How To: Change Skin Tone in Photoshop

Change Skin Tone in Photoshop

With Adobe Photoshop on your computer, it's super easy to change or adjust the skin tone of somebody in a digital photo. The process uses some basic selection and color adjustment tools, and it's a fun way to make a friend's face nauseously green or lessen the effects of overly strong, sometimes even orange, makeup.

This tutorial will work well on most versions of Photoshop for macOS and Windows, including the Creative Suite (CS) and Creative Cloud (CC) iterations. This guide can also be mimicked almost exactly with free photo-editing programs such as GIMP.

For this guide, I'll be using this image of President Trump as an example, which has already been Photoshopped from this image (for full disclosure).

Image by Marc Nozell/Flickr via Daily Dot

Step 1: Select the Skin You Want to Change

You can use any one of the selection tools available in Photoshop, but for this guide, I'll be using the Magic Wand Tool. Select the tool, then change the tolerance to 35 and set the "Sample Size" to Point Sample.

From there, it's time to start selecting. Left-click your cursor over the face once, then hold the Shift key and continue to left-click to select as much of the face as possible. If you select a part of the image you don't want, like the hair, hold the Alt or Option key and left-click the area to deselect it.

This may take some time to get perfect. Once you have the general area selected, you can lower the Magic Wand tolerance to fine-tune any areas you missed, or deselect any areas you don't want (like the eyes).

Step 2: Desaturate & Adjust the Image

With the face selected, head to the menu bar at the top of Photoshop and select Image -> Adjustments -> Desaturate.

Now go to Image -> Adjustments -> Levels, then start with the furthest slider to the right in the "Input Levels" section and bring it to the left some. Then do the same with the middle slider. This will vary on a case-by-case basis, so you'll need to play around here to desaturate the colors properly.

Step 3: Color the Face

All that's left to do now is add some color and adjust it to your liking. Go to Image -> Adjustments -> Hue/Saturation, then tick the option for "Colorize."

Now that we added some color back, it's time to adjust the tone. Use the Hue, Saturation, and Lightness sliders to settle on the skin tone you want. Again, you'll need to play around with this to get it where you want it.

And there's your finished product. I'm sure you could do a much better job than I did. However, I was not merely trying to turn a Photoshopped image back into the original photo, but was just trying to change the color period.

For Minor Skin Tone Changes

If I wanted to make minor adjustments to skin tone (like making the face just a little less red, in this case), after selecting the facial area with the Magic Wand Tool, you could just go to Image -> Adjustments -> Hue/Saturation, then lower the saturation a bit.

Minor saturation tweak after Magic Wand Tool.

Depending on the picture, you could get better results by not selecting anything and going straight into adjusting the saturation of the whole image to tweak skin tone instead of flat out changing it. In this scenario, just tweaking the red saturation will work well, since there isn't much red elsewhere in the image except on the tie.

This is just lowering the red saturation of the whole image.

Watch the Video for More Help

Need more help? Check out the video reference by Howard Pinsky, a Photoshop trainer, on YouTube below. It will walk you through the whole process with different photograph and skin tone example.

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Cover photo and screenshots by WonderHowTo


I find this pretty RACIAL, man. Next time change a white person's skin color to green or purple. When you change something you have to improve it; well you made it worst and didn't even know that because you know nothing about black people. I assumed you were white when you started because you made it a point to say this isn't racial. After watching the video I was convinced you were white because a balack person would never transform her the way you did. Again next time use white models because you know a lot more about them.

I dont think that this is racial at all. Its very informal, I myself am black and do not find this offensive, and you titorin sound racial with that angry comment. No harm was done.. and speak for yourself when you say no black peson would change her skin tone the way he did, that's unfair. Unless you are saying I'm not black. Think before you type, please. (:

hi im black too

the reason it is offensive is because eurocentric beauty standards are typically enforced on models, especially those with darker skin, to perpetuate the idea that dark skin is not beautiful.

now shut the fuck up

excelent tutorial . contratulations.
titorin, #$%@ you.

"I find this pretty RACIAL, man"
nobody aks you.
the tutorial is very cool.

cant we all just get along? It wasn't done in malice, you can see the guy did it to show you the extreme contrast in pigmentation that you can change. So she went from 1 color to a lighter color which is also a color found in real people and it's believable. Changing a white to green or purple is not believable. So I myself have wondered how magazines make Beyonce so light and now I see. So it was informative. And besides, it's not like they're not using bleaching skin cream to get the same affects in real life.

This isn't offensive. The reason why I am going to use it is to change each finger on a praying hand to a different color...To show that we all should unite and stop fighting...

Grow up Tri. I am making video games, and this great simple tut allows me to accomodate the various skintones that game players want, versus forcing a choice on them as many games do. There is nothing racial about this vid. The author simply used that beautiful woman to emphasize his tutorial, as he said many times throughout.

It is what it is learn to pick your battle.

some people need to stop being so critical of others - and stop calling everything, "racial." It is just about changing a color - not about race.

Thank you so much, I have searched high & low for a process to lighten a picture that came out way darker than it should have; despite the comments of the ignorant, I truly, truly appreciate your taking the time to post this tutorial. I am a black female and your help is greatly appreciated!!

Excellent Tutorial!!! Thank you so much, I have searched high & low for a process to lighten a picture that came out way darker than it should have; despite the comments of the ignorant, I truly, truly appreciate your taking the time to post this tutorial. I am a black female and your help is greatly appreciated!!

titorin; You are so correct about this tutorial being racist no matter how many times people say it isnt. It has offended both you and me. At the least its racially insensitive.

While at the photography section in Barnes And Noble this amateur this beginner photographer (he's caucasion) was had some challenges taking photos of his kids with while keeping fellow African-American students from being underexposed. Before he asked me how to deal with darker tones he prefaced his question to the effect "Please don't take this is a racist way". Well I believe he was sincere and non-disparaging, since he was relatively new in the photography I did not steer him to photoshop editing but instead to be mindful of light settings and relative position of his subject.

How is this racist? seriously??? He's showing a technique in photoshop.. has nothing to do with racism... get over yourself Titorin... People are so sensitive, but are more than happy to go to a comedy club where they do nothing BUT bash the races... but somehow that's acceptable, and an informative tutorial isn't? Whatever!

@Titorin I find YOUR comments pretty racial. The reason why he mentioned about the tutorial not being racist is because he knew it wouldn't be long before a racist person with coloured skin came out of the woodwork. Congratulations you did. Your comment "because you know nothing about black people," is an insult to black people and white people. The colour of someone's skin does not change a human being, however attitude does and your comment was racist. It works both ways.

There are plenty of Tutorials on how to change eye colour,hair or lighten teeth yet you don't get teethists going on about the choice of teeth or hairists banging on about hair colour.

Your comment "Again next time use white models because you know a lot more about them," is also a racist generalisation of which proves that you are the racist one.

The reason some racism exists today is because of people like you, going on the offesive over your skin colour and trying to start arguing over it. If skin colour is all that makes you-you then fine, but it isn't so making something that is clearly not offensive or a racial slur into something it isn't shows you up pretty badly and you are helping to keep racism alive. The tutorial doesn't.

As a black male I think what I should do is gather every photo of a black person and color him her white, this way those of you who are ignorant and can't seem to just let go of even the word racist, will no longer have a white person to blame. Instead blame me I'll be the racist, a black man who is sick and tired of al those who use race as an argument. For all those black and white, I bet Michael Jackson is turning in his grave, white, black, yellow who gives a crap. You want to be different act different, get a freaking education and make something of yourselves. All I hear all my life is white people did this, white people said this, if every black person would stop using some stupid made up language called Ebonics, black men and women could probably make something of themselves, instead they blame every white person for the bad stupid choices they make. Welcome to the century where freedom really is free, and all the reaches to be made can be made, it's called you have two hand and two feet, then educate yourself, work for living, and become a productive citizen of this great country. And if other black or white or whatever say oh you're just trying to be white or something, realize they are freaking words that don't mean a squat. Sorry that a video of changing color sparked all of this, but reading stupid comments is what did it.

What we need is young black lawyers, doctors, accountants, professional black men and women without a chip on their shoulder talking and ranting about race could probably and actually make a difference in this world. I guess that's why I love white people, they have my respect because they don't waste time blaming the world, or at least those who have money, but that money came from hard work that anyone no matter the race could achieve. And what they do that I love even more is take care of each other with jobs, money, and help them rise to a level of dignity respect. Funny when you look at it in my direction, what if a black man can make CEO, is he going to take care of other black men and women, help them rise to a level of dignity and respect, give back to his black community. No actually he ends up hanging around white people as if he hadn't a clue. Wake up people we are our own demise in this world. And if this message bothers you, take it up with god, because if you had god in your life you wouldn't see color or have a problem with it, love thy neighbor is all I have to say. Goodnight.
Oh and thanks for the tutorial, I've been looking for that. Some of my family are really dark if you know what I mean, I think it's because the pictures were taking at night without good lighting, but now I can fix that and my family will be pleased that I salvage the night family reunion.

@AI M Brown Nicely said my friend. To me we are all part of one race, the human race. Arguments on skin colour to me is as rediculous as starting up a sect on eye colour or blonde or brunette. I really wish the human race would evolve passed this ignorance.
Have you noticed that if you take a random photo of something like a silly flower, lighting no problem. Take a picture of an important event like your family reunion and the camera gets the hump!! My cameras like to do this to me too. Naughty Cameras!! Good luck with your pictures, I hope it all comes right for you.

Love it, thanks!

PS: the only racial thing here is the pimp I just exploded on my ass. The rest is a good functiona tutorial.

Mmkay, ignoring all the radical twits bitching about race.

Thanks for the tutorial!! I wanted to turn this white model black to see how she'd look, and it came out pretty awesome thanks to your tutorial + some tinkering of my own!! ^-

So glad I found this Tut. I signed up for this website just to post this comment to show my appreciation. I made a STUNNING graphic manipulation that I am going to use for my business. I turned a pale skinned woman into a cultural mixture with AA skin. Fantastic! I've seen in real life mixed/biracial dark skinned woman with features of another race, so I played around with this concept and using your technique I got it just right on the third try. FYI-- this educational video is NOT racist!! That is just stupid for anyone to say. Skin color, eye color -what have you- it's all to play with when you are on photoshop and if you are an artist in today's economy/reality you need to know how to create every race on this software if you are going to do any interesting work. America has the finest AA's in the world because of their rich genetic diversity (i.e AA's with green eyes, blonde curly hair). If you live in a large city you should take notice to this and implement this unique beauty into your art.

What the hell is wrong with you people?

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