When it comes to photography, human skin presents the most complex and varied range of colors of any subject. While it’s possible to match skin tones by eye, our eyes are imperfect and often play tricks on us. When it comes to how to match skin tones in photoshop, a more technical approach is necessary.

Today, we’ll take a closer look at how you can quickly and easily match skin tones in photoshop to take your photos to the next level. 

Step 1: Create Your New Layer 

Once your image is loaded into Photoshop, the first thing you’ll need to do to match skin tone in Photoshop is create another, new layer for all your adjustments. To create the new layer, select ‘new layer’ from the layer menu dropdown or press CTRL+Shift+N to create one. Next, name your layer so you can identify it quickly. 

directions for photoshop

Step 2: Sample Each Color of the Skin 

Next, you’ll need to sample the colors that make up the skin tone. You’ll be sampling the colors from the area that needs to be adjusted, as well as the area of skin that you’re trying to match. To sample each color, hold down the alt or option key on your keyboard. You’ll see your mouse cursor turn into a crosshair, at which point you can click on a color that will sample it for you.

skin tone photoshop screenshot

Step 3: Create Color Swatches

Select the paintbrush tool from the toolbar and sample your first color. Then, paint a small sample of that color onto the layer you created in step one. Repeat this process for every skin tone color for the area you’ll be adjusting, as well as every skin tone for the area you’re using to match the two skin tones. 

photoshop example

Step 4: Create a Levels Adjustment Layer

You can create a new Levels adjustment layer by clicking the small black and white circle at the bottom of the layers toolbar. You can also click the layer menu at the top of the screen and choose ‘new adjustment layer’ from the menu. 


Step 5: Adjust Color Channel 

In the properties tab for your new adjustment layer, click the channel drop-down menu, and switch the channel from RGB to blue. Slowly move the right-hand slider to the left. This will slightly darken your image and add some yellow highlights to the area, as yellow sits opposite of blue on the color spectrum. Continue to play around with the slider to reach the desired tone. 

photoshop example

Step 6: Adjust Color Channel (Continued) 

For this step, we’re going to repeat the exact process from step 5, except we’ll be adjusting the green channel instead of blue. From the channel drop-down menu, select the green channel, and move the right-hand slider slowly to the left until you’ve reached the desired hue. 

photoshop sceenshot

Step 7: Group Your Layers

Next, you’ll want to group your working layers so that the actions you take are applied to all of your working layers instead of just the one selected. Do this by selecting any working layers you have (in this case, it may just be one) and clicking on the small folder icon at the bottom of the taskbar. 

photoshop tutorial

Step 8: Create a Layer Mask

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To create a layer mask, select the layer you’re masking in the layers task window, and then click the layer mask icon (white rectangle with a black circle inside) at the bottom of the window.


Step 9: Invert the Layer Mask

Next, we’ll invert the layer mask. Select the image menu from the top taskbar, and select adjustments. From the adjustments menu, select invert. You can also press CTRL+I simultaneously (for Windows) or Command+I (for Mac) to invert the layer.

skin tone

Step 10: Paint the Area You’re Editing 

Next, use the paintbrush tool to paint along the areas you’ll be editing. Do so as carefully as possible to avoid painting into areas that don’t need to be edited. If you’re working on a face, be sure to avoid the eyeballs and lips. 

skin tone photoshop

Step 11: Add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer 

Click back on the layer menu in the toolbar along the top of the screen, select new layer, then new adjustment layer, and finally select the hue/saturation layer to create it. 

From the hue/saturation layer, drag down the saturation slider until your edit looks more natural. 


Step 12: Delete Swatches

Now that you’re nearly finished, you can delete the color swatches you made during the third step. 

Step 13: Reduce Opacity 

Reducing the opacity will allow some of the original photo to shine through, which lends a more natural look to your edits. Reduce the opacity by sliding the opacity slider in the Layers menu to the left. Usually, around 80% opacity is a good number to shoot for, but this can vary greatly depending on the original photo. 

photoshop skin tone example

People Also Ask 

How do I match one color to another in Photoshop? 

Photoshop’s Match Color tool makes it easy to match photos from one image to another in Photoshop. Here’s how to do it: 

  • Open the image files for the image you’re editing and the image whose colors it must match.
  • From the toolbar at the top of the screen, navigate to the Image menu, then select adjustments, and from there, select match color.
  • In the match color dialogue box, select the image you’ll be sampling colors from to match your new image.
  • Check the preview checkbox so you can see the adjustments in real-time.
  • Use the Luminescence and Color Intensity sliders to adjust the brightness and saturation of the effect. Use the fade slider to adjust how intense the effect is. 
  • Click ‘OK’ to apply your edits once you’ve achieved the desired effect.

What colors look good on different skin tones?

Depending on your skin tone, some colors may bring out your features better than others. Everyone’s skin tone is unique, so your results are sure to vary, but here are a few general rules of thumb: 

  • Fair/light skin – Opt for darker shades that contrast against your lighter skin tone and avoid pale, pastel, or overly bright colors as they’ll make you appear washed out. 
  • Olive/medium skin – While most shades look great with an olive complexion, opt for colors that are a bit lighter or darker than your skin tone to provide plenty of contrast. Those with olive skin typically have yellow or green undertones, so it’s best to avoid these colors when possible.

Dark skin – People with dark skin typically look great in practically any color, especially bold colors that don’t compliment lighter skin tones. Be careful with browns, dark blues, and black as they tend to bleed into darker skin tones.