Welcome to the new Digital Darlow column!
For the last few months, I've been using a number of powerful software Plug-ins from Eastman Kodak's Austin Development Center. They include Digital GEM Airbrush Pro, Digital GEM Pro, Digital SHO Pro and Digital ROC Pro. Below is a technique for getting started with Airbrush Pro, and I suggest downloading the demo version at www.asf.com so you can follow along.
Quick Tip: Try different zoom levels, and to move around the image, drag the box in the Navigator window. This will also show you a before-and-after image as you click, as long as the "After" button is selected under the Preview window.
Digital GEM Airbrush Professional
Think digital facelift. Airbrush Pro smoothes out blemishes in a unique way, and gives skin a more youthful, "cover girl" look, while retaining a lot of detail. The plug-in can also save hours of retouching, especially when added to a Photoshop action.
1. After installing, open an RGB file (eight or 16-bit) in Photoshop CS or other compatible program. The preview image above and to the left has been dropped in to show the "Before" photo more clearly.
2. Optional: Duplicate the Background layer in the layers palette. This allows you to run the filter on the top layer and then lessen the filter's intensity using the layer palette's opacity slider. This also protects your background layer and allows specific areas, such as hair, to be easily masked out after running the filter.
3. Choose Filter>Kodak>Digital GEM Airbrush Pro to bring up the plug-in. I recommend choosing "Help" from the bottom left of the dialog box for specific information about different parts of the plug-in.
4. For most images of people, begin with the Blend slider at 100 and choose "Lighten," which preserves the tonality of the lighter areas. The Blend slider controls the overall strength of the plug-in and usually, subtle is better (50 to 80 is generally a good range). The Detail sliders affect sharpness. Set all to zero to begin — which is the lowest setting — then increase each one separately until the image looks its best when zoomed into different areas of the image.
5. To view which areas of the image are being affected by the Detail sliders, click on the "Detail" button. When the image looks best, click "OK" and if you made a duplicate layer in Step 2, adjust the top layer's opacity from the Layers palette. Then flatten the file and flatter your subjects with their clearer and more radient skin!