Unfortunately, Adobe has decided to stop developing their Pixel Bender plug-in which was Pixel Gear’s platform.

This product is discontinued.

We are working on a new retouching product that will replace it.

PSKiss Pixel Gear Pro contains 3 filters:

  1. Skin Gear – A professional skin retouch filter
  2. Tone Gear – A professional Shadows, Highlights and Global contrast enhancement filter
  3. Edge Gear – A professional edge sharpener

1. Retouch With Skin Gear

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

The first filter presented in Pixel Gear Pro panel is Skin Gear. If you want to use Edge Gear or Tone Gear, simply select them from the “Choose Your Filter” menu at the top of the panel:

Retouching Skin

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

Click on to open the Color Range dialog box. Hold down the Command key (Macintosh) or the Ctrl key (Windows), to present the color image in the window. Click once on a skin area and release the key you were holding:

Hold down the Shift key and add click on more skin areas in the image (you can click within the Color Range dialog box or on the image itself), keep on clicking (don’t let go of the Shift key) until you get almost every bit of skin presented by white color:

This might select some unwanted areas that have the same luminosity as the skin areas. To remove these unwanted areas, hold down the Option key (Macintosh) or the Alt Key (Windows) and click on them. When you’re done with selecting skin colors, refine your selection by adjusting Fuzziness and Range:

You might need to continue Shift-clicking and Alt/Option-clicking to fine tune your selection. When done, click OK.

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

To convert this selection into a layer mask, click .

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:

Now it’s time for some retouch work. Click to launch the filter’s dialog box:

Note that the preview in the Pixel Bender window, ignores the layer mask and shows the entire image.

Retouching skin with Skin Gear Pro

  • Use Smart-Smooth Level 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 Overall Restore to threshold smoothing strength. Higher values means more original details are maintained. Lower values mean smoother skin. This slider should have the lowest value of the first 4 sliders.
  • The basic thumb rule is – the larger the gap, the smoother the skin…
  • Use Preserve Skin Features and Remove Skin Defects to control which kind of details will be preserved. Higher values mean more large details than skin texture. Lower values mean less large details and more texture.
  • 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.
  • All values are minimum 0.5, maximum: 15
  • 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 Skin Gear Pro presets, in a little while…

After setting up the filter, click OK

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 (we added it to the Workflow panel, for your convenience):
  3. Set the Foreground/Background colors to default (button also included in panel):
  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 from the Workflow panel:
  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. Click on one of three grain levels in the Workflow panel – Low, Medium or High:
  2. Each one will add a different amount of soft “Film Grain” into a separate layer:
  3. Note that the grain layer effects only retouched areas and that opacity is set to 75%. If you need more, you can always push it up to 100%.
  4. If you would like to use a different grain preset, simply click on its button in the panel. It will replace the current grain with the new one.

Using Launch Preset

Skin Gear Pro Workflow panel allows you to quickly launch 3 presets for skin smoothing:

  • 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 very high intensity. Use this one when you want that “China Doll” face effect.

When you click on one of these presets, PSKiss Skin Gear Pro dialog box inside the Pixel Bender Gallery will appear automatically. Check the preview image. If you are happy with the result, click OK and continue with the workflow. Otherwise, make your adjustments until you reach the desired effect and click OK.

The Final Image

Here are the original image and the retouched version, side-by-side (click to see full size image):


2. Shadows, Highlights and Global contrast enhancement with Tone Gear

  • First, select the Tone Gear filter in the Pixel Gear Pro panel:
  • When you continue working on a photo you’ve retouched with Skin Gear, we recommend you create a new layer that will contain the merged data of all 3 layers. To do so, simply click the button:

Click  to launch the filter’s dialog box:

Control Contrast with S/H Tone Gear Pro

  • 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.
  • Highlights/Shadows Balance determines the general influence on image. Higher value means overall darkening.
  • Preserve Saturation turned on means contrast changes effects only luminosity. Turn off if you wish to boost saturation.

The sample image is quite quite evenly lit, so we started with the “Fine SH” preset:

We wanted to add some drama to this portrait, so we increased the Global Contrast and pushed up the Highlights / Shadows Balance to get an overall darkening effect.To prevent her shirt from getting too dark, we increased the Shadows Range. Since we didn’t want to change the saturation, we kept the Preserve Saturation turned on:

After setting up the filter, click OK

Using Launch Preset

S/H Tone Gear Pro Workflow panel allows you to quickly launch 3 presets of contrast:

  • Lightening – Suitable for dark images that need to be lightened.
  • Darkening – Suitable for bright images that need to be darkened.
  • Fine SH – Our creative suggestion of combining contrast changes in the image.

When you click on one of these presets, PSKiss S/H Tone Gear Pro dialog box inside the Pixel Bender Gallery will appear automatically. Check the preview image. If you are happy with the result, click OK and continue with the workflow. Otherwise, make your adjustments until you reach the desired effect and click OK.


3. Sharpen and Enhance Edges with Edge Gear

  • First, select the Edge Gear filter in the Pixel Gear Pro panel:
  • When you continue working on a photo you’ve retouched with Skin Gear, we recommend you create a new layer that will contain the merged data of all layers. In addition, you will need the inverted version of the skin mask in order to sharpen edges without damaging the skin or adding unwanted noise. To do all that, simply click the  button:

Now you’re ready to start sharpening or enhancing edges in the image.
Click to launch the filter’s dialog box:

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.
  • Noise 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.
  • Preserve Saturation turned on means edge enhancement effects only luminosity.

Using Launch Preset

Edge Gear Workflow panel allows you to quickly launch 3 presets for edge enhancement:

  • 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.

When you click on one of these presets, PSKiss Edge Gear dialog box inside the Pixel Bender Gallery will appear automatically. Check the preview image. If you are happy with the result, click OK and continue with the workflow. Otherwise, make your adjustments until you reach the desired effect and click OK.

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:

Note that you might need to fine tune the mask for high contrast areas, such as the edge of the black shirt with the wall and skin:

 


Pixel Gear Pro 1.5 – Free Video Tutorial

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