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Photoshop Elements Actions: A Secret Use for Magic Skin

by Erin Peloquin on June 10, 2011 · 1 comment

MCP’s Magic Skin action for Photoshop Elements is my favorite way to soften and brighten skin in a jif.  But did you know that it can be used to blur backgrounds and even remove noise as well?  That’s right.  It’s not just for skin!

Last week I wrote up a tutorial about retouching portraits.  Well, Magic Skin completes half of that workflow for me, adds a brightening glow to skin, and builds my layer masks for me to boot.  Talk about a time saver.

I installed Magic Skin for a customer months ago, and he later told me that it is his favorite tool for removing noise from high ISO images.  He likes it because he can use it selectively, unlike some noise reducing software out there.  Noise reducing is accomplished by adding blur to images, remember, so you certainly only want to remove noise where it’s absolutely necessary.  I tucked that idea in the back of my mind and left it there.

But last week, I was processing some images and noticed that Magic Skin helped blur out the background on some images.  I especially liked how it removed the too-prominent texture from walls.  Now, we can all do this in Elements by adding some Gaussian blur and a layer mask.  But if an action will do it for you and save time….

You can click on the image above for a larger view.  I love how the skin is more even and glowing in the After version, but look at the wall in the top right corner of the image.  Magic Skin works by building a mask based around everything whose color is the same color as the skin you identify for Elements.  Because the wall in this image was similar to the skin color, it applied the skin softening effect to the wall as well.

My layer mask created by Magic Skin for this image looks like this:

The mask is white (revealing the effect) everywhere you don’t see red.  So you can see that Magic skin created a clean selection not only on the skin, but also on the wall.  If I didn’t want the blur on the wall, I would have painted over that area with a black brush after the action ran.

There is a similar effect on this photo:

The texture on the sofa is less visible, and a dirt smudge is minimized through blurring.

So how would you use Magic Skin on a noisy photo? When the action prompts you to select the skin, you would select noisy areas instead.  Or, if the entire image is noisy, you could fill the entire layer mask with white, and then mask out areas like eyes and jewelry that need to be sharp.

What do you think?  Have any of you noticed this awesome hidden feature about Magic Skin?

 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Camp Isaac Mama June 10, 2011 at 8:30 am

I don’t have that MCP action, but I have been using other actions for things other than their intended uses. Everyday Actions has a quick finishes action, I use the sharpening layer on eyes and lips, and the paint on vignette layer to darken anything black in a photo, like a hat. I use the soften layer in the same action to smooth the skin. I have actions specifically for those things, but with this one action, I can take care of several things at once. It’s all about thinking outside of the box!

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