How To Remove Shadows In Photoshop (2 Easy Ways)

Random shadows can ruin a photo. Fortunately, you can easily get rid of unwanted shadows in Photoshop and make them look as if they were never there.

In this tutorial, you will learn two ways of removing shadows in Photoshop. Both methods are broken down into a few simple steps to make them quick and easy to follow or reference back to. Whether you want to remove shadows from a person’s face or a background object, all the answers you need are here.

How To Remove Shadows From A Face In Photoshop

Since a shadow is the darker area of a photo, to remove it, you must find a way to lighten the given area. After doing this, you may also need to retouch your subject’s skin to make the tones uniform.

Here’s how it’s done.

Step 1: Create A Curves Adjustment Layer

First, go to the Layers panel, click the Adjustment Layer icon and choose Curves.

The Curves dialog displays your image tones. It contains the image highlights, mid-tones, and shadows.

On the right side of the graph, you can find the highlights. You can adjust the highlights by moving the white arrow on the horizontal side of the graph. 

You can find your image shadows on the left side of the graph. You can adjust it by moving the dark arrow on the left side of the graph’s horizontal axis.

To lighten the shadows, drag the curve up to the middle of the vertical side of the graph.

This will lighten up your entire image.

As we don’t want to lighten the entire photo, but just the undesired shadows, go back to the Layers panel and ensure the curves mask is active. If not, click it to activate it.

Then, press Control + I (Win) or Command + I (Mac) to invert the mask.

This will hide the Curves mask and make your image go back to normal.

Step 2: Create A 50% Gray Layer

Now, create a new layer in the Layers panel by clicking the plus sign icon.

Next, click the 50% gray layer and press Shift + F5. That will bring up the Fill dialog.

In the Contents drop-down menu, select the 50% Gray option. The 50% gray layer lets you see the shadow details better, leading to more accurate results.

Don’t change anything else, and click Ok.

Now, set the 50% gray layer blend mode to Color.

Step 3: Remove The Unwanted Shadows

Now, click the Curves layer mask.

Then, zoom in on the target area by pressing Control + + (Win) or Command + + (Mac) to get a better view of the undesired shadow.

Next, go to the Toolbar and grab the Brush Tool (B).

Once the Brush Tool is selected, go to The Options bar and set the Flow to 5%

Leave the other settings as they are.

Next, set the Foreground Color Swatch to white by pressing D on your Keyboard.

Now, right-click on your image and adjust the brush Size. Your brush size should be proportionate to the area you are applying the brush.

Now, paint over the undesired shadow with the white brush. That will make the shadow go brighter.  

Paint over the shadows to brighten them up as much as you can.

You can increase the Flow in areas with darker shadows. For example, I could eliminate most shadows with Flow set to 5%. However, I had to turn up the Flow to 15% to cover the darkest shadow spots, as the one shown below.

Continue covering the shadow area with the white brush. Vary flow if needed, and keep doing this until all the undesired shadows are gone.

When you finish removing the undesired shadows, go back to the Layers panel and turn off the 50% gray layer to see how your editing came out at the end.

Step 4: Change The Curves Layer Blend Mode

After removing shadows, some stains may remain on the skin, as shown in the image below. That’s because the Curves mask affected both pixel luminosity and color.

 To correct this, select the Curves layer.

Then, change the blend mode to Luminosity.

This will fix half the problem.

Step 5: Create A Color Correction Layer

To finish removing the stains, create a new layer to place the color corrections.

To do this, click the new layer icon at the Layers panel.

You can name the layer Color or something like this to make it easier for you to identify your layers. 

 Change the layer blend mode to Color.

 Next, enable the Brush Tool (B).

 In the Options bar, set Flow to 10%.

Then, zoom in on the area you want to correct and sample pixels from its surroundings by pressing Alt (Win) or Option (Mac) and clicking the desired color to sample.

Your cursor will turn into an eyedropper icon, and the foreground swatch will change to the color you sampled.

With that done, paint over the problem area to cover it with the sampled color.

Repeat the step above in all areas where the colors are looking off. This will make the color of your subject skin look more uniform.

How To Remove Background Shadows In Photoshop

You can remove background shadows by copying pixels near the areas with the unwanted shadows and pasting them on the target area. I will show you how to do this using the Healing Brush Tool.

Step 1: Create A New Layer

When using the Healing Brush Tool to remove shadows, it’s best to work on a separate layer from your image. That way, you can work non-destructively.

To do this, click the plus sign icon at the bottom of the Layers panel

Step 2: Enable The Healing Brush Tool

You can find the Healing Brush Tool in the Toolbar. You can also enable it by using the shortcut J.

With this tool, you can sample pixels from different parts of your image and use them to cover the unwanted shadows. The advantage of using this tool is that it matches the collected pixels with the surroundings of the unwanted shadows. As a result, pixels will blend better, leading to more natural results.

Step 3: Change Some Healing Brush Tool Settings

You need to change some Healing Brush Tool settings in the Options bar for this tool to work correctly. Here is how to do it.

Set the blend mode to Normal.

Set Source to Sampled.

Mark the Aligned checkbox. This makes Photoshop sample new pixels as you cover the target area.

Set Sample to All Layers; otherwise, you won’t be able to place your color corrections in the blank layer you created.

Step 4: Remove The Shadows

With the Brush Healing Tool settings adjusted, zoom in on the shadow area you want to remove by pressing Control + + (Win) or Command + + (Mac).

Next, hold Alt (Win) or Option (Mac) on your keyboard. Your cursor will turn into a target icon, indicating the tool is ready to collect pixels. Click and drag over the pixels you want to sample. 

After you release your mouse, your cursor will appear as a round icon again. When that happens, drag your cursor around the target area to cover the pixels there.

The pixels that are being used to cover the target area are indicated by the cross icon next to your cursor as you cover the target area. 

Up to a certain point, the tool repeats pixels. Thus, you need to sample new pixels from time to time. This is important because too many repeated pixels indicate your photo has been edited.

Repeat the step above until the background shadow is gone. 

Step 5: Add Texture Back In Using The Clone Stamp Tool

On certain images, such as in my example, the Healing Brush Tool may remove some texture from the area where you remove the shadow, resulting in a few blurry areas. The next step is adding the texture using the Clone Stamp Tool.

First, add a new layer by clicking the icon at the bottom of the panel.

Then, select the Clone Stamp Tool from the Toolbar or press S.

Make sure the following settings are active in the Options bar. Mode set to Normal, Opacity at 100%, and Flow set to 100%. Check the Aligned box and set Sample to All Layers.

You can now use the tool in the same way as the Healing Brush Tool. Hold Alt (Win) or Option (Mac) and click on a sample area of the texture you want.

Then, use the brush to paint the texture back over the slightly blurry areas.

Continue this process until you have added enough texture back into the wall.

With these two simple methods of removing shadows, you have all the shadow-removing tools you need to take care of pesky shadows in any image!

Article By

Brendan Williams

Hey, I'm Brendan! I'm a professional photographer and photo retoucher who has spent the majority of his career shooting or retouching outdoor lifestyle and social media campaigns for brands like G-Adventures, xoxo Bella, P&G, Fitbit, Chevy, Tourism California, and more. These days I primarily focus my efforts on this site, creating guides and tutorials that I wish I had earlier in my career. Each week I publish new tutorials on Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and Canva to help you unlock new skills and bring your creativity to new levels! Everything you learn here is backed by real experience, so you can finally skip the fluff and focus only on what matters.

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