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Remove a Tan Line - viewed times

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In this Photoshop tutorial we're going to remove a tan line on someone's skin.
Some people advice to correct an image like this in Photoshop with the clone or healing brush tool, but there are important issues when you use that approach:
  • It will destroy most of the original texture
  • It can lead to artificial looking textures
  • It can lead to irregular highlights and shadows

In this Photoshop tutorial we try to solve the problem using color samplers and a levels correction in combination with a mask.
The healing brush will be used at one point, but only to make some very minor adjustments to the tan line itself.


1. Correct color and brightness

This is the image that we're going to use in this Photoshop tutorial and you can save it on your hard drive (right click / save picture as...) and open it in Photoshop:

Skin with tan line

This image will open in RGB mode, but we're going to work in Lab mode; in the menu select Image / Mode / Lab Color.

Select the Magic Wand tool Magic Wand Toolin the tool bar and use all the settings that I've marked in this screenshot:

Magic Wand Options

Now select the area that needs to be corrected. You might want to zoom in. Hold down the shift key during every click to include all those areas that the magic wand ignored:

Selecting lighter skin


Click on the Create new fill or adjustment layer Adjustment Layericon at the bottom of the layers palette, hold down the mouse button and select Levels... and click on OK. Later we will return to this Levels adjustment layer to make the actual adjustments.

Select the Color Sampler tool Color Samplerin the tool bar (if you can't find it, then it's hidden underneath the Eyedropper Eyedropper Tooltool)

In the option bar select for Sample Size a 5 by 5 Average:

Color Sample 5 by 5 Averag


Click on the bottom layer that contains the photograph to make it the active layer (a brush icon Brush iconwill appear in front of it).

Click with the mouse once on the area marked with the blue dot and once on the area marked with the green dot:

Color Sampler points


Open the Info Palette.

Info Palette

You'll notice the two Color Sampler points number 1 and 2 that we just placed on the skin.

The numbers Photoshop's Info Palette show the color (a and b) and luminosity (L) or brightness values of the areas that are marked with these two Color Sampler points. Notice that in front of the L (Luminosity) value we have the number of the color sampler (#1 on the left, #2 on the right).

It's our goal to match the numbers for a and b of Color Sampler point #2 with the a and b values of the Color Sampler point #1and we do this with the Levels adjustment layer that we added earlier.

Double click on the thumbnail of the Levels adjustment layer to open the Levels window.

Select the a channel at the top of this window.

Move the white slider to the left until the value at A in the info palette is the same as the value at B:

Levels - a channels correction


Now select the b channel at the top of this window.

Again, move the white slider to the left until the value at A in the info palette is the same as the value at B:

Levels - b levels correction


Select the Lightness channel at the top of this window.

Move the gray slider to the right, until the the skin at the bottom matches the skin at the top (ignore the info palette):

Levels - Lightness corection

It doesn't have to be extremely accurate for the moment. Ignore the darker edge between the two Color Samplers, only focus on the skin that's further away from this edge. With a value of 0.61you're going to be pretty close to what the actual value has to be (Input Levels, center box).

Tip: take a real pencil and hold it over this edge on your monitor, this will make it easier for you to make the adjustment.

Click OK

Continue on the next page.

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