by Mark Laurie Published
If you make a mistake press X to switch the foreground colour to white, you can now paint the mask back in. To see what your masking effect looks like, Fig 6, turn off the lower layer by clicking on the eye beside its icon.
Flatten your image (from the layers palette menu select flatten image). Go to the channels palette and delete the alpha channel.
Back in the layers palette, we can add one more step to the image. Go to Filter>Noise>Add Noise. Set the options to Gaussian and check monochromatic. You will want to adjust the amount slider so the grain is just barely visual. This will vary with your file size but is usually very low, in this example of a 3MB file our amount was 1.5.
The noise gives a mild texture feel to the image and a sense of sharpness. You can retouch the bits out that the filter did not hide. A great time to play with the Healing brush. The masthead picture shows the final image with some mild retouching.
There are always several approaches to an effect so here is another. In this digital capture image of Pam, Fig 9, we have our start. Do crtl/command J twice to get two copies of the background layer. Rename the middle layer Highlight and the top layer Shadow. Turn the Shadow layer off by clicking on the eye beside it.
Activate the Highlight layer. Change the Layer mode to lighten. Reduce the layer's opacity to around 50% to 60%. By changing these settings before you begin the filter you can see how the two combine. Go to: Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Set the blur so the features are still visible but with no sharp features, Fig 10. This Fig shows you the effect without mode set. It's not too critical but an area you can play in to find your best effect, a bit stronger is better than weaker.
Activate the Shadow layer. Change the Shadow Layer Mode to Darken. Change the Opacity (quick key tip, hit V for the move tool then type the number you want for the opacity level, i.e. 6 = 60%) to about 45%. Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Blur the features again but not as strong as we did the highlight layer. Let some experimentation be your guide.
vWith the Shadow layer active, link it with the Highlight layer. Click the empty square on the Highlight layer below the icon of the brush of the Shadow layer. In the Layers menu (access by the triangle upper right of palette) select merge linked.
The properties of the two layers merge, along with their opacities. Fig 11. You can still adjust this combined layer's opacity to finicky the effect you like.
Like the previous approach, we need to get sharpness back into the eyes and mouth. Repeat that process here. Another way to see the effect of the mask is hold the shift key down and click on the mask, it turns it on and off.
Some things to watch when sharpening the eyes is your depth of field. The farther items don't sharpen as much, which means go light on the masking tool's opacity.
Fig 12 is the finished effort. You can see the dramatic difference between what we started with, Fig 13 and Pam's final image. All before we do the finishing retouching.
There are other ways to create soft focus filters and many third party plugins doing the same. By making an action on these you can automate the steps and experience tremendous time savings.
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