Get Warm, Creamy Skin in Photoshop with Color Balance


Ahhh, the elusive Creamy Skin that we all want in our images!!  As I’m sure you’ve read a million times around the web, a correct white balance is crucial to getting creamy skintones in Photoshop.  Ideally you will get the correct white balance straight out of your camera, but I can attest to Auto White Balance not always guessing correctly – especially indoors in these cold months (here anyways!).  One day I’m going to start using my gray card again and setting my white balance, but I digress.  sigh


If you shoot RAW, you can adjust White Balance in ACR or Lightroom, which I do.  Sometimes after I bring my photo in Photoshop, though, the skin still doesn’t look ‘creamy’ or warm enough, so I usually warm up the photo with levels or curves. But sometimes by the time I get the skin warmed up to where I want it, the rest of the image is too warm.  Even if I painted in the ‘warmth,’ things like eyebrows and shadows on the face can have too much of an orange tint.


I think this problem isn’t really a problem of correct white balance, it’s more of a problem of photographing pale skin!!  We want skin to look creamy in our photos when, in reality, it may be extremely pale or even translucent in real life. 


Enter my newly discovered trick for getting creamy skin in Photoshop!  Using a Color Balance layer, select just the highlights and add Red (which takes away Cyan) and Yellow (which takes away Blue).  See my post on Color Opposites for more in-depth info on this.  It’s a very simple but effective way to warm up the bright areas (like skin) in your photo while leaving the color in the midtones and shadows relatively unchanged. 


Each image will be different in the amounts of red and yellow that you add, so just play around with the sliders.  Here is the Before in this example:



I simply added a Color Balance adjustment layer…



… and for this image I made the following adjustments.  Remember to select the Highlights:



Here is the After (rollover in your computer’s browser to see the Before comparison):



Here’s another example (rollover for Before/After):



What do you think?  Am I the only one that has this problem and had to find a fix??!!  Entirely possible.  :)  Thank you for stopping by!

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32 Responses to Get Warm, Creamy Skin in Photoshop with Color Balance

  1. Tracy Hoexter says:

    Wow! This is great information and I can’t wait to try it! Is this basically what some of the ‘creamy skin’ actions are going?

    Thank you SO much for sharing!

    • Angie says:

      Hi Tracy! I think traditionally most ‘creamy skin’ actions focus on skin smoothing (which I will do a post about soon!). This focuses more on the color. But it’s definitely possible there are some actions out there that focus on tweaking the color as well!

  2. Bao says:

    Thanks for the tip! I like all the detail you shared. I’m new to Photoshop so I can’t wait to try this out.

  3. Angie says:

    You are welcome!! Thanks for coming by. :)

  4. becca says:

    Soooo helpful and so simple! thank you!!!

  5. Angie says:

    You’re welcome, Becca! :)

  6. jon says:

    You have been so helpful! Thanks! I’ve searched so many photographer’s blogs but can’t find anything more useful than yours (and best of all “free”) More power to you and million thanks again.

  7. William says:

    Thanks for your posting. Very helpful as it helps me to zoom in to the precise place/method to effectively adjust the skin tone.

    Not sure whether you post anything on gamma correction on your blog. I also use gamma correction together with your method above to further improve the overall look.

    You make my day!

  8. Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for this, it made such a difference!!

  9. Vivian Tyson says:

    Great information! thanks for sharing!

  10. Nicolae Merceanu says:

    Fantastic tutorial!!!! I have been looking for this “look” for while now.
    Thank you for sharing!

  11. Jasmine says:

    The way you teach is SO clear! Believe or not, I found you out last night and I have done reading your 1/2 articles lol…. and I am still going to read till all finished and try them out one by one!

    Thank you ever so much for sharing openly and selflessly, and you are the one who do really pour out all your skills to the rest of us!!! Keep up the good works!!! Best regards!

  12. Lally says:

    Yes, sometimes all we have to do is adjust the color balance to create a perfect picture. I don’t really want to over photoshop pics that makes the persons in there look animated.

  13. Dan Ward says:

    I do exactly this a fair amount of the time in my photographs – it’s just not the same as just adding an extra bit of temperature in the raw editor. Hate the horrid orange cast that gives!

  14. Berta says:

    Thanks! Finally I have learnt, thank to you, to get rid of the zombi faces on my pictures! So simple…
    Thanks again for putting all this information out :)

  15. You are a genius! Thank you so much!! :-)

  16. CONNIE COLE says:

    Do you have any before and after tutorials on gaussian blur? I love the effect but when partial edits are made to a photo, mine look fake.

  17. Bijutoha says:

    I’m just waiting for your next tutorial. Because I love it so much.

  18. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for, thank you!

  19. DL says:

    I love this but somehow it turned my picture more orange :( I love your tutorial on the creamy light, I use that one a lot, but this one turned my picture too orange. Have you ever experienced that? Which method do you use most?

    • Angie says:

      Hi DL –
      It all depends on what your photo looks like coming out of the camera. If the white balance is already on the warmer side, you are exactly right – doing the above steps can make your photo look more orange since we are adding warmth. I take almost all my photos in bright, natural light, so the skin tones can tend to be a little cool sometimes. In that instance, this method works perfectly for me. But if you are shooting in different lighting conditions, this method may not work for you!

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