THE LENS BLUR
The Lens Blur filter was introduced in PS7, I believe, and its primary function is to mimic depth-of-field effcts. It uses a grayscale alpha channel to determine how much blurring to apply to different parts of the image. A properly applied gradient from white to black can create a believable effect of blurring increasing with distance. It is far cleaner than trying a similar operations with the gaussian blur. It adheres to the mask precisely, with no pixel/color bleed. And we're not using gradients. Our only concern is with black and white areasto blur or not to blur.
I've been using a Lens Blur in place of Gaussian Blur, with superior results. The downside: the radius settings don't seem to match those of the Gaussian blur, so you will need to work a bit more intuitively. This, as it turns out, is not too hard to do.
So, shiny new skin mask in place as one of your alpha channels (named, hopefully, skin mask, or something to identify it), let's see how it works.
When you open the Lens Blur Filter, there is an impressive and daunting array of parameters. I haven't found much use for any of them other than Radius, Shape and Distribution.
At the top under Depth Map, select the alpha channel with your mask (which, if named properly, will be easy).
Leave the Blur Focal Distance at 0. If your preview shows the blurring happening in reverse, check the Invert box.
I use the Hexagon shape because it seems to be stronger. It's not really important. Choose to taste.
ª At the bottom I check Gaussian for Distribution.
It's the Radius slider that is of interest. By now you should know what it is we're looking for with this step. Vary the setting until you have those smoothly blurred areas of color.
If you see that you are losing some shadow detail, or that you are getting some color drift from shadow areas into skin tones, click Cancel and return to your mask and paint them out. Notice how in the mask I drew, I excluded the nostrils.
Once your preview is to your liking, apply the filter. It takes a bit longer than a normal Gaussian Blur, and the result is a little strange. Sharp eyes and mouths in a smooth sea of washed out skin. But that will change.
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