Education, Tutorials

How to Smooth and Retouch Skin in Video With Adobe Premiere Pro

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You’ve probably seen tons of tutorials on how to retouch and smooth skin in Photoshop, but retouching can also be done for video with Adobe Premiere Pro. In fact, many commercial and video editors use the tools I’m about to show you to make the models and actors in their work look more polished and free of imperfections.

Using the Beauty Studio Effect by BorisFX (part of Continuum’s Image Restoration Suite), you can create a face matte, track it to a model’s movement, and control the smoothing, color correction, and glow of their skin. Below, I break down the steps to follow, and you can also watch my video tutorial above for further clarity.
 

Building the Skin Matte

When you first apply the Beauty Studio effect to your footage, it will look very artificial, and it will also smooth all parts of the image. For example, it will smooth the eyes, lips, and background, and you definitely don’t want that. Follow these steps to ensure you are only smoothing your subject’s skin tone:

Select the Skin Tone Range: First, turn the pixel chooser on. Then, underneath “Mocha Matte,” use the eyedropper tool to pick “Color A” — the darker area of your model’s skin — and “Color B,” the lightest area of the skin.

Turn the “Pixel Chooser” ON
Select the colors of the subject’s skin with the eye dropper.

Adjusting the Matte/Mask: Select “View Matte/Mask” to see the parts of the image to which the effect is being applied. The white area is the part Beauty Studio is affecting — the area where smoothing will take place — and the black areas are protected and will not be smoothed. To make the eyes and mouth more black and all the skin white, you will need to adjust the Hue, Saturation and Luma softness, and sometimes the Clip White and Clip Black parameters, as well.

View the matte/mask; the white areas are smoothed and black areas are not

Adjust the hue, saturation, and luma softness to make the skin white

 

Tracking and Masking

The next step is to mask out any remaining white or gray areas of the image that you don’t want to smooth. You want everything but the skin to be black. Since you can’t achieve pure black and white by just adjusting the hue, saturation, and luma softness, we need the help of Mocha Pro (which is built into the Beauty Studio effect).

Using Mocha Pro: To create a Mocha mask around the face to mask out the rest of the image from being affected, click on the Mocha logo, then use the X-Spline tool to draw a mask around the entire face and any other area where skin is exposed. Then track forward and back, and once you’re done, you’ll see that mask moves with the movement of the subject.

Use the X-Spline tool to draw a mask around the model

Invert Masks to Bring in Facial Detail: In my example, the eyebrow is completely smoothed out. To bring it back, you can also use the X-spline tool to draw a mask around the eyebrows. Then, on the left, under “Blend Mode,” choose “Subtract.” Underneath that, you can also link this new mask to the tracking data from the first tracked layer.

Draw another mask around areas you want to subtract from the smoothing effect

 

Smoothing

Beauty Studio gives you a range of level details you can control in Premiere Pro. The smallest details are for the small pores, and the larger details are for smoothing large freckles or blemishes.

Choosing Detail Level: Beauty Studio defaults to four levels of smoothing, which works very well. But you also need to be sure to adjust the levels your situation. Most of the time, this means lowering the smoothing amount for each level.

Choose the levels of detail you want to smooth (level 1 = smallest details)

Reducing Smoothing: In most cases, you want to reduce the master amount to around 60-70; anything above that makes the smoothing look too artificial (unless you’re going for an artificial look). Then, depending on the image, you can reduce the various levels of smoothing. I’d recommend the levels to also be at 70 or below.
 

Finishing Touches

To make the smoothing more natural and add in some final touches, Beauty Studio comes with some sharpening, color correction, and glow effects built in.

Sharpening: To bring in some more natural sharpening, turn on the Sharpen effect. I’d recommend sharpening between 10-20 to achieve natural sharpening without overdoing it.

Turn on sharpening

Color Correction: During the smoothing process, you can lose some saturation, so I’d recommend adding in anywhere from 3-8 points of saturation to your model’s skin. You don’t want to add too much or it will look like you’re giving your model a bad tan. You can also bring in some more brightness exposure — I find that just 1 point is enough.

Turn on color correction

Glow: To make your subject shine and stand out, you can add in a slight glow as well. I wouldn’t go over 5-10 points of glow. You can also choose a color for the glow. For example, if you want more of a rose-blush glow, you can choose a pinkish color.

Turn on glow

Overall, you don’t want to overdo the smoothing of the skin to the point where it starts to look artificial. You just want to add enough to enhance the natural skin tones. Now you know the trick the beauty trade! If you have any questions, just leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer. Also, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for weekly video production tutorials to help you become a better video creator.

Before (left) and After (right)