I have a portrait of someone with a real blemish issue, and I need to make her skin clear. I'm using Adobe Photoshop Elements, and the only way that I can see to fix blemishes is to use the Spot Healing Brush. Can you suggest something faster? I'll get carpel tunnel if I have to remove each and every spot this way.
Impatient Retoucher, Alto, Michigan
Acne and acne scars are an unfortunate consequence of merely living through the adolescent years. Some of us, who shall remain nameless (and disguised in the example below), continue to fight those unsavory spots into our twenties. They're a pain to get rid of in real life, and, as in your experience, they can be a pain to get rid of in Photoshop Elements.
If you were using Photoshop CS2, you'd have an arsenal of tools and fixes like the Patch tool, the ability to fade each change, and layer masks. But since Elements is intended for less heavy-duty retouching, I'll teach you a trick that will save you from getting rid of each and every dot and scar individually.
First, fix the main offenders using the Healing Brush - that is, try to get rid of as many of the stand-out red dots that you have patience to. Then duplicate your background layer.
[Here's what my example looks like before I've done any retouching.]
Grab the Lasso tool, set the feathering to a few pixels, and circle a wide expanse of the offending area. I like to start with one cheek. Then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and blur it until it's so smooth it looks like the skin of a plastic doll. It will look weird, but click OK and keep going.
[Now the skin is really blurry, and fake-looking.]
Select another patch of skin. This time you just have to hit Ctrl (Command on a Mac) + F, because Elements remembers your last filter. Keep circling and blurring until you've done all the skin, but, of course, left the facial features alone.
Then bring some texture back into the skin: Lower the opacity of your blurred layer. Go down to about 60%, or whatever looks natural. You should have a much improved, but still realistic-looking, portrait.
[With the blurred layer faded, the skin looks much better.]
Hope that helps, and good luck,