PSKiss PixelGear 2 contains 3 filters:

  1. SkinGear – A professional skin retouch filter
  2. ToneGear – A professional Shadows, Highlights and Global contrast enhancement filter
  3. EdgeGear – A professional edge enhancer

All filters based on original algorithms, specially designed for this panel.

1. Retouch Skin With SkinGear

  • In this tutorial we will use a portrait photo in order to emphasize SkinGear’s advantage in skin retouch. You can use PixelGear 2 on any kind of photos.
  • After installing PixelGear 2 panel and filters and presenting the panel, open a photo you wish to edit:

The first filter presented in PixelGear 2 panel is SkinGear. If you want to use EdgeGear or ToneGear, simply click them at the bottom of the panel:

Retouching Skin

To start the retouch process, you need first to create a selection of the skin areas.

Click on the Color Range button to open the Color Range dialog box:

Select Skin Tones from the drop-down menu inside the Color Range dialog box:

Use the Fuzziness slider to include or exclude skin tones:

When done, click OK.

This will mark a selection on your image (“marching ants”):

To convert this selection into a layer mask, click the Create Mask button:

This will automatically duplicate the Background layer, add a layer mask based on your selection and activate the layer itself, so you can apply the filter in the next step (do not change the layer’s name. It is necessary for future editing):

Click on the Presets Menu button in the PixelGear panel:

Select the preset you need for this retouch (more about presets in the bottom of this post):

 

The filter is activated automatically with the preset’s parameters. The panel is presented (automatically, as well):

Retouching skin with SkinGear sliders

  • Use Smart Smooth to soften the overall “feel” of the skin. Higher values mean softer skin. This slider should have the largest value of the first 4 sliders.
  • Use Preserve Skin Features to threshold smoothing strength. Higher values means more original details are maintained. Lower values mean smoother skin.
  • The basic thumb rule is – the larger the gap, the smoother the skin…
  • Use Remove Skin Defects to smooth small skin details.
  • Use Overall Restore to control how much detail will be preserved. Higher values mean more details. Lower values mean less details.
  • Think of these sliders as if they were “layering” the face from large details to small texture details.
  • For best results, keep these sliders’ values above Overall Restore value and bellow Smart-Smooth Level value. Make sure that Preserve Skin Features value is higher than Remove Skin Defects. The lowest value is Overall Restore.
  • Use Intensity to control the impact of the filter. Higher values mean significant smoothing. Lower values mean milder influence.

In this sample we used our “Beauty” preset:

More about SkinGear presets, in a little while…

Fine-tune the mask

After applying the filter, you might find out that some areas, such as eyes, lips and hair, need to be excluded from the filter’s influence. In addition, some skin areas might need to be added to the effected areas.

To edit the mask:

  1. Alt/Option-Click on the mask thumbnail in the layers panel to present the mask:



  2. Choose the Paint Brush tool:
  3. Set the Foreground/Background colors to default:
  4. Paint with white on places you want to add to the effected areas; Paint with black on places you want to exclude (use the “X” key to exchange between them):
  5. Alt/Option-Click the mask thumbnail to present the colored image. If needed, keep working on the mask. Pay attention to important “character” details, such as smile wrinkles and nostrils. In this example we also excluded the hair:

Final retouch of defects

Some defects can’t be removed by the filter and must be removed manually.

To manually remove these defects:

  1. Activate the layer (instead of the mask) by clicking its thumbnail in the Layers panel:
  2. Choose the appropriate retouch tool – the Spot Healing Brush, the Healing Brush or the Clone Stamp Tool:
  3. Zoom-in and remove the defects:

Adding grain

Sometimes, after smoothing a portrait, the image might nott look “realistic” enough. To prevent this, you can add some grain to the retouched areas.

To add grain to retouched areas:

  1. Drag the Grain slider to add grain to the image:
  2. A Grain layer will be added automatically:
  3. Note that the grain layer effects only retouched areas (it uses a duplicated mask of the SkinGear layer).
  4. If you would like to use a different grain level, simply drag the slider to a different value.

Using Presets

SkinGear comes with 3 pre-defined presets. To access these presets, click on the 3 stripes button at the top of the PixelGear panel:

Now, click on the preset you want to use:

  • Editorial – Uses low smoothing values and basic intensity. Suitable for official portraits and editorial usage.
  • Beauty – Uses medium smoothing values and higher intensity. Suitable for commercial beauty and fasion photos.
  • China Doll – Uses high smoothing values and high intensity. Use this one when you want that “China Doll” face effect.

You can save your own presets as well.

Set the filter sliders directly in the panel (following the rules, of course),
then in the presets list, type the preset name and click the + button:

To remove a preset from the list, click the – button next to its name:

Click OK and it will be removed from the presets list:

 


2. Shadows, Highlights and Global contrast enhancement with ToneGear

  • Select the ToneGear filter, by clicking its name at the bottom of PixelGear panel:

  • Click on the Presets Menu button in the PixelGear panel and select the preset to apply:
  • This will automatically create a new layer based on a merge of the current layers in your image. The new layer will be named Tone Gear (do not change this name. It is necessary for future editing):
  • Now make the needed adjustments.

Note: You can create the new Tone Gear layer by dragging one of ToneGear’s sliders. Using the preset is not mandatory :).

Control Contrast with Tone Gear

  • Shadows Contrast edits contrast in darker parts of the image. Higher value means lighter shadows.
  • Shadows Range sets the tonal range for shadows. Higher value increases tonal range of shadows and more areas will be effected by Shadows Contrast changes.
  • Highlights Contrast edits contrast in brighter parts of the image. Higher value means darker highlights.
  • Highlights Range sets the tonal range for highlights. Higher value increases tonal range of highlights and more areas will be effected by Highlights Contrast changes.
  • Global Contrast edits contrast of the entire tonal range of the image. Higher value means more contrast.
  • Global Balance determines the general influence on image. Higher value means overall darkening.

In this sample we added some drama:

Using ToneGear Presets

ToneGear comes with 2 pre-defined presets. To access these presets, click on the 3 stripes button at the top of the PixelGear panel:

Now, click on the preset you want to use:

You can save your own presets as well.
Set the filter sliders directly in the panel,
then in the presets list, type the preset name and click the + button:


To remove a preset from the list, click the – button next to its name:

Click OK and it will be removed from the presets list:

3. Sharpen and Enhance Edges with Edge Gear

  • Select the EdgeGear filter, by clicking its name at the bottom of PixelGear panel:
  • Click on the Presets Menu button in the PixelGear panel and select the preset to apply:
  • This will automatically create a new layer based on a merge of the current layers in your image. The filter also adds a layer mask. It is an inverted version of Skin Gear’s mask, so only non-smoothed areas will be sharpened.
    The new layer will be named Edge Gear (do not change this name. It is necessary for future editing):
  • Now make the needed adjustments.
  • Note: You can create the new Edge Gear layer by dragging one of EdgeGear’s sliders. Using the preset is not mandatory :).

Enhancing Edges with Edge Gear

  • Amount – Sets the intensity of edge enhancement. Higher values mean stronger influence of filter.
  • Edge Width – Sets width of edges effected by filter. Higher values mean wider edges are effected.
  • Threshold – Sets filter less affect noise. Lower values mean all image is effected. Higher values direct the filter to skip noise and work on edges only. Use this slider with high ISO images.

Using EdgeGear Presets

EdgeGear comes with 3 pre-defined presets. To access these presets, click on the 3 stripes button at the top of the PixelGear panel:

Now, click on the preset you want to use:

You can save your own presets as well.
Set the filter sliders directly in the panel,
then in the presets list, type the preset name and click the + button:



To remove a preset from the list, click the – button next to its name:


Click OK and it will be removed from the presets list:

  • Low – Subtle setup of edge enhancement; Recommended for online images.
  • Medium – Stronger edge enhancement; Recommended for printed images (offset or digital).
  • High – Quite a rough setup… Recommended for newspaper printed images or for special effects.

Sharpening vs. Enhancement

When you use small Edge Width values and high Amount values, you sharpen the edges as demonstrated in the image above. If you flip the order, you get edge enhancement instead:

 

Lets see what we did:


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