I want to re-create this white (metallic) looking skin.

I've seen some tutorials in a magazine on this. If I remember it correctly, the first step is to adjust the curve to a "W" shape. I don't remember the remaining steps.

I would like the highlights and dark reflections to be as realistic as possible.

Photo By Denis Kushnarenko

this is my work but its not perfect.

test white skin work

Here’s the original unretouched shot, which you can download in the Chapter 7 archive on the kelbytraining.com site.

  • 1
    We're not really in a position to make you a step by step tutorial on something like this. Should try a Search Engine and then if you get stuck on a particular point of an existing tutorial we're here to help.
    – Ryan
    Apr 9, 2015 at 17:41
  • i will try everything but i cant find anything like this. Apr 9, 2015 at 18:40
  • ..."How to make metallic skin in photoshop" had this as one of the top results: retouchpro.com/tutorials/?m=show&id=188
    – Ryan
    Apr 9, 2015 at 18:44
  • I have made some edits to this question based on Cockypup's great answer in order to re-open the question. Please feel free to re-edit!
    – Yisela
    Apr 9, 2015 at 18:56
  • 1
    Am I alone thinking this looks like plastic or porcelain? Not metal? Apr 9, 2015 at 20:41

2 Answers 2


As Ryan mentioned in his comment, this would take a step by step tutorial and it will be very specific for the image you are using but here are some things to consider.

Take a look at these swatches for 3D materials.

enter image description here original source

You will notice that the more defined the highlights are the more metallic the sphere looks. The third one on the top would be the beginning of the spectrum, where it is sort of polished, bit still quite rough. You can see a lot of the colour of the sphere and the volume shadows but the environment is reflected in sort of a blurry way. The one that looks like polished chrome (bottom right) will be the end of the spectrum, being extremely polished. You almost can't see the colour or the sphere itself but only the reflected environment.

Bottom line, what tells our brain that the object is metallic is that

  • It reflects the environment
  • The highlights (or any reflection) are extremely defined

The whole idea of manipulating a photograph to make the skin look metallic would be to imitate this. You can try to achieve this effects with curves alone on a single layer, but that, depending on the image, takes a lot of fine tweaking.

What I would suggest is that, after you are done the general curve work and the image looks sort of on the metallic side, you do this.

  1. Duplicate the layer. Make sure it sits on top of your original layer.

  2. Play with levels and curves on the new layer to make it lighter and with more contrast so the highlights look like they have more definition. How much you exaggerate this will indicate how "shiny" and "smooth" the skin will look.

  3. Add a mask filled with black to cover the layer completely.
  4. Using a soft brush and painting in white over the mask start adding highlights to your original image. The softer the brush, the less smooth it will look.

Now, if you are looking for an extreme chrome look you will have to add also dark reflections, like in the bottom right sphere. You can follow the same steps but instead of using curves to over expose the highlights, focus on defining the dark areas of the image. Or you could draw dark shapes that follow the volume of the shapes in the photograph suggesting reflections of objects in front of the image.

Sometimes, depending on the image, you can achieve the highlights and dark reflections in one single layer, just playing with the curves. I find that making them two different layers, though (one for highlights and one for dark reflections) gives me extra control.

  • tnx @cockypup i will try this and post the results. Apr 9, 2015 at 19:59

Here is a very simple approach. But we need to consider some things first.

a) You need to start from a good image from the beginning, which in my opinion must have some characteristics similar to the ones you want in the final image. Highlights and hi key tone.

b) Try to work with 16-bit images because it has strong manipulation.

Sayed that here is my approach.

1. Starting image

Here is the starting point. It has a little oily or wet skin. This is very important because will be the highlights. If your photo does not have them use some painting and dodge to come to the basic highlights you need.

If you need a hi key image your source image will need to be like that.

enter image description here

2. Smooth the skin

I used a simple "smart defocus" on Photopaint. The point is to make the face "over smooth" But use the technique you want.

enter image description here

3. Black and white

Not much to say here.

enter image description here

4. The curves

Here is the trick. The highlights on a metallic surface is blown up (B).

I added some extra nodes just to anchor the rest of the tone curve to make it look similar to the original look (A).

enter image description here

That is it.

5. Extra step

This is just an extra to get closer to your example.

Again. I'm starting from the idea that your original photo should be high key already. But you can play with the curves.

Try to maintain a straight line to maintain the relationship with the highlights and the image (C).

Keep some dark areas to maintain some realistic shadows (D).

enter image description here

This are just rough ideas to understand the metallic texture of objects (Not polished). But of course you need to do a more detailed work starting with the makeup, illumination, exposure, post, etc.

RGB Channels You Can use this command for better result in step 2 : Ctrl+3 (Red Channel)

Edited some time later.

An alternative technique

As some people want the metallic skin look on color images I am updating a similar technique, which I turned to like more, because you now can control the amount of "reflection" independently of the image.

A) Make a new layer on top and desaturate it.

enter image description here

B) Change the blending mode to "Screen".

enter image description here

C) Now play with the curves. The idea is to make almost everything black on that layer, so you do not modify the overall image, but you suddenly blow the light parts of the image. (D)

enter image description here

You could play with different blending modes and opacities. In Corel Draw, that blending mode is Add.

Also, you can mask the parts you do not need to be metallic.


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