How To Match Skin Tone In Photoshop

What good is a perfectly edited and color-graded picture when the skin is not natural and flawless? If you have a reference picture that you wish to match the skin tone of your image to, we are here to help you achieve the look.

To match the skin tone, you would need to sample the skin tones, match the RGB values, paint over the image to reveal the effect, and then admire the work you just did. 

Let us get into the details of how to accomplish this. 

Place The Images Together

The first and most important step is to place your reference image and the subject image in the same frame. This is an optional step, but it provides ease. 

To do so:

  1. Open up the two photos which you wish to match the skin tone for.
  2. Drag the image for your reference and take the cursor on top of the tab of the other image. The tab will be switched.
  3. Now drag the cursor on the canvas and place the reference image on top of the image that is to be edited. 
  4. Adjust the orientation for easier use. 

Create A Blank Layer

Next, you need to create a blank layer for your swatches. To do so:

  1. Go to the layers panel.
  2. Create a new layer.

Set The Sample Size For The Eyedropper Tool

The sample size for the eyedropper tool determines how many pixels are sampled at the moment. To set the sample size for the eyedropper tool:

  1. Select the eyedropper tool from the tools panel.
  2. In the control panel on top, choose a sample size of five by five.

Choose The Two Skin Tones And Create Swatches

  1. Select the eyedropper tool and choose an area that is not a highlight, nor a shadow, from the reference image.
  2. Select the brush tool and paint a swatch on the blank layer we made earlier. 
  3. Repeat the process for the image that is to be edited. 

Create A Curve Adjustment Layer

This step is important to adjust the skin tones on the face without affecting the rest of the image. 

To select the face:

  1. Select the Lasso tool.
  2. Outline the face on the image to be edited.
  3. On the bottom of the layers panel, go to settings and choose “Create Curves Adjustment Layer.”

To begin the curve adjustment process:

  1. Click on Curves Adjustment Layer.
  2. Go to the eyedropper tool and choose the “Color Sampler Tool.”
  3. Now click on the swatches we made.
  4. First, click on the swatch from the reference picture and then the swatch from the subject picture.
  5. An info panel will pop up. The RGB values for both swatches will be displayed. 

Match RGB Values

The RGB values we set for our curves need to be matched for both images. We will use the info chart as a reference. 

To do so:

  1. Keep the curves adjustment layer on top of the layer stack.
  2. Go to your curve and delete any points that may already be present. 
  3. To create points on the individual RGB channels, hit Ctrl + Shift or Command + Shift.
  4. Now click on the swatch of the subject image. 
  5. This will add points to the individual RGB channels. 
  6. Now go to each RGB channel and manually match the values from the Info chart into the “Output” section. 
  7. Once done, go to the RGB composite curve and adjust brightness and contrast as you wish. 
  8. Delete the layers for the swatches and the reference image. 

Paint The Skin Tone That You Created On The Entire Image

The selection you made with the Lasso tool needed to be revised. You must use the brush tool to achieve a clean look, zoom in, and paint into the image. 

  1. Go to the layer with the curve adjustments. 
  2. Make the layer mask completely black by selecting the layer mask and hitting Control + Backspace or Command and Delete. 
  3. Select the Brush Tool and paint with white in all areas where the skin is showing. 
  4. You are done!

You can follow the tutorial on this Youtube video to add skin tone effects with less accuracy and control: 


Well, that was pretty easy. It is okay to struggle on your first attempt, but we assure you this seems easy after a few tries. Your first attempt at matching skin tones may turn out poorly, but keep going; refer to this detailed guide for assistance. We are vouching for you!