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Clothes retouching for online stores

In the following section of the course, we will cover everything you need to know about retouching clothes for the catalogues. I will explain the basics of global retouching goals like wrinkles removing or shape modifying, and then we’ll switch to the particular ways of clothes presentation like flat lays and invisible mannequins. And in the end, we’ll talk about the details: how to retouch underwear, for instance, or transparent clothes on both models and mannequins. There will be a lot of Photoshop tutorials and I'll try to cover as much info as I possibly can.

Clothes shape

When a dress is too large for a model, it looks awful

In product image retouching, as I said, the focus should be on the clothes, and when you look at an image, you should make sure that clothes fit right. How right is right? We’re not supposed to change how clothes are designed and styled. We don’t reduce oversized clothes in size, we don’t make baggy trousers slim, we don’t make bell bottoms look straight, things like that. Sometimes it’s not evident if it’s the design of an item or a bad fit.

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Here, in this image, it’s not very evident whether the left hip is supposed to look like this, or not.

But the same jeans look straight when put on a mannequin, so I presume that this hip should not look so baggy. If there was no mannequin, it would be much harder to decide. When you work with jeans or trousers, remember, that you don’t have to make them perfectly straight and smooth. Except for the bulge on the left hip, there’s nothing to do here. So you don’t have to use the Liquify filter all over the outline of the jeans, making all the curvy lines straight. If you work for some luxurious brand and can afford to spend a few minutes on every image, you can take your time and work on the inner side of the left hip, but if you do, don’t make it a straight line. You can liquify it while zooming, or use the Pen tool to make a curved shape, turn it into a selection and then just stamp the bulges. It’s not necessary to be so thorough, it depends on the demands of a particular store. If this pair of jeans is worth 50$ it’s one thing, but 500$ is another story.

Liquifying is not always the fastest way to remove bulging wrinkles. A few bulges in a row can be dealt with by making a selection with the Pen Tool first and then stamping them out literally, with the Clone Stamp. When you need a perfectly smooth edge and a straight or a slightly curved line, it’s your best bet.

So, here’s the idea: if there are any weird bulges on the clothes, we correct the shape. But don’t get carried away in the process. With time you’ll be able to quickly determine what exactly has to be fixed on every image – like this little bulge near the knee. In catalogue images productions, stylists usually work on every model photography station. Together with photographers, they watch if clothes fit well, and they push and pull them around. If you work in an online store where models dress themselves and no one is paying attention to how they look before taking a shot, it’s unlikely that retouchers will be held responsible for the far-from-perfect images. There are certain productions that go for the quick and cheap process, and in some cases, your retouching might be described in two words – cropping and resizing. Some online stores are more demanding, especially if they deal in luxurious goods, but there’s such a thing as the average online store demands. Here’s how it’s supposed to be: no evident bulges, but keep the design and fit as natural as possible.

It’s hard to tell if models are harder than mannequins when we retouch clothes. Models move around and they make clothes look more creased because of that, but the wrinkles look natural. Mannequins, isolated and hanging in the middle of white background, are not so forgiving. Every crease is standing out, every line that is not straight or curved looks weird and untidy. On a model, trousers like these look natural. You don’t really have to correct the shape.

But shoot loose trousers like these on a mannequin, and you’ll see that’s it’s completely another deal. The waistline is curved, the whole outline is all creased and it doesn’t look so good. If there was a model instead of a mannequin, you wouldn’t even notice things like that, but isolating on a white background is cruel. But it also lets you cut the wrinkles away. I can use the Pen tool to make a slightly curved line from the crotch to the end of the pant leg, cutting everything that doesn’t look so nice. After filling the area with white one pant leg looks much nicer than the other. I can repeat the same process on the other side of the same leg, and on the waistline. I know many retouchers that do the same thing but in an effort to save time they cut away too much. Straight jeans will look skinny if you cut away too much, don’t do this. It’s better to stamp the insides than to make the garment look different compared to how it looked before you started working on it. There’s a zipper down the leg, on the side, and it should stay there. I’m not going to do the whole mannequin because there’s a separate chapter for that. All I wanted to show is that mannequins are more demanding than models in terms of shape, but you can just cut away the irregularities pretty easily.

You can try the same approach on models, just be careful. Straight lines look nice on mannequins, but if you start cutting away models, you might get yourself in trouble. As I said, they move around, they are not static, and all the wrinkles and creases do not stand out as much. This image here is not a dress, but a bag image. But it’s a very expensive bag, and the sleeve of the dress is all wrinkled. Before cutting it away, I’ll liquify it a bit to make the whole thing more straight. And then, just as before, I’ll use the Pen Tool to make a path and then turn it into a selection. But instead of filling it with white, I’ll use the Clone Stamp on it, using the background nearby as the source. It’s still far from perfect, being creased on the other side of the selection, too. But it won’t attract as much attention as before, so it will do. Now we’re seeing more and more wrinkles, and it’s time to learn how to remove them. This is a very important matter, as you’ll have to do it a lot, and if you don’t know much about it, your retouching life will be tough.

The last example for today is this red dress from hell. It is so loose that is looks as if she has a humpback. Also, because this particular light scheme brings a lot of contrast to the image, there are dark spots all over the dress. It is horrible. Normally I won’t accept images like this, because it’s clearly a lack of attention on the photography station. Stylists should have clipped the dress from the front or pulled it down. Photographers shouldn’t have selected an image like this to pass to the retouching station. This is not the kind of work that should get paid in any image production studio. In a normal routine situation, I would just send this dress back to be reshot. But let’s imagine that it’s not possible. The dress is gone back to the warehouse, it’s urgent, we have to put in online ASAP, things like that. It happens, so you should know how to deal with this.

Fortunately, the dress has only one color, it’s not really textured, no stripes or checkers. We can make it look much better in a couple of minutes. Let’s start with the Liquify filter and push the zipper to make it straight, not curved. It reduces the humpback quite a bit. Now, remember, all this weird shape is just color spots. If we change the tone, we change the shape. I’ll run the Frequency Separation action again, Radius 5 this time, as the texture is a bit bigger than usual. I’ll start working with the Mixer Brush to remove the smaller folds. There’s one close to the edge of the shoulder, better protect it with a selection. But there’s no point in mixing over the big dark spots on the back. Large area defects like these require drastic measures. I’ll grab the Brush in Lighten mode, make is soft and semi-transparent, and use a color from someplace where the surface is flat, like the shoulder. I will paint over the dark spots, carefully, making sure to preserve the shadow under the arm. If the shadows look a bit weird in the end, I’ll smooth it with the Mixer Brush, also very gently. There are also a few spots in the bottom, so it’s important to paint over them, too. Wasn’t too tough, right? Have a look at the before-and-after, and you’ll see that the change is very significant, the dress doesn’t seem too big anymore, the spots and the humpback are gone. But this can be only done to single colored garments, and it really depends on the texture, whether you can do it or not. And, what’s more important, you shouldn’t, because everyone has to do their job well, not just retouchers. Images like this one should be rejected on sight, as it’s clearly a bad styling and shooting situation.


You can download the images for practice purposes from the gallery above. Each thumbnail is linked to the respective hi-res image, just click on the thumbnails you need to open them in a separate window. You can right-click and "Save link as…" to download images without having to open them first.

To sum it all up: there are basically three main methods of shape correction when you retouch clothes. You can Liquify, you can cut the unnecessary parts out and you can also use the Frequency Separation to work with the light and shadow pattern of an image.

Next: Clothing wrinkles removing


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