Open the photo into Photoshop. For this tutorial, try to use a high resolution image where you can see the skin texture. Create a duplicate layer and put it into a group. To do this, press Ctrl+J to duplicate the layer then Ctrl+G to place the new layer into a group. Name the group "Airbrush" and the layer "Blur". To retouch the skin, there will be two layers in the Airbrush group. The first layer we’ve created (the Blur layer) will be used to blur the skin. After that, we’ll add another layer to restore the natural skin texture.
Have the Blur layer selected. To blur this layer, use the Surface Blur filter. This filter blurs like the Gaussian Blur filter except it can retain edge detail. We’ll need to blur the layer so that the skin is smoothed and somewhat blurry without having the edges visible. I normally use radius of 37 and leave the threshold at deafault or slide it up to 19. If the eye becomes blurry, your settings are too strong. Undo and redo the Surface Blur filter with a lower setting.
Create a new layer and move it above the Blur layer. Name this layer "Texture" and change the blend mode to Hard Light. This layer, as the name states, will be used to add a slight texture to the skin and also adjust the skin tonality. The texture created in this layer will contribute to the final results very minimally – the difference can only be easily seen zoomed in on high resolution images and varies from image to image. Even though the result is very minimal, it ensures that no area of the skin looks too smooth or plastic.
Make sure that you have the "Texture" layer selected. With that layer selected, press Shift+F5 or choose Edit > Fill. In the Fill tool, set the settings according to the image below. This will fill your layer with a 50% gray color. Open the Add Noise filter from the Filter > Noise menu. I use 3 for the amount and click the Guassian blur button under distribution. This will add some noise to the image that will prevent skin from looking plastic. It may look a little too sharp, but in the next step, we’ll fix this with a Gaussian Blur filter. Choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Blur the layer by 1 pixel. Open the Hue/Saturation tool by pressing Ctrl+U or choosing Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. Check the Colorize option and adjust the hue, saturation, and lightness values to match the HSB values from the color we sampled in the previous step. For the brightness, set this to H:10, S:-56 and L -8. Click Layer> merge visible and you can really see the difference.
Don’t forget to “Save as” so that you don’t lose your original picture. The original tutorial that inspired me to do this one is located here.
Please feel free to leave comments or share some other ways you may have for airbrushing photos.