How to Brighten Skintones in Photoshop


The question of the best way to brighten skintones in Photoshop was asked a couple weeks ago on the Facebook page, so I wanted to do a tutorial.

I’ve found the most effective way to brighten skin in Photoshop is by creating a curves adjustment layer and pulling up the midtones.

In this example, here is the before:



This is the curves layer with the midtones pulled up:

And here is the result of the midtone bump:


A lot of times, just this small step helps to even out the skintone and helps make the skin creamy.


For this particular image, I used some of Photoshop’s healing tools (clone stamp, healing brush) to finish cleaning up the skin, then I ran Portraiture on a separate layer at a low opacity.  I sharpened the eyelashes, did a little cloning on the blanket, and voila!  Not too much editing on this one.


As you can see, the adjustment with the most impact for this image was the curves layer with the midtone bump.  It can be very effective!


If you’re on a computer, hover over the image to see the before and after:


Depending on the photo, sometimes a curves bump can start to wash out your darks more than you want.  If this happens, after pulling up the midtones, you can pull the shadows back down as shown below:


In addition to pulling up midtones with curves, here are a few other methods you can try in order to brighten skintones:

  • Create a Levels adjustment layer and move the middle slider to the left (this also brightens midtones)
  • If you are working in Lightroom, try increasing exposure a tad with the Exposure slider
  • Another method in Lighroom is to increase the Brightness slider


Thanks for the question, I hope this helps!

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3 Responses to How to Brighten Skintones in Photoshop

  1. Sue Roth says:

    Is there a way to operate curves in Photoshop Elements 9?

  2. Pingback: Photo Surgery – Head Swapping and Body Moving | Polished Picture

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