In Depth: Skin Retouching Part 2: The Plug-ins

In Depth: Skin Retouching Part 2: The Plug-ins

Plug-ins for General Skin Improvement

Welcome to part 2 of Toolfarm’s series on Skin Retouching. In case you missed it, In Depth: Skin Retouching and Digital Makeup, Part 1 contains lots of tips to keep your talent looking fabulous and natural looking as you smooth their skin. The article goes over isolating skin tones using a couple of different methods and using the built-in tools and techniques to smooth skin. There are also some links to Photoshop tutorials for skin retouching since there are a lot them out there.

Wait, what…? Did I really say that you can do the job with built-in tools? The ones that ship with After Effects or your NLE? Well, of course, you can, but let’s be honest, plug-ins will do it faster and do a better job of it. And, I’m not just saying that because I work for a plug-in reseller. Plug-ins take away the tedious and time-consuming minutiae so you can get back to the creative work that we all love.

The plug-ins I’m talking about today are the heavy hitters and a couple of new tools that are getting a lot of attention. They’re all plug-ins made specifically for skin smoothing or plug-ins that do a stellar job of it. The plug-ins need a way to isolate the skin, smooth it but keep the detail so it looks natural.

Digital Anarchy Beauty Box

Let’s start things off with Beauty Box, which may be the most known tool for skin retouching and it robust! Beauty Box has fantastic features that others don’t have like Shine Removal and fun presets. Most importantly though, it allows the texture and detail of the skin to remain after smoothing.

Slide left and right on the image to see the before and after comparison.


beautybox video effect controls

Beauty Box has an extremely well-designed skin detection tool which can be set by clicking the Analyze Frame button. It automatically sets a keyframe for Dark Color and Light Color, as a Linear, Bezier or Hold keyframes, which can be set at the bottom of the Effect Controls for Beauty Box. Setting a keyframe is useful if the talent moves in or out of light or the lighting changes in your shot, so if this happens, move down the Timeline to the change and click Analyze Frame again.

To modify the Mask, it’s easiest to make it visible first. Click the Show Mask check box to see a black and white version of your scene. Areas that are selected will be white and areas not selected will be represented as black. Adjust Hue Range, Saturation Range, and Value Range to tweak the mask.

One issue I’ve run into with a lot of skin enhancing tools when I use myself as a subject is that I’m a bit monochrome. My skin and hair are very similar in color and intensity. Tools that allow for selecting an animated path help greatly to separate elements of similar color and shading. Beauty Box Video has the option by selecting Path and choosing the proper Mask layer in the pull-down menu.

There is a Sharpen slider to add more detail in and Color Correction section where you can adjust the hue, saturation, and brightness of the masked area.

The Presets that are included is a lot of fun. Some use the area selected with the skin selection tools and others use the whole screen for a “look”. Some are not meant to improve your footage but to give the skin a rougher or specialized appearance.

Beauty Box also has a Shine Removal slider to get rid of those hot spots. I have dry skin so shine is not really a problem for me, but it works great.

beauty box mask

A few Beauty Box presets



reality star

Reality Star


Fae Queen



Below is an overview of Beauty Box Video by Jim Tierney of Digital Anarchy.

More info:
Digital Anarchy Beauty Box Video

Host Support:

Check the product page for specifics on supported versions.

  • After Effects
  • Premiere Pro
  • Final Cut Pro
  • OpenFX (DaVinci Resolve, Assimilate Scratch, Sony Vegas, and other OpenFX hosts)
  • Avid Media Composer

 Sapphire S_Beauty

Sapphire, now part of the Boris FX family, is a mega-collection of powerful tools and S_Beauty was introduced in Sapphire v7. I like that the effect S_Beauty effect is natural looking, with the right settings.

Slide left and right on the image to see the before and after comparison.


The Skin Detection options worked surprisingly well. By adjusting the Skin Color, Luma Range, Chroma Range and other settings under Skin Detection, along with the option to use a path or matte layer, allowed for easy isolation of the Skin.

skin detect matte
skin with garbage matte

There’s an option for a Matte from Layer or Matte from Path which helps in a big way with isolating areas that are getting picked up by the Skin Detection, plus a Garbage Matte.

Below that in the Effect Controls, the Blur Amount, Edge Threshold, Hue Shift and all that can be adjusted to tweak the softening and color of your talent. S_Beauty also has some Glow options to brighten up the skin of your actor.

John Dickinson did a nice overview of Sapphire S_Beauty when it was released.

S_beautyMore info:
Sapphire Perpetual License   Sapphire Annual Subscription

FXHOME HitFilm Pro Skin Retouch

FXHOME’s HitFilm Pro Skin retouch doesn’t have the bells and whistles of Beauty Box Video or S_Beauty but the final results looked pretty natural and that’s what’s important. It’s set up in a very straight forward manner into three sections: Skin Detection, Skin Treatment, and Glow.

Slide left and right on the image to see the before and after comparison.


There is a Skin Detection feature that utilizes a Skin Color color picker, Brightness Threshold, Chroma Threshold and more. Depending on the footage used, it does a pretty fantastic job of selecting the proper areas with the Skin Detection default. There’s an option to view the Skin Matte or Skin, isolated on its own, so it’s easy to tweak. There is no matte or mask input option so the skin matte is created from, so if the Skin Detection is picking up elements it shouldn’t, I’d highly recommend using something like Imagineer mocha and import the shapes. When I used footage of me with a background that was beige, it had a difficult time pulling skin tones. The model used in the example does not have my monotone features, though, so it was a breeze.

Skin Matte

HitFilm effect controlsThe default results are a bit orange for my liking, however, it makes it easy to see what has been modified. I ended up tweaking the mask from the defaults and taking down the Saturation and Smooth settings just a bit.

Another feature of Skin Retouch is the option to add a glow or shadow skin that is selected. This looks much nicer and more natural than boosting the Exposure. There’s an option to colorize as well if you need to give your talent a tan or make them blue.

Hot tip! If your talent has reddish tones that you’d like to tone down, in Pro Skin Retouch, bring the Saturation down (Skin Treatment > Saturation). Under Glow, boost Brightness and set the Colorize color to the color you’d like the skin, probably the original skin tone. See the Effect Controls panel below to see what I mean.

One oddity of the plug-in is that the affected area gets shifted by one pixel. It’s not really noticeable unless you toggle the effect on and off.


More info:
FXHOME HitFilm Plug-ins

FXHOME HitFilm Pro (standalone)

Here’s a tutorial video from FXHOME about Pro Skin Retouch.


Dashwood Smooth Skin

Dashwood Smooth Skin is the newest product out there for skin repair, and it’s a lot different from the others on the market. The Automatic Skin Detection feature is pretty impressive, but there’s also the option to manually set up the skin detection. It’s a sort of companion to the other skin tracking tool from Dashwood, Secret Identity, a tool to obscure someone’s face.

Slide left and right on the image to see the before and after comparison.


When first applied, the effect is heavy-handed, but in a way, I prefer to have an effect on too strong at first. You know it’s applied and doing something. Instead of messing with the Skin Blur and Skin Texture Blend on the look, I jump right to the mask so I can hone in on the right areas. Under the section Face Detect Advanced, there are settings to track the faces. Yes, it actually intuitively tracks faces on screen and has the ability to track multiple faces. If the Check Track Accuracy box is ticked, crosses appear over the eyes, nose, and mouth of the talent. My talent was wearing glasses so I thought it might throw off the track but it worked just fine. It’s clearly tracking the eyeballs.

Dashwood Skin Track

After setting up the track, I unchecked the Check Track Accuracy box. I set View to Skin Detection Mask to see the mask to see the black and white mask and adjusted settings to select only the skin and as little of the hair, eyes, and glasses that I could manage. Under Face Detect Advanced there are also settings to adjust the Scale and Aspect of the mask so that helps target the face in a big way.

Dashwood Skin Mask

Effect controls

Now, it’s time to adjust the Skin Blur, Skin Texture, Shadows, Highlights, and so on. I turned the Skin Blur down from the default 10 to 3.50 and turned up the Skin Texture Depth and Skin Texture Blend. I didn’t want to lose too much of the skin texture, so I boosted the values a bit from the default. Setting the Skin Shadows to a higher value brightened the skin while turning the value down added the look of more cheekbones and depth to features. I chose to go with a happy medium that didn’t change the skin tone too much. There’s also an option for Skin Tone (Cool/Warm). If you want to make someone look like an alien from Guardians of the Galaxy, this is your option!

Lastly, there’s an option to Add Noise to the skin. This just helps the skin look real and not airbrushed. Adding just a bit of noise improved the look of the skin.

Overall, I’m very impressed with Dashwood’s Smooth Skin. The tracker really brings something new to the table and the results were excellent.

More info:

Dashwood products are no longer for sale as Tim Dashwood has joined the FCP X team working on 360VR. Learn more.

Red Giant Cosmo

Of all of the tools for skin smoothing out there, Cosmo probably has the least bells and whistles, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do quite well! It’s quick to set up, it’s easy to use and the results are natural looking when not cranked up too high.

Slide left and right on the image to see the before and after comparison.


There’s an option to Show Skin Selection overlay so you can see the area being softened. This Skin Finder along with Skin Tolerance, are tools to help isolate the skin. They really didn’t seem to do a lot for me. Adjusting settings didn’t select different areas but included the lips, eyes, and eyebrows. That said, the area I wanted to select was selected, so I didn’t worry too much about it. I’m sure this is because of the automatic selection

Cosmo Skin Selection

The Skin Finder and Skin Tolerance are the same used in Colorista II and Mojo. The downside of being a slim program is that there is no mask or matte selection option, but this is easily remedied by using a duplicate layer with a mask created in mocha. Cosmo automatically isolates colors that are normally associated with skin tones. I did have a bit of a tough time with this example above because the peachy shirt color is not too far off from skin tones and I wasn’t able to separate it. A mask around his face did the trick.

Detail will bring back some of the skin texture that smoothing takes away.

Here’s a tutorial for Cosmo from Simon Walker from Red Giant. He uses Final Cut Pro 7 but the parameters are the same in other hosts like After Effects and Premiere Pro.

Effect controls

More info:

Red Giant Cosmo is only available as part of the Magic Bullet Suite.

Red Giant Colorista

The last one I’m covering today is Red Giant Colorista. You may think, “hey, that’s a color correction tool!” and you’d be correct, however, the secondary color correction tools are fantastic for smoothing skin.

Slide left and right on the image to see the before and after comparison.


What’s the technique? It’s quite simple. Check the Primary Bypass box, close up the Primary section, and dive straight into Secondary. Lower the value for Pop and watch your actors skin smooth. I set mine to -26.0 for some smoothing but not too much.

When I toggle the effect on and off though, it’s clear that more than just the skin is being affected so a Secondary Key is needed. Twirl open Secondary Key > Key and click the Edit… button. The Colorista Keyer window will pop up. Use the selection tools in the upper right to grab areas of skin that you want to select, or deselect if needed. Note: Undo does NOT work in this dialog window. You can also drag in the colorful box or the scope, adjust the Clip and Softness too. I turned off Saturation because the only thing with color in the shot pretty much IS her skin.

colorista secondary keyer

Effect controlsOnce you are satisfied, click OK. Go back to the Effect Controls and adjust Pop again, and use the Secondary 3-Way, Secondary Saturation and Secondary Hue, if needed. You can actually do some pretty powerful color changing here. I easily made my talent’s skin green like the Zoe Soldana’s character in Guardians of the Galaxy. My actress already had a blue-green cast to her (as she was originally shot over a green screen), so I added a touch of red and boosted the Secondary Saturation to warm her up ever so slightly.

If it’s not isolating the area enough, there is a Secondary Power Mask option with a Rectangle and Ellipse that can be adjusted by Width, Height, Rotation, and Feather and can be keyframed to move with your actor. I didn’t really need to use the Secondary Mask because my key was just fine.

If your adjustments are too strong, you can easily bring them all down by adjusting the value of Secondary Mix.

There is also a Show Skin Overlay checkbox under Options like you see in both Red Giant Cosmo and Mojo.

More info:

Red Giant Colorista is only available as part of the Magic Bullet Suite.

And there’s more.

Stay tuned for part 3 of the article featuring:

  • CoreMelt SliceX Powered by mocha – FCPX
  • CrumplePop SkinTone for FCPX
  • Sheffield Softworks Makeup Artist
  • PHYX Keyer SkinTools and Skin Light
  • Boris Continuum Complete BCC Smooth Tone
  • NewBlueFX Video Essentials IV Skin Touch Up
  • and who knows…. maybe some others too!

Other Articles in the Series

Check out other articles series on Skin Retouching

Part 1In Depth: Skin Retouching: Part 1: Digital Makeup

Read Part 1: Digital Makeup HERE.

This is not an article about creating unachievable perfection. Do you need to make some small fixes to the skin of your actor, like fixing a blemish or blotchiness? This article covers

  • Isolating skin tones
  • Color Correction and skin tone
  • Smoothing Skin
  • Photoshop Skin Retouching

Skin Retouching Part 3In Depth: Skin Retouching Part 3: More Plug-ins + Tutorials

Check out Part 3: In Depth: Skin Retouching Part 2: More Plug-ins + Tutorials, covering nire plug-ins for general skin improvement, including:

  • CoreMelt SliceX Powered by mocha – FCPX
  • CrumplePop SkinTone for FCPX
  • Sheffield Softworks Makeup Artist
  • PHYX Keyer SkinTools and Skin Light
  • Boris Continuum Complete BCC Smooth Tone
  • NewBlueFX Video Essentials IV Skin Touch Up
  • RE:Vision Effects SmoothKit
  • Plus, New Skin Retouching Tutorials
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Posted by Michele Yamazaki