Adobe Lightroom – Skin softening

Featuring a digital makeup toolkit

Load the photo in Lightroom

Since our aim is human skin smoothing, the softening of pores which can be intrusive in high-resolution portraits, you should select such a picture. The same method also works well with pet fur of a lighter color, giving it a softening filter effect. But for now, stick with facial skin.

A menu item

From the toolbar at the top of the right-side palette, select the rightmost one, showing a brush. We mentioned it earlier, but skin softening cannot be found among the usual options. In the window that appears, click Effect, thereby opening a menu. In this menu, click Soften Skin.

This means we’ll have some painting to do, but first, take a look around the settings!

Fiddling with options

By clicking Soften Skin, the Clarity slider was set to -100, meaning microcontrast is decreased very strongly. Sharpness was set to +25, meaning a slight additional sharpening. If you don’t want intense skin softening, or don’t need this sharpening effect, set Clarity and/or Sharpness closer to 0.

In this example, we kept the strong softening but skipped sharpening, so the latter setting was set to 0.

Under Brush, you may want to find a Size which fits your image size and allows comfortable work. A size of 10 is usually good. If you don’t want to apply the full softening effect with one stroke, decrease Density. This will mean you have to go through the areas multiple times to get the whole effect.

Paint baby skin

All there remains is manual labor. With the softening brush you set up, carefully paint over the skin surface which will become softer, but still retain its small characteristics.


On the left, you can see a part of the original on 100% zoom, and on the right, there’s the softened version. The smoothing evened out the larger pores, but did not removed the characteristic texture of the skin, so it remained human. Skin lightness was also evened out, so there is no glinting, the lighter areas also look smoother.

This brush is suitable not only for skin softening, but also for removing fine noise from lighter surfaces. However, it will not affect noise in darker, shadowed areas.