Get Smooth Skin Tones Using Negative Clarity

The Clarity Tool in Capture One 7 can be used with both positive and negative slider values.

Typically positive values work great for enhancing landscape images where the tool makes all larger elements in a picture stand out and improves the perceived sharpness of details at normal viewing distances.

When using negative values for the Clarity Tool, it can be used to decrease local contrast in an image. This is particularly effective for creating smooth looking skin tones.

By using the Local Adjustments Tool you can apply the negative Clarity precisely where it is needed in a portrait image.


The image to the left is directly from the camera. The image to the right has been adjusted using a Local Adjustments layer with negative Clarity.  The Adjustments layer has only been applied to the cheeks, nose and chin. The negative Clarity gives the skin tones a softer and more pleasing look.

How to make soft skin tones:

In the Local Adjustments Tool tab, I add a new adjustments layer by clicking the “+” button.  I name the layer “Skin tones”.

Using the Draw Mask Cursor Tool, I draw a mask over the area of the face where there’s too much structure. In this case the cheeks, nose and chin.  To set the radius and hardness of the brush, I select the Draw Mask Cursor Tool and right-click. I set the hardness to 0 to ensure, that the correction I make, will fade smoothly into the background layer.  I adjust the radius instead of the hardness.  It’s not important to be that accurate as you can modify the mask later.


Using hardness 0 and a fairly large brush size, I can’t avoid drawing a little bit into the eyes and the lips, which is where I want maximum sharpness.   To correct the mask, I select the “Erase Mask” Cursor Tool.  This time I will use a hardness of 20 to 50%, as I will be working close to the outline of the lips and the eye. I want a fairly soft transition, as it will look much more natural than if you use a hard edge with Hardness 50 -100 %.

The part of the mask covering the dark shadow around the nose also needs to be erased, as this shadow will lose contrast when applying negative Clarity correction. In this case I set the hardness of the eraser brush to 0 ensuring a smooth blend between the correction layer and the background layer.


When the mask is finished, it’s time to apply the negative Clarity correction.For a portrait like this, I use -100 for both Clarity and the Structure.  I will use the Method called Punch.  The method can only be set at the background layer, as it needs to be the same for all Adjustment layers. Punch makes a minor local saturation change.  When used with negative values, this saturation difference is less visible which is a desired effect for skin tone reproduction.

All the best,


March 14 2013

By The Image Quality Professor

Category: Professor Tips Tags:
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  • The Image Quality Professor
    The Image Quality Professor

    The digital pioneer, Niels V. Knudsen, is Phase One’s Image Quality Professor and founder of the IQP blog. Moreover, he is responsible for breakthrough advancements in image quality both in Phase One’s medium format camera systems and in Capture One Pro.

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    Comments (13)

    grt … and evert 1 will love it…

    Love to see that software in action. Do you have some phase one images I can practice on ?

    Hi Steven,

    Yes, you can download some Phase One sample images here:
    Get the application here:

    You have great tools however, you hide them ? Edit tools ? I can’t even find the brush tools ” size, softness ” ?

    I found it right click, you have no edge detections ? I want this to snap to it ! Then + or – to get my mask right to where I want it ! But why even layer anymore, just give me the tool and apply the adjustment ! You are using old layer and mask options. I want realtime adjustments ?

    I could make so many changes to make this more intuitive !

    PS: first day on the tools, I love frustration !

    Blur or not to blur ? Where is it ? Not even in the help !

    I think that trick alone just gave me amnesia about who CapOne’s competitors are outside of Photoshop. Awesome trick!

    Hello, I am experiencing an issue when I use negative clarity for smoothing skin in Capture One 8.

    If I set local adjustments on skin clarity and structure to negative values of say -60 clarity and -40 structure, the skin in the preview window turns into a blurry mess. Like it looks really over-blurred like an amateur photoshop job. BUT if I go ahead output the image in tif or PSD and open it up in Photoshop or OS X image preview, the skin looks GREAT, softened as I desired, without overblurring or any issues.

    This has only happened since upgrading to C1 8. Never had that happen in version 7. Is this a known bug or do I have the preview settings wrong? It is annoying since I use negative clarity often and I have to render out images just to adjust clarity settings.

    My system is OS X Mavericks, MacBook pro running external Asus 1080p monitor at all times. nvidia 650m graphics card. 8 gb ram.

    David Grover

    Hi Antonio,

    I would go ahead and make a support case. I have a hunch but it will be dangerous to suggest without knowing the full details and seeing images.

    Go to..

    and contact support.


    Gerrit Dekker

    Great post! This solved my skin smoothing troubles in C1 completely. Thanks.

    Would love to see the option to selectively apply to skin tone color ranges, just like the color editing tool for skin allows for. I don’t have time to local edit 50-100 proofs for my client, but with selecting a color and apply to that range these adjustments I can effectively within 30 seconds make myself look like some sort of photogod.

    David Grover

    Hi Anthony

    You can indeed do this in Capture One Pro 9.

    Select the skin tone colour range, then ‘Create Masked Layer from Selection’ in the COlor Editor’s sub menu.


    Working on C1 version 9 the skin smoothing works well.
    But is there any way to geht rid of oily / glossy / areas?
    I did try with the repair brush (cloning content from a non glossy part to the glossy one with a soft brush). This sort of works but when the area is too large it is not possible to find a fitting area as the cloned area will then include eyes, lips etc.

    Adjusting the exposure on those aread slightly is also not working well.

    Will be great if someone knows a trick to get rid of shiny areas in the face.



    what a beautiful skin

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