Face Shading in Photoshop

  ●  Shading gives your work depth and expression. It makes your portrait more compelling and interesting.

  ●  There are several different ways to achieve this sense of depth, including burning, or painting the object with a darker color. Either way, shading gives focus and attention to your portrait …

Learn About:

Lasso ToolBrush ToolGaussian BlurBurn Tool

  •   This is the 3rd Tutorial in a series designed to help students complete the Photoshop Portrait Project:

1 - Line Art   2 - Face Color   3 - Face Shading   4 - Hair   5 - Highlights   6 - Eyes  

Other People's Work:

Here are examples of work inspired by this tutorial.

More Examples

Step #1: Make a New Layer ~

Open your sketch from this tutorial


… (Remember: all these tutorials are intended to be
applied to YOUR PROJECT) …

Create a New Layer above the face color and call it face shade.

Step #2: Lasso Tool ~

A good technique is to select the area around the edge of your face with the Lasso Tool.

Step #3: Set your Color ~

Now, set your color DARKER than the skin color.

Step #4: Select a Soft Round Brush ~

Click the Brush Tool or hit the keybord shortcut letter (B) …

… click to open the Brush Preset picker …

… and pick a Soft Round Brush.

Step #5: Start Painting ~

Gently brush inside the selected area.

Do this all around your face.


The Color used here is #b99e82 but use any color you like.

Step #6 : Blurring ~

Make sure the face shade layer is selected …

… and go to: Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

Apply the Gausian Blur as needed to make your shading blend gracefully.


Step #7: Burn Tool ~

Next, get the Burn Tool or hit the keyboard shortcut letter (O)

… swap the range from Shadows to Midtones to Highlights until you find what works.

… and turn off Protect Tones.

protect tones

Try a large grungy brush …

… also raise the Exposure as needed …

… and burn burn burn! Burn around the edges to add the illusion of depth.

The Burn Tool makes everything darker!

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Last Step: Save and Attach ~

Go to: File > Save as … and save your file as a .psd

save as


  •   ALWAYS save your projects like this:


  •   DO NOT name your project any other way - Improperly named projects will not receive credit and you will be sad.


  •   NEVER leave your work on the desktop or depend on a flash drive - instead, save your work in a folder you can find later - preferably on a virtual drive where it can be backed up.