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Photoshop Friday - shine off

In m/m covers, it can be jarring when two characters are composited who obviously don’t belong together. Sometimes it’s a matter of the scale being off-kilter, or the light source hitting each character from a different direction, or the light temperature being different on each of them, or the focus being different on each of them. But one of the more disturbing things to me is when one character is matte and evenly lit, and the other is glistening with shiny hot spots!


I recently needed to calm down the glisten on one of my own covers. I adore the Marlin model; I think he’s absolutely perfect. But in his outdoor photoshoot, once I zoomed in on him, it became apparent that his skin was unappealingly sweaty. This is often a problem in flash photography too, where the flash blows out the face’s highlights. In this particular instance, though, I think the model just happened to be glistening.

It turned out this was a really easy problem to fix.

1. Create a new blank layer over the photo to paint on. This is a nondestructive working method, in other words, you are not altering the pixels of your original. This is useful because if you do something wrong, you don’t actually lose anything, you can keep erasing, going back, changing the opacity of your corrections, etc.

2. Sample the model’s skin tone near the hotspot with the eyedropper tool. Grab a tone that is darker than the hotspot. This tone becomes your foreground color.
3. Choose a soft brush. Set the brush mode to darken and lower the brush opacity somewhere around 10-15%
4. Working on your new blank layer, gently paint over the hotspot areas to blend them in to the surrounding skin. (You see an arrow cursor here where my paintbrush would be…I couldn’t take a screenshot of my brush!!) Because you’re in darken mode, this is easier than you’d think. In this composition, I paid particular attention to the sweatiest looking parts, like the cleft above his lip right below his nose, his cheeks, and his brow. I dabbed a little paint to the side so you could see the transparency of the coverage. In this case I wanted to be subtle and leave some highlights, because after all highlight and shadow are what gives something form and dimension. I just didn't want him looking quite so moist.

Here’s my final cover with hotspots taken care of, edges blended in, blemishes retouched, stubble evened out and colors adjusted. Also note, I've positioned the light source in the background to match the direction of the light on his face. Too many m/m covers take place in crazy-light-source-land and they just look fake.


Find the Turbulence Series at JCP Books!


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 21st, 2012 05:39 pm (UTC)
Ooooh, that's bad. Lol. Good photoshop job.
Dec. 21st, 2012 05:41 pm (UTC)
I had been aiming for putting it together in 15 minutes but it took me more like half an hour to make it that bad. Luckily it can demonstrate other awful design principles too.
Dec. 24th, 2012 11:56 am (UTC)
I love the way you match the guy's coloration with the background. He really looks like he belongs.

I wish there were more stock photos of two guys together. Aside from lighting even things like what focal length lens the photographer used or from what angle he shot makes a difference.

I had an image recently where I wanted to bring in details on a white T-shirt. Instead on burning it in, I created a new, blank layer above it, set the layer style to soft light and painted it in with black. It's more editable than using the burn tool.
Dec. 24th, 2012 03:01 pm (UTC)
Matching people to their backgrounds isn't that hard, either, with some overlays created with sampled colors. I'm looking at movie posters and it looks like the whites of the eyes are prime real estate for reflecting the background colors, so I plan to look at that more closely in the future.
Dec. 24th, 2012 03:22 pm (UTC)
I used to be averse to using layer masks and adjustment layers, but the moment I tried them out I fell in love.

Good tip about the eyes. I'll keep that in mind.
Dec. 24th, 2012 04:47 pm (UTC)
I remember figuring out that a layer mask could do so much more than cutting something destructively and pasting it onto a layer, because it preserved info that I might need later...that was a big revelation to me. A big step forward.

The eye trick works best with a nice white highlight somewhere on the sclera to show off the color cast. If you find colorful movie posters with closeups I'll bet you'll see what I mean. I haven't successfully done it yet myself. Turbulence would have been a good place to try with the closeups, had I known about it yet.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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