Retouching with a neural network: how to process the skin with Retouch4me plugins | Lesson | Photo, video, optics


Estonian studio RELU OÜ has presented a collection of plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop for automatic portrait retouching. The technology based on neural networks makes high-quality retouching without soap and loss of texture. This allows you to spend many times less time on post-processing photos. About the possibilities of Retouch4me, the pros and cons, and how to work with it, so as not to accidentally make a Voldemort out of the model — our material.

Snapshot before and after applying Retoch4me plugins. This work of the neural network took less than 3 minutes / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

Fast retouching of small skin defects with Retouch4me Heal
Dodge & Burn retouching in one minute with Retouch4me
Add volumes automatically with Retouch4me Portrait Volumes
Retouch4me Skin Tone Tool
Eye retouching plugins: Retouch4me Eye Vessels and Retouch4me Eye Brilliance
Fast teeth whitening with Retouch4me White Teeth
Retouching black and white photos with Retouch4me plugins
Fully automatic portrait retouching with Retouch4me

Portrait retouching is either something you love or something you hate. But in any case, this is what you spend a lot of time on. Some photographers work in tandem with a retoucher: they save time, but spend money on retouching. On average, a retoucher is paid from 10 to 500 rubles for retouching one image. The Retouch4me plugin package for Adobe Photoshop tries to hack the system and make skin retouching a quick and easy process.

Retouch4me plugins include skin retouching tools that allow you to remove minor imperfections, even out skin tone and color, and add volume to a portrait. In addition to them, the collection has plugins that can automatically whiten teeth and make eyes more expressive.

All plugins are automatic. They have settings that can be adjusted, but in general, working with them is based on the principle “pressed the button — got the result”. Even a person who is not at all familiar with retouching can use them. The cost of the plugin varies from 4000 to 6000 thousand rubles. There is a trial period.

Fast retouching of small skin defects with Retouch4me Heal

Each of the Retouch4me algorithms can work both as a standalone application and as a plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom or Capture One. Installing the plug-in is simple, like any other program for your computer.

We will analyze everything using the example of a plugin for Photoshop, but in general, plugins work the same way everywhere. There is no Russifier for the program, only the English version is available.

Retouch4me Heal removes small pimples, spots, black dots on the skin. Works similar to the Heal tool in Photoshop, but with one click. At the same time, it does not blur the skin, retains its structure.

To get started with any of the plugins in the collection, you need to find it in Photoshop’s Filters menu. Before starting Heal, it is best to make a copy of the layer so that all changes are reflected on it.

All plugins can be found here / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Fotosklad.Expert

The plugin opens a dialog where you can change the necessary settings. By default, it will immediately show in the window the result of its work with standard settings. All other Retouch4me tools will work the same way.

The result of applying Retouch4me Heal: the face became cleaner, the skin texture was preserved / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

The plug-in took five seconds to work in standard definition and 8 in high definition. As the experiment showed, manually similar retouching can be done in 30-40 seconds.

Let’s make a reservation right away that the speed of the plug-ins will depend on the power of the computer on which they are used. The following machine is involved in our experiments:

  • processor Intel Core i3 4170 3.70 Hz;
  • video card GeForce GTX 1050, 2 GB;
  • 16 GB of RAM.

On newer and more powerful hardware, everything will work faster. On older models, respectively, slower.

Each of the plugins has several intuitive settings. Here you can see the difference between «before» and «after» by clicking the Original button, set a higher quality (High resolution). Its plugin authors recommend it for full-length portraits. By clicking the Not happy button, a pop-up window appears with tips on how to work with a particular plugin.

Retouch4me Heal settings / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

You can adjust the filter intensity using the Sensitivity slider. When moving the slider, the plugin will show a mask that shows what exactly it considered a defect and corrected.

The mask created by the Heal tool / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

The result of Heal can either be applied to the image (to do this, click Apply), or can be exported as a mask. To do this, in the dialog box, check the Make mask checkbox, and then Apply.

When you click this button, the plugin will leave only the corrected fragments on the layer, the untouched part will be transparent / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Fotosklad.Expert

Heal has a number of problems. For example, he does not make a difference between acne or bumps on the skin and freckles — he will try to remove both. For people with such features, the plugin is not very suitable.

The neural network removed several pimples on the cheeks and chin, but also removed some of the freckles. Here, freckles are not a defect, but part of the model’s appearance. The result of the filter is controversial /Photo: /Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Fotosklad.Expert

There are two ways to fix these errors behind the neural network:

  • use Photoshop mask after filter applied
  • use the brush built into the plugin menu

With the help of an eraser, you can wipe those places where the filter should not work. Use a brush to paint over the places where the neural network will work.

To keep the freckles on the nose and cheeks, but retouch the chin and forehead, wipe the nose and cheeks with an eraser / Photo: / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

With some irregularities, the tool copes imperfectly. For example, here the plugin removed the bumps, but kept the shadows around them.

The skin is already better, but still uneven. This problem can be solved using another tool from the Retouch for me family / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

Dodge & Burn retouching in one minute with Retouch4me

Retouch4me Dodge & Burn smooths out the chiaroscuro pattern on the face, brightening and darkening certain areas of the skin. It evens out those very small shadows that Heal could not cope with. Dodge & Burn works precisely with small irregularities, without touching large volumes of the face. At the same time, the texture of the skin is completely preserved and does not wash out.

The result of applying Retouch4me Dodge & Burn with standard settings / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

The plugin creates a layer in Soft Light mode, on which you can see the highlighted and dark areas. You can see it by clicking the Preview button.

Yellow spots are brightened parts, blue spots are darkened / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

The Soft Light layer can be modified right in the plugin window. But this is a rather resource-intensive process, and not every computer can handle it. If the brush is slow, you can create and export a layer in Photoshop. And after that, you can work with the layer using the tools of Photoshop itself. To do this, check the Soft Light Layer checkbox, and then Apply.

The plugin also has a few manual settings. The degree of influence of the filter can be adjusted using the Blend slider. Here you can also choose the size of the portrait you are working with.

According to the creators of the plugins, manually selecting the size will allow the algorithms to work more accurately / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Fotosklad.Expert

It took the plugin 70 seconds to work, both in normal and high quality. I will no longer compete in speed with this tool — if you do such work manually, it will take from 20 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the portrait.

An even more spectacular result can be achieved by a combination of two plugins. This is what the result of Heal and Dodge & Burn looks like / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

There is one problem that arises when working with the Dodge & Burn tool with half-length and full-length portraits. The neural network sometimes begins to smooth out facial features, mistaking them for problem areas. Unintentionally, Voldemort can come out just the same.

On the right, you can see that the neural network very much smoothed out the shadows around the nose and nasolabial folds / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

To avoid this, you need to manually select the size of the portrait when starting the plugin. The only point: if you choose the “full-length portrait” option, the plugin starts to work more slowly. But much more accurate.

The problem with erased facial features occurs mainly in half-length portraits with soft light, especially backlight. In studio portraits with hard light, automation does an excellent job without additional settings.

Add volumes automatically with Retouch4me Portrait Volumes

This tool works with a large black and white pattern, adding volume to the face. The plugin brightens the upper part of the cheekbones, the convex part of the forehead, lips, eyelids, eyes and chin and darkens the shadows along the contour of the face, eyebrows, shadows around the nose.

The result of applying Retouch4me Portrait Volumes / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Fotosklad.Expert

All this can be done manually, but the neural network saves a lot of time. A similar retouching with a tablet and a pen takes 3-4 minutes, the plug-in can do it in 10 seconds in standard resolution and 15 in High Resolution.

The tool adds volume well if the portrait was shot in backlight or too soft light. Can add excess volume if the light was hard. The intensity of the effect can be adjusted using the Blend slider.

Portrait Volumes is very useful for retouching female portraits, but for male portraits it should be used with great care. The result does not always look appropriate.

The male portrait looks slightly retouched /Photo: /Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Fotosklad.Expert

Retouch4me Skin Tone Tool

This plugin evens out skin tone. According to the authors of the tool, Skin Tone determines the average skin color and brings all the skin to it. Removes stains that differ from the average shade. In fact, the experiment showed that the plugin also corrects the color of the skin if it was too red or too green. This is how the neural network works on a picture with the wrong white balance:

On the left is the original, on the right is the work of the plugin. The overall balance of the shot is still cold, but the skin has become more natural in color / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

In images with initially correct balance, the plug-in evens out the skin tone, removing too yellow, red or greenish spots.

The result of Retouch4me Skin Tone. Pay attention to the neck and upper lip: the neural network erased the green undertone that was in the shadows / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

Skin Tone has one problem — it will bring together any skin tone colors. For example, in this portrait, his reddish lips became more yellow. Such errors behind the neural network can be corrected either using the brush built into the plugin, or using a layer mask in Photoshop.

Eye retouching plugins: Retouch4me Eye Vessels and Retouch4me Eye Brilliance

The Eye Vessels tool works similarly to the Heal, removing red streaks from the whites of the eyes. Works almost instantly.

The result of applying Retouch4me Eye Vessels / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

The plugin finds eyes in pictures with almost no errors. The effect of the plug-in is clearly visible on large and half-length portraits and almost imperceptibly on full-length ones.

Eye Brilliance brightens the whites of the eyes and enhances the contrast between the iris and its edge.

The result of Retouch4me Eye Brilliance / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

The strength of both plugins can be controlled using the Blend slider. Both tools work almost instantly.

Fast teeth whitening with Retouch4me White Teeth

The tool brightens and whitens teeth. The result of the application looks like this:

The neural network does a good job of finding teeth even in half-length and full-length portraits / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

The tool allows you to work separately with lightening, separately with whitening. If, for example, the model has fairly light teeth, but due to warm tinting they become yellowish, only the color can be corrected. Both parameters are controlled by sliders.

You can change the lightness of the teeth, you can change the color / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

Retouching black and white photos with Retouch4me plugins

Some plugins do not work or work incorrectly with black and white images. Heal, Portrait Volumes and Eye Brilliance work, Eye Vessels, Skin Tone and White Teeth don’t. Dodge & Burn works, but the result is very weak.

Left is before, right is after. The difference is almost imperceptible / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Photosklad.Expert

So, if you need to retouch a portrait using Dodge & Burn, you should first correct it, and then convert it to b / w.

Fully automatic portrait retouching with Retouch4me

The great thing about this collection of plugins is that they allow you to almost completely automate the retouching of a series of photos. That is, you can put Photoshop to retouch 50 portraits and go about your business.

To do this, you need to record an action with the right plugins in the right sequence. For example, we need to retouch 30 half-length female portraits. This will require Heal, Dodge & Burn, Portrait Volumes, Eye Vessels and Eye Brilliance. You can add more Skin Tone, but let’s say that the model has a fairly even skin tone and this will already be excessive.

We select the most typical image, write a new action in the action menu. An action is an algorithm that Photoshop will repeat automatically.

Click on the action creation icon (1 in the illustration). In the dialog box that opens, you need to give the action a name. Then, one by one, we launch all the filters we need, stop recording the action (icon 2 in the illustration).

Action creation menu in Adobe Photoshop / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Fotosklad.Expert

We move all the pictures that need to be retouched to a separate folder and launch the action through the Batch menu in Photoshop.

Launching automatic retouching / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Fotosklad.Expert

Here it is important to select the action we need, specify the desired folder and specify what to do with the snapshot after the action has completed. It is best to choose «save and close» — then after the algorithm is completed, Photoshop will close the file and will not be overloaded with the number of open images.

Correct settings are the key to trouble-free batch processing in Adobe Photoshop / Illustration: Alisa Smirnova, Fotosklad.Expert

We launch Batch, and you can go about your business. On a computer with the parameters indicated at the beginning of the text, such retouching takes about 3-4 minutes per photo. So, 50 shots will take about three hours. In parallel with retouching, you can do something that is not very resource intensive on the computer. For example, surfing the Internet or watching a movie. You won’t be able to work in parallel in Lightroom. Everything starts to slow down.

There can be several actions for retouching. For example, one for a female portrait, the other for a male portrait, one for large portraits, the other for full-length ones. For winter shoots, a Skin Tone action can come in handy to even out the red noses and fingers of the models.


The Retouch4me plugin set will definitely be useful for photographers who process their images on their own. If you understand how everything works and set it up correctly, plugin automation can significantly reduce the time it takes to retouch portraits.

Although Retouch4me cannot replace completely manual retouching. For example, automation is not capable of removing bruises under the eyes — apparently, they are too unique and original for each individual person.

For professional retouchers, plugins can also be useful — as a tool for rough work that saves time.


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