More Pleasing Skin Tones using Noise Reduction in Aperture 3

I bet you rarely use Noise Reduction in Aperture. Probably because it doesn't work that well... at least not for its intended purpose. What it is good for, however, is rendering more pleasing skin tones for your portraits. Here's how.

Noise Reduction for Portraits Model Francesca Parnigoni already has great skin. Using my noise reduction technique, I was able to soften it just a bit without losing its natural texture.

Noise reduction, when applied as illustrated here (2.0 Radius; 0 Edge Detail), creates a slight softening effect without losing the natural textures. So when you have a subject that has nice skin, you can retain its characteristics while creating a subtle, but appealing enhancement. In Francesca's case, I want to see those faint freckles. They're attractive. Most skin enhancing techniques would wipe them out. But not this one!

Basic Steps

  • Choose Noise Reduction from the Add Adjustment popup menu. Make sure the box is checked.
  • Set Radius to 2.0 and Edge Detail to 0. The effect is now applied to the entire image.
  • Click on Gear icon in the Noise Reduction brick and select "Brush Noise Reduction Away" from the popup menu.
  • Use the brush to paint over the eyes, eye brows, and selected hair to remove the noise reduction effect from those areas. (They will return to their original sharpness.)
  • To check your work, click on the Gear icon in the floating Noise Reduction palette, and select Color Overlay. You'll be able to see the areas where you removed the noise reduction effect.
  • Turn off color overlay, and enjoy.

Eyes will now be their original sharpness, but skin receives the subtle enhancing effect. If you need further work on the skin, you can always apply the skin softening brush. Just make sure you're not too heavy-handed.

More Aperture Tips and Techniques

To learn more about Aperture, check out my Aperture 3.3 Essential Training (2012) on Also, take a look at our Aperture 3 Learning Center. Tons of free content about how to get the most out of Aperture.

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