Making in Gimp: how to retouch the skin in the free editor | Lesson | Photo, video, optics


After Adobe Photoshop became legally inaccessible in Russia, some people began to use free software. A prominent representative is Gimp. Today we will see how this program is suitable for retouching portraits. Let’s start with the simplest: let’s try to remove acne and other minor skin problems using Gimp.

Gimp is a free raster graphics editor. In general, it is similar in terms of the principles of work and the set of available tools to Photoshop, although there are some minor differences. You can download Gimp for free on the official website.

The Gimp interface looks like this / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

Working with Gimp will definitely be easier for those who have never worked with similar graphic editors before. The problem is that it has different hotkeys and a slightly different interface compared to Adobe Photoshop. It’s confusing. But it is still possible to relearn.

Skin retouching in Gimp

Let’s take this photo as an example. For now, we will not pay attention to some of her problems, in particular, an unnaturally orange skin tone. We are interested in pimples, bumps and other problems of the skin itself.

The girl has heavy makeup, but it only emphasizes the imperfections of the skin. Photo:

Layers in Gimp

Just like in Photoshop, Gimp has the ability to work on different layers. So first let’s make a copy of the layer. This is not necessary if you need to cover up one pimple, but it will help a lot if there are many corrections. To do this, right-click on the layer icon on the panel in the lower right corner and select the command Duplicate Layer.

The layers panel is in the lower right corner. Find it, right-click and select Duplicate Layer / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photostore.Expert

After that, a copy of the layer will appear in the panel. Click on it and you can proceed further. A copy of the layer is needed in order to be able to work with masks later. Masks in Gimp work similarly to masks in Photoshop.

How the Stamp tool works in Gimp

To begin with, let’s zoom in on our image — with retouching acne and other skin problems, it is best to work on a scale at which they are clearly visible. For zooming, it is most convenient to use hotkeys. First, press Z, then click several times on the part of the photo that you want to zoom in on.

Now let’s choose a tool. Stamp / Stamp. By default, it is on the right side of the toolbar. The icon looks like this:

Selecting a stamp in Gimp / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

The stamp in Gimp works almost exactly the same as in Photoshop. To get rid of imperfections on the skin, select a clean area of ​​skin, move the mouse over it, hold down the Ctrl key on the keyboard and click the left mouse button. After that, move the cursor to the problem area and click again. The program will copy the piece of clean skin you have chosen to the place of the problematic one.

Try to choose an area with clean skin that is as close as possible in color and tone — the stamp will be transplanted to a new place both in texture and color / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

By default, the stamp in Gimp has fairly convenient brush blur settings, but if you wish, you can change them to suit your needs. All settings for the stamp and other brushes can be seen in the left panel.

Here you can adjust the brush size, angle, hardness and other parameters / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Fotosklad.Expert

Perhaps the two most useful parameters are brush size (Size) and stiffness (Hardness). The size should be chosen comparable to the size of the defect with which you plan to fight. You can also change the size of the brush by holding the hotkeys. [ и ].

As for hardness, a medium-hard or soft brush is used to work with a stamp when retouching.

On the top left is the result of applying a hard stamp, on the top right — soft. Below is the source point for the stamp / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Fotosklad.Expert

Unfortunately, a stamp is far from a universal tool for retouching minor skin defects if the model’s skin color is not too uniform. You can, of course, select the source point as close as possible in color and tone, but this is not always possible.

If you do not use the stamp carefully enough, you can get the following result / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

For those cases where the stamp does not cope perfectly, there is another tool.

Healing Brush Tool in Gimp

Anyone who has worked in Photoshop should be familiar with this tool. However, in Gimp, the healing brush works differently than it does in Photoshop. In Photoshop, the healing brush works completely automatically, it does not need to specify a source from where to take information.

In Gimp, the healing brush (even the name is not the same as in Photoshop) is rather similar to a stamp: it also needs a source of clean skin to work, but it does not transplant everything as it is, but using intelligent algorithms. To simplify it a lot, it takes only the texture, only the upper frequencies, and leaves the color and tone almost unchanged. The easiest way to show how the healing brush works in Gimp is with this exaggerated example:

If you try to transplant an eye on the cheek, it will look like this / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

Now let’s see in practice how to work with it. To activate the healing brush, press H or find this tool in the toolbar.

To find a healing brush, you need to click and hold the left mouse button on the stamp icon / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Fotosklad.Expert

That is, to retouch the skin using this tool, you must first find a fragment that matches the texture, move the mouse over it, and holding down the Ctrl key on the keyboard, click the left mouse button. Then move the cursor to the problem area and click again. After that, the program will replace the texture in the problem area.

The mother texture can be taken only once from a successful skin area and transplanted as many times as necessary.

This is how it will look in a portrait shot with soft light.

The Gimp healing brush does a great job with small pimples / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

This tool does an excellent job of removing hair stuck to the face, wrinkles and similar trifles.

Left before, right after / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Fotosklad.Expert

As for retouching pimples, bumps and other minor skin imperfections, using a healing brush in this picture you can achieve the following result:

On the left is the original, on the right is a cleaned photo / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Fotosklad.Expert

It cannot be said that this result is ideal and indisputable. The skin has become somewhat cleaner, but if you look closely, the places where there were acne are still guessed. The question is whether this problem lies in the unsatisfactory work of a particular tool, or simply this retouching method is not ideal. For comparison, let’s try to do the same in Adobe Photoshop.

Gimp on the left, Photoshop on the right / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

In Photoshop, the skin turned out to be somewhat smoother and more even. Nevertheless, when retouching with a healing brush, you can still see spots in it where there were originally skin defects.

The problem here is rather that in such a light and such a nature of imperfections, it is the very method of retouching with a healing (or healing) brush that does not suit us, regardless of the program in which we work.

To deal with such problems, you just need to use other retouching methods. Here the method of frequency decomposition would help us. Learn how to make a frequency in Photoshop here. How to repeat it in Gimp will be discussed in the next text of this series.


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