Beauty Retouching Workflow: Skin Tones

The following is an excerpt from The Main Steps in a Beauty Retouching Workflow multi-part tutorial by Julia Kuzmenko McKim, issue 4, YOUR PORTFOLIO. This time it is an introduction to understanding how to analyze the skin color in your images.



Los Angeles-based Beauty Photographer & Retoucher

Online portfolio:


SECTION: Beauty, Fashion, & Portrait Retouching


In the previous issues we talked about preparing Raw images for advanced retouching (Issue 1), hair retouching (Issue 2), and the Dodge & Burn technique (Issue 3). In this part I would like to share with you my understanding and approach to interpreting colors when working with skin tones.

I am a strong believer in the power of mastering the fundamentals in any art or craft, and when it comes to the visual arts, including digital photography and image editing, the best way to start off right is to study the basics.

In visuals arts, colors can make or break a painting or a photographic image, so there is no question that you need to study Color Theory thoroughly to become a pro. Learning what color is, what the difference is between color and value, and about color relationships before you get down to learning how to deal with them in Photoshop will serve you well in the long run.



As digital image creators, when it comes to color corrections we are handling Hue, Saturation, and Luminosity of colors, which visual artists who deal with non-digital mediums call Hue, Chroma, and Value or Brightness, respectively.

Hue for a traditional artist defines where the color sits at the edge of the color wheel. It is what we usually name a color in every day life: a green apple, a red car, or a blue sky. A digital artist can find Hues in the vertical “rainbow” bar, or Color Slider, alongside the Color Picker field in Photoshop (Fig. 1).

Saturation – or Chroma for traditional artists – defines how pure or “grayed-out” the color is, which is represented in a horizontal axis across the Color Picker field.

And finally, Luminosity – or Value or Brightness – is the vertical dimension of the Color Picker field and is the measurement of brightness of the color on a scale from white to black.


I really wish I had been taught this in the Photoshop class I took as part of my Photography coursework; instead, I had to learn it on my own over the years. Hopefully my sharing it will save you a lot of time.

First, I want you to arrange your tablet near you on your desk, then open Photoshop on your computer and do the following exercise, making mental or written notes as you work.

Color picker

Fig. 1 Color Picker Panel

Inside Photoshop, I want you to first press “D”, then “X” to make your Foreground color white and then open the Color Picker (click on the Foreground Color icon in the Tools Bar in Photoshop). You should see the same numbers in the right half of the Color Picker panel as you are seeing in figure above.

Five color number groups indicate the numeric color values for the color you picked in each of the various color spaces, including RGB (Red, Green, and Blue), Lab, CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key, or Black), HSB (Hue, Saturation, and Brightness) and the HTML Color Codes – the codes that Web browsers use to display colors. For the sake of this article, we will focus on three of these color spaces: HSB, RGB, and CYMK. Those interested in learning more about the Lab color space can find many articles published by Dan Margulis, a Photoshop veteran and color correction expert, on the web and in print.

Now with your stylus, drag the cursor all over the Color field here and watch carefully as the numbers change. Here are the first few things I want you to pay attention to:…



Read more in Issue 4, YOUR PORTFOLIO


  • Pim Nauta says:


    Since I downloaded the first edition of Retouched Magazine I’m trying to get the other 3 issues but in a way I can’t find a way to get them.

    Is there a link to all the new issues so I can order them?

    Thank you,

    Pim Nauta, The Netherlands

    • Julia McKim says:

      Hi Pim,

      Thank you for your interest! Depending on where you found the first issue you should see the rest of them right in there. If you’re on iTunes, then simply go into the Newsstand, then into the RETOUCHED Mag publication and you will find the rest of the issues right in there. Same goes for Google Play. Hope this helps!

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