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Tutorial – Cleaning up your pictures using Photoshop

Now that you have your high-res snapshot you are ready to take it into Photoshop to refine and tweak to get the best possible quality image.

Before we begin, it is crucial to note that this tutorial has been written for intermediate level users with a basic knowledge of Photoshop CS3 tools.

When working in Photoshop, there is often more than one way to manipulate your photographic information. As such, for the purposes of this tutorial, I will not rely heavily on using shortcuts. For a complete listing of shortcuts for Photoshop versions 5 to CS4, click here.

For other tutorials, visit my tutorials page.

Please note that I am no expert, nor have I ever received any specialized training. I can only offer advice, suggestions and tips that I have picked up along the way from my two years of Photoshop experience. If you see any mistakes in any of the information I have provided below or feel that you can add more to my explanation please feel free to leave it in the comments section. Thank you.

With the unedited photo below as a starting point, this tutorial will cover:

  1. Working with Layers
  2. Adjustment Tools and Filters
  3. a. Liquify

    b. Curves

    c. Dodge, Burn and Blur

    d. Going overboard

  4. Cropping
  5. Resizing
  6. Save for web
  7. Tutorials by Second Life Residents
Unedited high-res snapshot (original size 4000 x 2355); click to enlarge

Working with Layers

Unedited working photo
Click thumbnail to enlarge

One of Photoshop’s most basic and powerful features is layers. Each layer in a Photoshop document is a separate image which can be edited without affecting any information on the other layers. Layers are arranged in a hierarchy (one on top of the other).

Before starting to edit the original image, I suggest that you first duplicate the layer you will be working from. Doing so serves as your “back-up plan” since Photoshop’s undo/redo history is limited in the number of steps it stores. If you make a mistake or are unsatisfied with an outcome, you can go back to your original layer and start over..

In duplicating a layer, you are basically making a carbon copy of the original “parent” image.

To create a duplicate layer, go into the ‘Layer’ menu then choose the ‘Duplicate Layer’ option.

Once clicked, you will notice a small sub-menu window pop up. This is the Layers palette (if you don’t see anything show up on your screen, press the F7 key and it should appear). This palette contains many useful operations.

Your Layers palette shows all active layers in your document. You can manipulate and reorganize from this handy little sub-menu.

» Want more info on mastering layers? View this video Photoshop CS4 Layers or take a look at ‘Finding Your Way around the Layers Palette in Photoshop’ from

Adjustment Tools and Filters

Click thumbnail to enlarge

Photoshop provides a plethora of adjustment tools and filters. Here are the basic ones that I use on almost every image I work with.

Liquify is your best friend. The first adjustment I always make to my images is Liquify, which – when used with an expert touch – can reduce jagged edges on photographic subjects and fix other Second Life visual glitches that show up in snapshots. Liquify is a warping tool that can be found in the ‘Filters’ menu. Why warp? Warping will allow you to easily and seamlessly smooth out angular details in your image. It can also allow you to subtly reduce or enlarge desired elements. How do you think magazine photo editors keep models looking so thin? Once you select Filter > Liquify, an options window will pop up. Do a little experimenting and play around a bit with brush sizes to see how applying (click+mouse dragging) the brush to your image will affect it. As you can see from my unedited shot, areas on my elbows, chest and abdomen need to be smoothed to get rid of the angular features. I targeted those areas, switching between several brush sizes as needed, and applied them until I was satisfied with the outcome.

Please note: I do not recommend that fashion bloggers use Liquify to correct any seams or other glitches, or drastically alter the appearance of clothing or skin products for review photos. This is unethical as it does not reflect product truths.

» Want more info on mastering the Liquify tool? Check out this great video by resident Vint Falken.

Love Your Curves. If I could have the use of just one adjustment tool, it would have to be Curves. Curves can be found in the ‘Image’ menu under ‘Adjustments.’ I actually use the provided presets quite often, but you can play around and push or pull on the line to adjust certain areas of your image. Curves allows you to isolate tonal values (highlights, mid-tones, shadows) and emphasize or de-emphasize them. Using curves can drastically change the dramatic quality of your image by emphasizing the relationship between light-and-dark areas. There are many other tools through Image > Adjustments menu that allow you to achieve contrast lighting affects. Some of my favorites are ‘Brightness/Contrast’ and Hue/Saturation.

Once again, don’t be afraid to experiment … and remember to duplicate your layer each time before attempting another adjustment so you can easily revert back to your previous layer if you do not like the outcome.

» Want more info on mastering curves? Check out this is a great video on the ‘Power of Curves’.

Click thumbnail to enlarge

Dodge, burn and blur me. Dodge and burn are some of my favorite tools because they can provide very subtle or very drastic effects depending on how you use them.

Dodge and burn allow you to add light exposure to areas of your snapshot. Dodge is great for making certain areas of your image lighter, whereas burn will darken. Burn is great for making shadows. I often use it to create subtle shadows on different parts of the face and body.

» Want more info on mastering dodge and burn? Check out this is a short video showing you how you can change the range, brush size and exposure.

Blur is a very useful tool – if used wisely.  Change the brush size and strength of the blur tool and apply to areas of your image to see the effects. Blur can be used to create depth and dimensionality. For example, creating a background blur to define background and foreground in your photos.

For the edges of my avatar I increase the strength and decrease the brush size to a small enough size so that when using the blur brush around the edges of my avatar I do not blur over any part that is not on the edge. The intent of this is to remove the jagged edges.

Then, I continue to decrease or increase the strength and brush sizes depending on which area of the image I am working on.

Don’t go overboard on adjustments! There is definitely such a thing as Photoshop overkill when it comes to certain Filters. I will highlight some of the ones that are commonly overused.

Sharpen is great when used with moderation. If you oversharpen an image it can make the edges of the subject look jagged with an unnatural-looking glare. Applying the Sharpen filter too many times can also cause the image to breakup as each individual pixel stands out more from the others.

Over-blurring will remove any – or possibly all – details from the clothing and or skin you are trying to review and result in an indistinguishable blob. It also makes your image hard to focus on and not easy on the eyes.

Lens Flare is something I use sparingly because it is one of those things that if used incorrectly can really throw off your complete image. However it does add a bit of realism and drama to your picture … so I understand the desire to use it.

When using Lens Flare, keep in mind that it normally and naturally occurs as a result of light refraction in real life photography; when there are single or multiple bright light sources (e.g. the sun) hitting a shiny surface (like water or glass). For a camera, this causes a lighting glare inside the lens of the camera.


Click thumbnail to enlarge

Cropping is one of the most important parts of the image editing process. If a beautifully edited image is cropped incorrectly, it can actually take away from the composition and all of your hard work.

When cropping, there are certain things you want to keep in mind. For a more interesting composition, try not to always center your main object. This does not always have to be the case for every image but most objects are more interesting if placed off-center. Don’t believe me? Educate yourself about “The Rule of Thirds”.

Cropping can also allow you to emphasize a part of the image that you might want to give more importance – your focal point. Through cropping, you can also change the orientation of the image from vertical to horizontal or vice versa.

To crop, click the Crop Tool in your Tools Panel/Palette to select the area you would like to keep (click and drag to your desired specifications) and then hit your Enter key to apply the crop.


Click thumbnail to enlarge

Once you have finished the editing process and cropped your picture, it is now time to resize it. Resizing an image by decreasing the dimensions will also assist in removing any last jagged edges or glitches that you may have overlooked in the editing process.

To resize an image go to the ‘Image’ menu and then click ‘Image Resize.’ You will get a popup where you can input your new dimensions, which you define by pixels or by percentage. Before changing any numbers make sure the Constrain Proportions setting is checked and then change the width of your image only to your desired width.

I usually save my photos at a width of between 1024 and 1500 pixels to upload them to my Flickr photo sharing account. If you upload directly to your blog then you can resize the picture to the size you would normally post them on your blog.

» For other online photo sharing account services, click here.

Save for Web

Click thumbnail to enlarge

You have edited, cropped and resized your image and now you are ready for the final step!

Saving is also an important part of the process because most fashion bloggers have their blogs syndicated on various fashion feeds. Therefore, it is in good practice to save the image with the lowest possible file size while still maintaining the quality of the image so it is easy for blog/feed readers to download your pictures on a slower connection.

I would recommend using the ‘Save for Web‘ option that can be found in the ‘File’ menu. Saving the image as a JPEG (.jpg) will keep the file size smaller. You can pick and choose the best compression quality by seeing how much it affects the quality of the image and at the same time keeping the file size well under 500K.

Once you’ve found that sweet spot, hit save and name your file. Now you are ready to upload your picture to your photo sharing site and/or fashion blog!

» To learn more about the best use of GIF, JPEG and PNG web-safe image formats, click here.


Tutorials by Second Life Residents

Over the course of my time taking pictures in Second Life and then looking for ways to make them even better, I have come across several blogs and videos created by other Second Life residents that I found to be very useful.

Here are just a few you can also learn from:

Now you are ready to start posting pictures to your very own fashion blog! If you don’t have a fashion blog, sit tight because in just a few days I will post my next tutorial: Fashion Blogging 101.

Thanks for reading! <3

» You can view all of my current tutorials and see coming titles on my tutorials page.

Credits for what I’m wearing in the picture:
*Skin: –Belleza– Elle Dark Mocha pack by Tricky Boucher
*Hair: >TRUTH< Valerie – espresso by Truth Hawks
Bathing suit: :bijou: Unlack [champagneGold] by Kotobuki Jewell
*Pose: Diesel Works by Rogan Diesel

*Review items and/or gifts.


Strawberry has been a Second Life Resident since 2007 and a Linden Lab employee since 2019.

18 thoughts on “Tutorial – Cleaning up your pictures using Photoshop

  • Arianna Earst

    amazing job! thank you for taking the time to do this for other people. 🙂 it is very much appreciated.

  • Fantastic tutorial..I shall be perusing it in greater detail later. Thank you for all the hard work you have invested in this tutorial & sharing all the wonderful tips…it is very much appreciated. Looks easy to follow and very concise. Super post! Thanks again! Xanthe xx

  • Fantastic tutorial..I shall be perusing it in greater detail later. Thank you for all the hard work you have invested in this tutorial & sharing all the wonderful tips…it is very much appreciated. Looks easy to follow and very concise. Super post! Thanks again! Xanthe xx

  • Thank you everyone for your comments. I’m really happy to see that everyone is finding this useful. <3

  • daquari Stawberry

    Do you do turotials for Paint Shop Pro? I love your tutorials they are easy to follow but I don’t use Photo Shop 🙁

  • LOL Thank you Kitty, I’m glad you found these useful.

    Daquari, unfortunately I’ve never used Paint Shop Pro so wouldn’t be able to help you on that. Sorry about that and thank you!

  • Mathew Elgrably

    i think this tutorial is for the lack of a better word ridiculous :/ sorry. yes your very good at photshop but its the fact that cleaning up a picture thats been computer generated is 100 times easier than a real photo. because real photos u want to still look real and not make the people look well not plastic and in your final picture you might want to try adding a lens flare in a realistic spot ratio to the sun Filter>Render> Lens Flare and mess with that even that wud make this pic look even a little bit more realistic

  • Mathew Elgrably

    you shud try this website if you want to learn a few good tips on layer masking and layer blending but you are very talented for no training keep up the work you have serious potential

  • Thank you Mathew, I am always looking to improve my ps skills so your comments and suggestions are very welcomed. I will take a look at the site you suggested.

    Thanks for visiting! <3

  • thank you so much for this great tutorial it’s simple and classy


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  • In truth a few things I never knew what they would do on photoshop and had never played with the tools. I have done quite a bit of photography though nothing professional. I simply have friends who love what I can do with a photo. I am glad to have found your page and been able to read the few tutorials that I have and will continue to read more once I have time. Thank you so much for taking the time to help us learn more about photography on second life. Don’t let any one discourage you; You are doing an amazing job.


    Toni Dee

  • I see you share interesting things here, you can earn some extra
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  • Very good information. Lucky me I recently found your blog by accident (stumbleupon).
    I have saved it for later!

  • This is the right site for everyone who really wants to understand this topic. You understand so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I actually would want laugh out loud). You certainly put a fresh spin on a topic that’s been discussed for many years. Wonderful stuff, just excellent!

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