Another Photoshop miracle: virtual lipstick tutorial

During our Family Vacay 2010, many glorious pictures were taken of all family members. But every so often, briefly, my own camera was turned on me. In some cases, this turned out to be . . . a problem. Since I wasn’t usually wearing much make-up or any lip gloss, there was nothing to bring zip to my normally washed-out look. In reality, this is fine, and I fully support make-up-lessness. However, when captured on film . . . well, that’s a different matter. My lips, for example, had very little pink in them and slightly resembled the lips of a zombie. Yes, I am very, very pale, and this can play out in both wonderful and/or hideous ways on camera.

Thankfully, I grabbed a hold of Photoshop.

“Photoshop Photoshop on the wall, make me the prettiest one of all!” I implored.

And while I didn’t become the prettiest one of all, there was a vast improvement.

I am now going to walk you through steps that will essentially add more color to your lips. I call it ‘virtual lipstick.’ Yes, it’s completely cheating the system. Probably extremely vain as well. But every now and then, I really like a picture except for the death-like lips, and hey–I’m a solution-driven person, and this is my way to make it all better.

Let’s start with the picture at hand: me, at an outdoor flea market, sporting a visor cap with fur growing out of the top. Please don’t ask further questions about this visor cap. The answers can only be disturbing.

Open ‘er up in Photoshop CS4:

1. Using the lasso tool (indented icon to the very left, second from the top), select the lips. It does help to zoom in to the area at hand before lassoing. To do that in a Mac, simply press ‘Command +’ until you’re at your desired closeness. To drag the image around so that the lips are in the center of your screen, hold down the ‘space’ bar and use the mouse to move the image about. Oh, and please ignore my little “actions” folder on the right, where “Resize for web V” is selected. It has nothing to do with this post.

2. Go to Image —> Adjustments —> “Selective Color.” Ever since I discovered Selective Color, I’ve been using it non-stop. Non-stop, I tell you.

3. Now, the color in my lips is a combination of both “reds” and “neutral,” so we’ll play with both selections in turn. First, select “reds.” Essentially, we’re telling the program to take pixels that fall into the ‘reds’ category, and adjust the color in them.

Now it’s time to play with the different sliders. As you can see, I am adding some “black” to the existing red in the selection, which essentially just makes it darker. I can also add some yellow if I want to warm up the color, and I’m definitely adding a little magenta. Mmmm.

The sad fact is that the pixels in my lips don’t qualify enough as ‘reds’ for you to see much of a difference. But wait! There is another step. And that step will be our salvation.

4. Next, I select “neutral.” Let’s be honest–that’s the color we’re dealing with.

Time to play with those sliders again, and this time I promise you’ll see a difference. Let’s add a little black . . .

Whoa! OK, not that much black!

Basically, just play with them there sliders until you have the look you want. Using this technique, the applications are countless. If you suffer from redness under your eyes, you can use this trick to select that area and reduce the “black” therein (which will essentially lighten it, though you have to make sure it blends well with the rest of the image). You can increase the “white” and reduce the “black” in the neutral pixels of your teeth. You can use it to bring out the blue in your subject’s eyes, or turn one eye red and one eye yellow–it’s up to you as Photoshop Master in Command.

After scaling back the black, adding some yellow and magenta and reducing the cyan, this is what happened:

It is to my liking. Enhanced, but still natural-looking. Amen.

Here they are side by side. If I had been a good girl I would have made side by side collage of the before-and-after pictures with a witty caption on it . . . but I didn’t. Please don’t tell Santa. The holidays are approaching fast, and I just know he’s waiting for me to slip up.

Thank you Photoshop for one more little miracle.

My parting words of wisdom to you are as follows: don’t go too hog wild. Always remember to use a light touch. You don’t want to completely lose perspective and turn a nice, innocent photo like this . . .

. . . into this :

Because take it from a woman who’s been there–that’s only a hair-breadth away from this debacle:

Eyes everywhere, lips sprouting from every available surface . . . I don’t think I’ll ever be able to sleep again. Vessie, I’m sorry I had to involve you in this mess.

Think light touch, people! Light touch!

Over and out!

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6 Responses to Another Photoshop miracle: virtual lipstick tutorial

  1. Corinne says:

    I’ve been resisting even wanting photoshop… but I’m getting closer…

    • Jenna says:

      Yeah . . . I resisted it until I figured out a way to get it through a family member who is a grad student =). I don’t think I could have ever brought myself to pay full price.

  2. Twinky says:

    But WAIT!! The last photo is actually a Picasso!! You could make a fortune!! ….or not…

    The truth is that the slightly and lightly enhanced lips really DO look good, Jenna. You are one amazing woman… and daughter =)

  3. Vesselina says:

    hey this is totally cool! I just read in an issue of Popular Photography about the famous cover of VOGUE done in the 50’s. A similar technique must have been was used to white out the entire face- except for one striking, beautiful eye and the bright red lips. It was GENIUS. So… this is how it’s done, huh?

    See said cover at this link:

  4. Hi Jenna,
    If after you select your lips, you copy (command C mac), then paste new layer (command J). This allows you to adjust your image on a separate layer. The reason I like to do this is so I can adjust the opacity once i make my color or other adjustment. This way if my lips are adjusted to dark I can just reduce the opacity to lighten them up. I hope this make sense :) Also, once you ‘lasso’ your object, you can click the refine edge button, this allows you to create a soft edge.
    You probably know all this, but I was just sharing. I don’t know much- but I did learn this.


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