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Techniques
How To Remove Braces


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Removing braces is one of the more challenging jobs in Photoshop and one of the topics I am asked about frequently. In this article, I will share with you the process I find the fastest and the best.

Two things up front:

Determine if your subject's teeth are good candidates for removing braces. People wear them for a reason, and if the teeth have large gaps between them or are twisted awkwardly, my best suggestion is to choose another pose in which the subject is not smiling as much.

Resist the urge to copy/paste someone else's teeth into your subject's mouth. As good as it sounds, 99% of your customers are going to be uncomfortable wearing someone else's teeth, and face it, it's not going to look like them.

This subject's teeth will look nice when the braces are removed. (Images 1 and 1a)

The first step is to cover the metal with a believable tooth color and texture. I prefer an adaptation of a skin technique I learned from Katrin Eismann: Healing Brush from a pattern.

Make a new canvas 64x64, with the same resolution as your image. Fill it with 50% gray. Edit/Fill/50% Gray. (Image 2)

Add some grain. Katrin suggests Filter/Artistic/Film Grain at setting of 1 and intensity of 5. (Image 3)

Save the new pattern by Select/All and choosing Edit /Define Pattern. Name it something you will remember it by later. (Image 4)

Close the gray file.You do not need to save changes.

To use the pattern, duplicate the Background, choose the Healing Brush and set the options for Screen and Pattern. Color over the braces several times until most of the metal disappears. (Image 5)

An alternate way to do this is to make a new empty layer and use the Brush Tool in Normal mode at 2% opacity 100% flow and lightly dot over the metal frequently choosing colors from the surrounding tooth until the metal is covered. Then add some noise.

After the metal is covered, dot and lightly paint in the separations between the teeth and the edges of the lips using the Brush Tool (on a New Layer) in Normal mode at 10% opacity and 100% flow. Be careful! There's not a lot of paint here! (Images 6 and 6a)

Merge the paint onto the Background Copy (mine is named Base Color).

Using a form of dodging and burning, even out the values on each tooth to create contour and smoothness. I use the Dodge and Burn Tools set to the range of Midtones and Exposure of 5%, but you can use Screen and Multiply Layers, an Overlay Layer or a Curves Layer – whatever you are comfortable with. I also dodged in the suggestion of new tooth on the left, but did not try to “draw” a tooth. (Image 7)

Final touchups are made with the Brush Tool. Start by using the Brush in Color Mode at Opacity 20% and Flow 100% to correct any discolorations. Option (Alt) click on the correct color and lightly brush over the discoloration a few times until it matches. Do not go over the edges.

Finish with the Brush Tool in Normal mode and paint in small odds and ends. If the texture from the Healing Brush is too gritty looking, use the Blur Tool to soften it slightly, but do this step at the end because you need some texture while you are working. Sprinkle in some highlights on a New Layer using the Brush Tool in Normal mode, Filter/Blur Gaussian Blur to soften, reduce the layer opacity, and merge down.

Check your work from different zoom ratios to make sure the teeth are looking good on the face. That's It! (Images 8 and 8a)

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