A skin retouching task that is intimidating me

Here is a really tight crop on a picture I just took. It’s SOOC, though I did scale it down to be nice to Pixls servers.

I am wondering how to approach the skin on top of the girl’s nose. She had spent too much time in the sun and now has dead skin flaking off.

I have not started working on it, because looking at it, I don’t think clone/heal will work well as there is no “good” skin in the correct lighting to sample from.

And though I have used wavelets a bunch to minimize wrinkles, I’m not sure how they would work on this since I’m dealing BOTH with color issues (white dead skin and normal colored skin), and with detail issues (the dead skin flaking up).

Any suggestions? I usually leave some flaws in the image. I want them to look natural but not perfect, so I don’t need Vogue Magazine level retouching. The dead skin is a distraction to me, though.

I’d hit this with some wavelet decomposition and the clone tool. Looks like the rest of the skin has flaked off her nose, which is why it is smooth and shiny. Use the smooth part to clone over the flaky part.

1 Like

You’ll have to work with a small brush and a lot of patience but its definitely cloneable. None of the flakes break the line of the nose so you won’t have to worry about edges in the retouch.


Are you suggesting a wavelet decompose and THEN clone/heal, or as 2 separate processes? Typically, I clone / heal isolated trouble spots like pimples on the base image before doing anything else. Next step is wavelets for more generalize improvements. And when I use wavelets, I hardly ever use the clone/heal tools on the different layers, because they either don’t do anything useful, or they tend to make it look unnatural.

So I treat it as two separate steps, but I don’t know if that’s the best way, which is what I’m asking, I guess.

Two steps! But I have used the clone brush on a wavelet scale and it seemed to work well.

Cool. Sounds like I been doing it right, then. Thanks for the tips from you and @ChicagoCameraslinger

1 Like

Wavelet scales help you isolate various detail of the skin. Often the separation is incomplete, so you may consider decomposing to more detail layers or less. After that, you can do any number of things to each, not just clone or heal.


is this going in the direction of what you had in mind, or am I completely off?


@agriggio Can you tell which program and what tool?

A bit of blur and then reduced high-frequency contrast with wavelet decomposition, with a mask to operate only on the nose. Then, a global high-frequency contrast reduction (again with wavelets) on the skin tones, and finally some cloning with a healing brush on the nose to restore some detail. I used different programs, but you should be able to do everything in GIMP.

But I still don’t know if this is what @Stampede had in mind :slight_smile:

1 Like

A quick take of my own entirely in GIMP 2.10.X. Just to sort of illustrate a possible path forward.

It helps to not get too far into your own head, and to remember to zoom out to a viewing distance (nothing looks good at 300% + zoom).

It’s also helpful to kind of get a feel for how the different levels will interact and combine to give your final image.



Yes what you did is exactly what I had in mind, but I have no idea how to recreate that result in my own workflow, LOL!

@patdavid your video is excellent at explaining the concept. Would you agree with this assessment of what you did?

  1. Wavelet decompose, then find the highest numbered scale layer that show skin flake details
  2. Sample from a skin area that doesn’t have flaky nose & use heal tool.
  3. Go to the next more detailed wavelet level, and repeat sampling/healing from better skin texture
  4. Repeat until you’ve gotten all detail layers
  5. ¡Et voilá!

We are not so concerned about matching skin tone colors, and lighting/shading, because we’re after the texture info, and not the luminance or color, yes? So the luminance and color of the skin sample area shouldn’t really matter, which is what put me off in the first place. Does that all sound about right to you?

1 Like

well @patdavid’s way is quite effective too, and possibly easier to describe :slight_smile:

the only significant difference is that I removed a bit of imperfections on the whole face, using wavelet decomposition and a hue mask

1 Like

Yep, that’s pretty much the gist of it. Experiment a bit to get a feel for how certain types of scale levels interact, and what type of detail can exist there without causing it to look fake. (Basically, yes you’re right and have fun experimenting.)

Colors/tones I wouldn’t worry about at those levels - as you get finer details you are isolating them from larger contrasts/colors and can operate without impacting them too much. Really it’s an opportunity to try it out quite a bit and you’ll probably get a feel for it pretty quickly where it will work well and where it won’t.

1 Like

I am planning to do that after I get the nose flakes sorted out. And was also planning to make a mask by manipulating the contrast and RGB balance of a desaturated version of the layer.

Very cool discussion, everyone, I’m learning to use the tools in new ways.