Get Smooth Skin Tones Using Negative Clarity

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Get an in-depth walk through of the various features of the Clarity tool in Capture One Pro 7, and learn how to utilize the negative values of the tool to create perfect skin tones.

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,


The Image Quality Professor

Niels V. Knudsen

Niels V. Knudsen is Phase One’s Image Quality Professor. He is responsible for breakthrough advancements in image quality both in Phase One’s medium format camera systems and in its digital imaging software.

6 thoughts on “Get Smooth Skin Tones Using Negative Clarity


    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 !


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