Portrait Touch Up

Exposure has the tools you need to create perfect portraits. This video demonstrates Exposure’s touch-up tools in action. Learn to use Spot Healing tool, quickly enhance eyes, and whiten teeth.

Photos: Robert Hamilton, Tara Ruby, Jenn Aan

Spot Healing

Spot healing enables you to remove distracting elements like blemishes and blend that area with the rest of the image. I’m working with an adorable image but the skin could use this kind of retouching.

First I zoom in on the area that needs adjusting. I’ll click on the Spot Heal icon. The Spot Heal panel opens, and the Spot Heal brush appears in my image when I hover over it.

I’ll fix this blemish on the baby’s forehead. First, I adjust the size of the tool so that it’s a little larger than the feature I’m removing. Next, I click to remove the blemish. Exposure intelligently chooses an adjacent area to heal from. If I want to select a different area,  I simply click and drag to reposition the source region. I’m happy with Exposure’s choice, so I leave it as is.

I can make as many spot heal regions as I want. If there’s a large area to heal, I can drag the mouse. Exposure keeps up with me. To delete a region, I’ll right-click and choose Delete, or press Backspace or Delete on my keyboard.

To see all my spot healing actions, I’ll keep the Show Outlines set to Auto or Always. If my image is too crowded with these borders, I can switch to either Active or Never.

To further customize the spot heal tool, I adjust the Size, Feather, and Opacity sliders. Feathering adjusts how the healed area fades out around the edges, while opacity sets the transparency of the blend. Lower settings show more of the original area while higher settings completely cover it.

Exposure offers two sets of Size, Feather, and Opacity sliders. The ones for Active Spot adjust the currently active spot, and the ones for Brush adjust the brush for your next stroke
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Having them both lets you adjust the brush that you use next without affecting the active spot.

You can choose to heal or clone the area. Heal is the default, and the best option for fixing skin. Clone is useful for strong patterns, like grass or trees, where straight patterns look good. To compare the before and after, I’ll click the Before button, or the \ key. When I’m finished, I click Close.

Teeth Whitening

Exposure’s brush tool features three presets designed for portrait retouching. Let’s take a look at them. First up is teeth whitening. I open the brushing panel by clicking the brush icon.

New Layer is the default choice, so my first brush stroke will create a new layer. If I select Edit, then my brush strokes will be added to any current layer I created. If I want to undo all brush strokes for the selected layer, I click Reset.

I’ll select Whiten Teeth from the Preset Dropdown.

Exposure provides three types of brush: A, B, and Eraser. A and B let you create two different brushes, each with different settings. So you can create a small brush with minimal feathering, and a large brush with more feathering, if you wanted to quickly switch between them.

I’m now ready to click anyplace on the teeth. Before I start brushing, I adjust the size, feather, and flow to best match the area I’m brushing. It’s best to set the brush size to a little smaller than the smallest feature of the area you’re covering. You can also change the brush size with the bracket keys, or scroll up or down with the mouse or trackpad.

Feather controls the softness of the brush. High values fall off over a wider distance. You can adjust it with the slider, or by holding down shift while scrolling.

Flow controls how strongly the effect is painted on your image. You can adjust it with the slider or by holding down the  key while rotating the mouse wheel. Windows users use the Control key. As you adjust each slider, Exposure shows you in real-time how the look changes.

When brushing, I slowly cover the entire area. You see the teeth get brighter and whiter the more that I brush.

Notice that I was a little sloppy and brushed too much. To clean that up, I switch the brush to Eraser. I adjust the Size, Feather, and Flow settings. I can use the Option key (Mac) or Alt key (Windows) while the brush tool is active. I’ll clean up the areas where I overshot the teeth.

Now the brush strokes are where I want them, but the effect is a little too strong. I’ll adjust the Opacity slider to make it more subtle. Now I can compare with my original by pressing the \ key. It’s a definite improvement. To finish and apply my changes, I click Close.

Enhance Iris

To enhance the eyes, I’ll use the Enhance Iris selection in the Preset drop-down menu.
 This boosts saturation to make eyes more vivid. Just like I did with teeth whitening, I’ll click on the eyes, then adjust the Opacity, Size, Feather, and Flow to where I want it for my image. I then begin brushing over the eyes.

Note the circular pins that were dropped when I started brushing in the eye and teeth areas. You’ll see a pin for each of your brush layers when the brushing panel is open. The pins disappear when your cursor leaves the preview area so you can see your image without distractions. The pin you’re currently working on has a black center. To make changes to another brush layer, just click its pin and start working.

The background layer has a pin of its own at the bottom left corner in the preview. Select this pin when you want to start making global changes to the photo again.
 I’ll compare my changes to the original. I’m happy with this look, so I click Close.

Soften Skin

Finally, I’ll use the brush tool to soften skin. First, I choose the Soften Skin preset.


After adjusting my brush settings, I can also adjust the clarity settings in the Basic panel. I’d do that if I wanted even more softness, or to bring back some of the clarity of the original. I then apply the brush to a section of the face.

Once I’m happy with the look I’m getting, I drag the brush across the rest of his face.
 I’ll zoom back out so I can see how it looks. Here’s a before and after comparison. I like the difference, so I click Close when I’m finished.