hue/Saturation and drag the Saturation slider to the left to decrease overall saturation.
7. If you are still missing shadow details you can restore them by applying a Shadows/Highlights filter. Choose Enhance > Adjust Lighting > Shadows/Highlights. Use the Lighten Shadows slider to improve the detail in the dark areas of your image. Leave the Darken Highlights and Midtone Contrast set to 0%.
8. To mask this effect from specific areas of your image group the adjustment layers and the blur layer together and add a mask. Hold down the shift key and click the Blur layer and the top adjustment layer. On a Mac press Command + G, on a PC use the CTR + G keyboard shortcut. Use the brush tool to create your mask.