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Human body, part 2

Armpits

Armpits are not supposed to be wrinkled and dark

Retouching armpits is a bit tricky. It’s one of the things we usually have to deal with because no one seems to like the natural look of human armpits. Indeed, armpits have a tendency to be darker and more wrinkled than the parts surrounding them. It’s quite common in underwear retouching to remove wrinkles and lighten the skin. Personally, I don’t really think that armpits look bad even if they are dark and wrinkled, but most people in the industry just won’t agree with that.

A huge problem of the armpits retouching is that it’s really easy to make them look unnatural and weird, so you have to practice if you want to be able to do it quickly. When I was hiring retouchers, I often gave them an armpit image so they could prove their skills, and you can't imagine how many people were completely dumbfounded with the test.

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For a start, let’s first look at some armpits that do not require retouching. Normally, if there are no horizontal wrinkles and if skin doesn’t look dark, everything’s fine and you can skip this part. This image is a good example. Both armpits look just great.

The next image also looks very decent. It depends on the pose really, as one model can have a perfect looking armpit on one image and a funny looking armpit on another image from the same photo shoot.

Now, this armpit is worth retouching because it has a horizontal wrinkle and it’s also a bit dark. First of all, I’ll paint over the dark area with a Brush in Lighten mode, about 20% opacity. I’ll pick the color from a lighter area nearby. Remember, that there’s also a shadow here, and the whole thing cannot be as bright as the shoulder. Then I’ll get rid of the two vertical wrinkles with the Spot Healing brush. It’s okay if it leaves some weird texture, I’ll smooth it a bit later. Then I’ll use the Liquify filter to make the horizontal wrinkle look vertical, I’ll just move it upward a little bit. There’s a spot that should be Clone Stamped, which is an easy thing to do with a soft brush of 100% opacity. The last thing to do is use the Mixer Brush to smooth the area where I used the Spot Healing brush, and that’s pretty much it. I am always careful when using this tool, as it’s really easy to lose texture completely. But if it’s just a bit of smoothing, after resizing you won’t even notice that something has been done in this area. And by using the skin smoothing action I’ll give it a more refined and grainy look.

The next one is a funny armpit. The trick is that you shouldn’t remove anything here, because it will look flat and unnatural. Don’t even try that. But I’ll cover it with some lighter texture, change the shape a bit and it will look very nice in the end. First of all, I’ll select the armpit area using the Quick Selection tool. Then I’ll remove all the moles around so that they don’t get in the way. Then I’ll use a very soft and transparent Clone Stamp, just 30% opacity, on the dark area. Then I’ll Liquify this funny wrinkle, which is an easy thing to do if you zoom in closely and use a small brush. Next step is smoothing the affected area, and I’ll use the Mixer Brush to do that. To preserve the shadow and light pattern, I will not be using it in the freehand mode. I’ll just hold Shift and click in two spots while holding it, one spot and another, and then again and again. It’s the same as if moved it sideways, but in this case, I don’t have to be careful and I have more control because of that. Now everything looks very decent. I can still make it lighter with the Clone Stamp, or add a few Mixer Brush strokes. That’s it. This way it doesn’t attract any attention.

The next armpit is both wrinkled and dark, and it’s a close-up, so we have to be really careful about what we do. First of all, I’ll remove both horizontal wrinkles with the Spot Healing Brush. Then I’ll use the Liquify filter to correct the remaining wrinkle’s shape. Now it’s time to make the whole area lighter. I’ll select it first by using the Quick Selection tool. What I have to do now is use the Brush in Lighten mode. But there’s a trick to it. If you just lighten the whole thing, it will look unnatural. So be careful about where you use your brush, don’t paint over the vertical wrinkle, leave the shadow as it is.

Great. The only problem left is that the vertical wrinkle is too long, so I have to remove its upper part. But if I use something like the Mixer Brush, there will be a spot with practically no texture. I want to preserve that texture, so I would rather use the Clone Stamp instead. It’s easy if I switch it to the Lighten mode, pick the sample just next to the crease and paint over it. That’s it. It might not be a perfect looking armpit. If you look closely and long enough, you will be able to notice that something is amiss about it. But we’re in catalogue retouching, and people won’t be staring at the armpit. It’s a bra image after all, not an armpit retouching contest. Always remember why we do what we do. We retouched the armpit and it doesn’t look funny anymore. The customers won’t get distracted when they'll look at the images and think if they want to buy the bra or not.

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Now you know everything you need to retouch armpits quickly and efficiently, so let’s move up and see how to retouch faces and hair.

Face

It is really nice that we don’t always have to retouch faces. Some online stores prefer their models to be face-in, which means you can see faces in the images, but others stick to the face-out conception. Faces are cropped out above the lips, the rest is not supposed to be shown. Any catalogue retoucher and any photographer would prefer face-out, as it’s easier to shoot, to select images and to retouch them. Most luxurious stores are face-out so that the faces do not get in the way of brand perception. But sometimes you might encounter models with their faces in, and it brings two problems at once: the face and the hair. The face problem is more or less manageable, as there are people there that are responsible for the make-up, for the skin matting and thinks like that, and most models look very nice even without any retouching. The hair problem is worse, as there’s a lot of dressing and undressing involved, but we’ll get to it. Let’s see how to deal with faces first.

Faces are tricky. Not because it’s hard to retouch them, because some retouchers spend a lot of time on things they don’t need to do. I think that all retouchers, even beginners, have at least some idea about retouching faces. People start learning Photoshop and they immediately retouch portraits, they experiment with applying makeup, changing eyes color, things like that. So the idea that faces should bear no evident skin defects is not something unheard of. Most amateur retouchers know how to work with the cloning and healing tools. What makes them amateur is the lack of understanding what looks natural and what doesn’t.

You can tell if a portrait was retouched by a beginner immediately: you’ll see a flat smooth face, bright white teeth and eye whites, no traces of eye bags or any wrinkles and so on. In product image retouching, we don’t have much time to deal with faces and we sell items, not people, so the focus shouldn’t really be on faces. Knowing what to do and when to stop is crucial here. I’ll tell you the basic principles of face retouching for catalogues. The most important one is this: “Remove pimples, if necessary – moles, the rest should stay at least partially”. People with flat faces and no eyebags look totally weird, so you should always use some transparency when you retouch things like that. Let’s see how to deal with faces.

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First things first: whatever you do, don’t do this. Don’t remove eye bags. Don’t stamp them until they disappear. Because if you do so, it will make the whole face look unnatural. I know some people that do it to their own portraits, and if you want, well, it’s not that I’m going to stop you. But for goodness sake, leave the catalogue images alone. The best thing I can do to this image is grab the History Brush and undo the stamping to at least 50% of the original image. Or maybe undo the whole thing and do it in a more subtle way.

I want you to realize, that for the catalogues this kind of face is awesome. There are a couple of small defects that can be easily removed, and apart of that, it looks just great. The skin is smooth, the face looks perfectly healthy. If you really can’t stand the dark areas below the eyes, you can use the Brush in Lighten mode, make sure it’s soft and transparent, and then just paint under each eye with the color taken from the respective cheeks. 30% opacity is enough. After you resize the image, it will look perfect. Always remember about resizing, it’s important. There’s no point in retouching hi-res images thoroughly only to make the results of your work disappear after resizing.

This face is also perfect. You don’t need to do anything at all except removing a few moles if the workflow demands it. It’s a bit out of focus and it makes things easier because of that. Don’t touch the teeth, they are white enough. The result won’t be worth the effort. Resize and that’s it.

This one is very nice as well. There are only two things I’d probably do if I was retouching this for a catalogue. First is to remove this hole in the ear. There’s a simple rule: if there’s no earring, but just a hole, remove it. Then there’s this dark spotted area on the cheek, almost unnoticeable. I can fix it with just one stroke of the Brush in Lighten mode, 30% opacity. So why not if I’m zooming at the face already.

I told you, there’s not so much we have to do when retouching faces. We don’t do portraits, we sell items. We don’t apply makeup, it’s the makeup artists’ job. We don’t do the Dodge & Burn to fix the lighting issues, it’s the photographers’ job. We fix other things, like pimples, wrinkles and so on. When you try to smooth any wrinkles, never remove them completely, just a little bit. If it’s a close-up, you can also smooth it automatically to make skin look less rough. As for the moles – some online stores remove them, some leave them be. It doesn’t really matter, but I’m used to removing them all and that’s why I do it. But unlike the pimples, removing them is optional.

One last thing. Most of the time stylists and photographers keep an eye on models and apply face powder as soon as it starts to shine. But sometimes they forget about it and you have to fix it. If, of course, you are not working in an Asian online store, where glossy faces are trending. So, if you have a shiny face and it shouldn’t be like this, it’s easy to matte it by using the Normal Brush of about 30% Opacity. Just paint over the glossy area and that’s it. Normal or Darken Blending modes both work well. If the skin is covered in small pimples, you can use the Dust & Scratches filter in the History Brush mode, as I taught you before. After resizing the skin will look as if nothing has ever been there.

I didn’t mention anything about retouching men skin, but it’s even easier. You just do exactly the same as with women, just don’t get carried away when smoothing. Men skin is not supposed to look smooth, you can leave it as it is. This guy here looks perfectly okay without anything done to his face.

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Hair

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Faces are not a big deal unless they are totally covered in pimples, but that rarely happens in catalogue retouching. It shouldn’t really happen. But what happens quite often that you get a lot of stray hairs everywhere, and if you can’t crop heads out, you’re in trouble. If the images are supposed to be isolated on white, which is a common thing, it’s not a big deal. You remove the background and then just grab an Eraser, make sure it’s hard enough and then just erase the stray hairs to make the hair look smooth and decent. Just like that. This is the easiest possible situation. But white backgrounds are not trending, gray natural backgrounds are much more popular nowadays.

I have to say this before we start doing anything on a gray background, that we don’t really focus on perfect hair in catalogue retouching. We just can’t afford that. Any image would look better without frizz and stray hairs everywhere, but it’s very time-consuming. So don’t feel as if you have to remove every single hair that is out of place. Look at the style, if it’s not a formal outfit, not a business suit or something like that, you shouldn’t go for a smooth hairline, it’s not worth the effort. Look at this – there’s a bunch of stray hairs on top of the head, but it’s not a close-up, there’s movement in the image. Normally I would just leave it as it is, it won’t stand out in the end.

If the model is blonde, hair will be less visible, so this image is also fine as it is. If I look closely, I can see a few stray hairs on both sides of the head, but they are not really noticeable, this is not a luxurious brand, this is not an official outfit. So why not just leave them be? If you take a magnifying glass and spend many minutes on every image like this, correcting every possible defect, you will be making great pictures for sure, but how many in a day? One hundred? There’s no point in working so slowly because if you concentrate on things that are critical for each image only, you can make three hundred or even five hundred model images like this one. Too much time spent on images is bad for any business, no one will say thanks for that.

So when exactly do we need to take some action? It depends on where you work at, of course. Luxurious brands usually have more demands for their imagery. I know some people who are crazy about the hairline. If your boss is like this, they will probably make you retouch every single stray hair. But this is inevitable, and to my opinion is not reasonable. What I find reasonable is this: you should only retouch hairline when it looks messy and when you can see it really really well, like in a close-up. So what’s a messy hair?

It mostly depends on the hairstyle. If it’s a tight bun, any frizz will look messy. Short hair and curly hair can be much more messy without looking awful. Okay, this one is a pretty carefree hairstyle, at least on the sides. But the top of the head looks a bit unkempt, and it will take only a few seconds to stamp these hairs away. So why not, if it’s just a few seconds?

Here, we have a whole strand of hair on the loose, and it’s worth removing it. Just the strand, a bit of stray hairs on the top of the head.

It’s a close-up. The hair is dark. I can see it perfectly. The hairline is smooth otherwise, it shouldn’t look like this. All the stray hairs make the whole look very messy. The deal is, you are not supposed to do anything with a background like this. It is not very even, some areas are darker than the others. It means that you can’t just grab a gray brush and paint over the hair. Not that you can’t, but you’ll make a mess if you do so. So we’re going to stamp it instead.

I’ll grab the Clone Stamp tool and make sure it’s not very soft, 75% Hardness is okay, and 100% opacity is a must, as I’m going to do it in one go. I have to constantly pick new sources as I am moving around the head, and it takes quite some time because of that. As the background is uneven and my stamping is not perfectly aligned, it’s only natural that a weird colored area around the head appears. You might not be able to see it on every monitor, but it’s there, I’ll show you with the Levels. And you can’t leave it like this. This is not really a good way how to do it. You can’t imagine how many images with poorly retouched hair are online: there are probably millions of them at every given moment of time. Because retouchers think that if they can’t see something well on their monitors, then it’s just not there and it’s okay. But the deal is that most customers have cheap low contrast monitors, and when they work on laptops, they like to push the screens away from their faces. It means that they will see all the weird areas like that pretty well.

So now we have to fix this weirdness somehow and make the background even again. You might ask: “Is there a way to avoid this effect in the first place? Why not using some other method instead of stamping?”. The answer is – yes, of course, there are tons of ways how to fight with stray hairs. Some of them are quite complicated, like content-aware filling the whole head on a bottom layer and erasing the stray hairs on the top layer. Some of the methods involve isolation. I’ve tried the Liquify, the Surface Blur, and the Dust & Scratches and many other things, some of which I invented myself, while the other were shown online by random retouchers. What I hate about the most online tutorials is that the methods they offer usually work on a limited range of images. For catalogue retouching, we need more standard, more simple and useful methods, something that retouchers could easily do without having to create many layers and using many filters.

So yes, there are many methods, and some of them, with some luck, will not cause any background fragmentation. But I’ve never found a method that works faster and easier than just stamping. And there’s also an easy method how to remove stamping traces on a gray background. It works for me, and it works on most images, if not all. I’ve never seen anyone doing this, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who does it because it’s pretty evident.

There’s one very helpful fact about stray hairs. They all are usually darker than background as well as the rest of the head. It gives us a great opportunity to retouch by using the Darken mode. Now watch this. I’ll grab the Brush, make it very soft, like 0% Hardness, 100% Opacity. I’ll switch it to the Darken mode and I’ll find the darkest weird spot which appeared due to my stamping and pick a color from there. Now I’ll just make the brush tip big enough and paint over the whole area in just one go. The deal is that I don’t have to care about not touching the head, as in the Darken mode, I only make lighter than my source areas darker. So what’s darker than my sample, like all the hair and even most of the face will stay as it is. It doesn’t mean you can paint around the whole image without a second thought, but you don’t have to be very careful either. Just keep in mind that the brush will make everything that is lighter than your sample as dark as the sample, and the rest will stay untouched. No more weird areas around the hairline.

I also want to add, that the Darker Color should be a more valid blending mode than the Darken because the latter evaluates the data in each channel and might produce third colors. You won’t be able to see the difference on a neutral background like this one, but if it was colored, you would see the difference. If I add some color to the background, like a bit of red and a bit of blue, and try to use the Darken mode to cover the red area with the blue sample, which is darker, the resulting color will be gray. And if I use the Darker Color mode, it will be blue. The Darker Color blending mode never produces any third colors, it’s either the base color or the sample color. But it doesn’t have a shortcut, and the Darken mode is not that bad. If the background is colored, you won’t be able to use this method anyway. I just wanted you to know about the difference between the two blending modes. Same thing with the Lighten and the Lighter Color modes.

It might not be evident, so I'll mention it deliberately, that hair should be also removed if it's sticking out of an armpit, or if just a bunch of it is visible, making the whole image look messy. So in cases like this one you'd better remove all the excess hair. I'll grab the Pen tool and make a path around the arm and the dress to protect them. The area under the armpit can be just painted over with a brush, but the shoulder area should be Clone Stamped instead to keep the original background color and tone transitions. It's not like it's a big deal, and the image looks much better now.

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Don’t forget, there might be stray hairs on the face as well as on the background. Don’t bother to remove them all, but if they look out of place, the Spot Healing tool will be of help. But if you use the Clone Stamp tool, make sure it’s soft, and it doesn’t have to be 100% opaque.

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If you like this Darken Brush method, I want to add that you don’t really need to use the Clone Stamp in the first place. You can just use a white brush or an eraser or anything. Let me show you how. I’ll grab a round white brush and make its Opacity 100% and Hardness 75%, or a bit less, just make sure it’s not soft or very hard. Now I’ll use it to erase all the stray hairs I can find. When you do it, please, don’t bring the brush too close to the head. A smooth edge will look most unnatural. I know some retouchers use the Pen Tool to make a smooth curve around the head and then just remove the hair, leaving a funny round thing that is supposed to look like a head. I don’t really like this approach as you can see it’s a fake even 5 meters from the screen. You don’t need any fancy brushes either, the round shape is pretty enough for what we do.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to work your way around the whole hairline. Only remove the worst of them, leave the rest alone. And then, just like before, grab the Brush in Darken mode, make sure it’s Opacity is 100% and Hardness is 0%, and paint over the white areas with a color sample, that is dark enough to fill them. But be careful, if your background is not even, it will probably require a few color samples. You can check how you’re doing by accessing the Levels and move the leftmost slider halfway to the right, making the image darker, and all the tone transitions more visible.

You might also encounter some banding in the process. No matter how soft your brush is, Photoshop is not able to produce perfect transitions. It doesn’t look smooth and that’s it. It doesn’t mean that you have to switch to 16-bit when you do it. You can either just forget about it, keeping in mind that the images you work on will probably be batched into a lower quality version before being uploaded to a website, and there will be more banding because of that anyway. Or, if you really care about it, add some noise to your image. About 2 will be enough to fix it and not enough to be clearly visible.

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I think we’ve covered most of the situations you might be in when retouching models for the catalogues. It’s impossible to cover everything, but I assure you that the methods you’ve learned will be helpful everywhere. For example, I didn’t explain how to work with red eyes, but it’s pretty evident that if a white of an eye is dark, you use the Brush in Lighten mode, and if its tint is off, you use it in Color mode. To remove small veins, you can use the Clone Stamp or the Spot Healing tool, things like that. If you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to retouch anything. It’s not really hard in product image retouching, as we’re only doing most basic things with the images we work with.

Now that you know everything you need to retouch skin for the catalogues, let’s switch to another important matter. Skin is not the only thing that is specific for models retouching. Models also have other things in common, such as a pose and their bodies also have shape. So the following videos will be evidently dedicated to pose and body shape correction.

Shape correction in general

Once again, this is not really our job to make average people look like top fashion models. We work with models, and these models are selected as fit for a particular kind of job – that is, shooting clothes, shoes, and accessories for the online catalogues. They are supposed to have proper bodies (for the task at hand, I mean) and they must know how to pose. There are sports models, there are plus size models, there are regular models, underwear models. We don’t get to make a plus-size model look as if they are wearing an S size, we don’t do weird things like breasts enlargement, legs extension or anything like that. What we actually do is just make sure everything is fine with the shooting, and if there’s a weird looking leg or some part of a body looks unexpectedly fat or thin, we fix it. Well, at least that's what I think is reasonable. It won't save you from obsolete art directors demanding you perform plastic surgery on innocent people, but look, nowadays you won't even find a Photoshop tutorial where they do this kind of things. Because when someone posts one, they get all the blame in the world and promptly remove the video, that's how it works nowadays, and that's good.

When we want to correct shape, we use certain tools like the Liquify filter, the Warp and the Puppet Warp features. But to use them proficiently, you have to understand what you're doing.

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The main problem of catalogue retouching is not really the use of the tools I’ve mentioned. Anyone can liquify, it’s easy. The problem is to determine where you need it, whether you need it at all, and if you do – when to stop. That’s what makes you a professional in this business. And I have to mention once again, that in catalogue retouching we can’t afford to waste any time doing things that are not necessary. So, first of all, I’ll show you how you shouldn’t work with catalogue images.

I’ve noticed that some retouchers practice this weird kind of approach when they work on images. What they do is open the Liquify filter and run the Forward Warp tool all around the model, making subtle changes here and there, pushing forward and backward for quite some time. When they finish, it’s hard to tell if something has really changed in the image, with all the changes being so subtle. It usually looks better after than before, I have to admit that, but the point here is that the result is not worth the effort and time. And what’s even more weird, is that sometimes the things that demand to be corrected are left as they are even with all the mindless liquifying that took place. In this particular image, for instance, the only thing that looks out of place is the shoe, which is three sizes bigger than it should be. What I offer is that instead of just dragging the warp brush around the image here and there, you should first look at the image and see if there’s something that asks for a bit of Liquify. If there’s not, skip this step at all, don’t waste your time on minor changes that no one is going to notice. The fur coat looks fine, leave it alone.

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So, as I said, it’s not about the ability to use the tools, it’s about understanding when to start and when to stop. In the following video I’ll show a few examples and explain how to deal with the particular problems, but I won’t be able to teach you to be attentive to the details. That you have to do on your own. Let’s start with poses as it’s a bit more simple than body shapes.

Poses

In product image retouching, the poses are pretty standard most of the time. They can be static or dynamic, but whatever they are, it’s not our problem. What really worries us is the fact that sometimes models look weird in the images, and we have to be on a lookout for things like that.

A pose is not an easy thing to correct. You can’t really do much about the figure – or it will get distorted. There are basically two tools or better two groups of tools that can be used to correct poses. The first group is the Transformation group, with the Puppet Warp being the most powerful of them all. In object retouching, it’s a common thing to use, as well as the regular Warp feature of the Transform Tool. But you can’t really warp models, because you usually need to transform a local area without distorting the whole image. So the Puppet Warp is your best bet when you work with models. The second group is actually contained within just one filter, which is quite famous for its ability to perform plastic surgery on images of people. I’m talking about the Liquify filter, yes, again. It’s a set of tools that let you change poses pretty easily.

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Sometimes photographers or stylists will come to you and say: “Whoops, on this image she looks as if one of her legs is longer than the other, would you kindly fix that?”.

It’s really not very evident that something is off with the legs, but why not. There are basically three ways how to fix anything like this fast: the Perspective Warp, the Puppet Warp or the Liquify. The first one can be accessed from the Edit menu. You have to draw a layout box first, transform it if you need and press Enter, and then you can warp it. By grabbing the lower left corner of the box and pulling it up, I can make the longer leg look shorter in just a couple of seconds. But there’s a minus: the whole body has changed a little bit, and the result is not very accurate.

For a more controlled approach, I’ll try the Puppet Warp. I’ll copy the background layer first, as the Puppet Warp can only be used on a separate layer. You should already be familiar with this tool, so I’m not going to explain how it works in detail. All you have to do is make some points where you want the image to be anchored in place, and move the parts of the image you want to move. Out of all the warping and distorting tools available in Photoshop, the Puppet Warp is the most powerful. It’s the only tool that treats people like puppets – you can change anything you want. So if I wanted to shorten the leg without bothering the surrounding areas, I would use the Puppet Warp. Just fix the background and the rest of the model in place, and push the longer leg upward.

You can also use the Liquify filter for the same purpose. This model’s pose is not really perfect, as the right leg is standing too far to the left, and it’s severely bent in the ankle. The online store this image came from treated images like that with no tolerance to bent ankles. I know that most people would not pay any attention to a pose like this, but some would, and it’s our job to make things right even if we don’t think it’s important. If your retouching manual in a particular online store says you should fix things like that, you should fix them. It’s up to you how to fix it though. A “quick and dirty” Perspective Warp, or more versatile, but tricky to use, Puppet Warp. Or maybe just grab a huge Liquify brush and move it, and bend it at the same time. Personally, I don’t really use the Perspective Warp often, it might be quick, but it’s too dirty. As for the choice between the Liquify and the Puppet Warp, sometimes you can use either one, but most of the time the choice will be evident. You have to master both and then just decide for yourself, which tool is more convenient for a particular task.

If you can't really use the Puppet Warp on the whole image because it gets distorted, you can use it on a particular area if you bring it to another layer. So let's say a stylist came and said that the model looked as if she was riding a horse, and I wanted to bring her legs closer to each other. I could just make a crude selection with the Lasso and copy the left leg to another layer. Then I'll access the Puppet Warp, lock the upper part of the leg in place with a few points and then just move the leg to the right. Now, all that's left is merge the layers. But look, there's this telltale line across the floor, that is supposed to look horizontal. Now it's crooked because of all the warping I did. I'd better smudge it with the Mixer Brush to cover my tracks, or the forgery will be evident to everyone.

This model has X-shaped legs, and I was asked to fix that. In a situation like this I’d vote for the Liquify, as there’s a need for quite a few subtle changes. The Puppet Warp can leave you with wobbly looking feet. To make the legs look straight I’ll carefully bend them outside, making sure that every time I move the brush, the knee is in the center, so it gets least distorted. Same with the ankles. Pay attention to the fact that I am not moving my brush randomly or back and forth: I need to make 4 changes, one for each knee and one for each ankle, and I move the brush once for each change, maybe twice, but not more. I know when to stop so that I don’t get any unnatural looks in the resulting image.

Now here, probably because of the pose and the angle, the left hip looks as if it’s twice as thin as the right hip, and it looks weird and unnatural. We don’t want any unwanted attention on the model, we don’t want customers to look at this image and wonder if there’s something wrong with her legs. So it doesn’t really matter why it looks like this, we have to fix it anyway. And the best tool for this kind of correction is the Liquify filter. Just a couple of strokes with the Warp brush and the thinner hip is back to normal.

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And we slowly switch from the pose correction to the body shape and clothes correction. I’ll show you another bunch of images that require correction and explain the whole process.

Body correction

Once again, I want to tell you the most important thing straight away, and I think I've already mentioned this more than once. Don't confuse catalogue retouching and fashion retouching. We don't do any weird things to people like making their waists thinner or legs longer. I've watched quite a few tutorials and I've read articles where they said this kind of retouching work was mandatory, so I guess I have to repeat it again and again: no, we don't do that to catalogue model images unless there's a very good reason for it. And the main reason why we don't do any waist slimming or legs stretching is that we show customers how clothes fit humans. Make a waist thinner, and a loose shirt would look slim. Make legs longer and a skirt would look shorter. All you can get with this approach is rejected purchases. People will be misguided about the real appearance of items, and they will reject them after trying them on.

This is true about most mass-market online stores, but luxurious stores can have a different paradigm. They don't really sell clothes there, they sell brand images, so retouching can pursue other goals, not just presenting goods to customers as they are. But this is also a part of our job – to be aware of what's going on, who your client is. Don't do things automatically because you think everyone does that, as it's a waste of valuable time.

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This model is pregnant. Well, she’s not, she’s just wearing a round foam belly under her dress. But she’s demonstrating how a dress fits pregnant women, so it’s not her belly that requires correction in this image. It’s the upper arm. It’s a bit big, so it’s only natural if you feel like you want to Liquify it. That’s it, there’s nothing else to do here.

Okay, this is practically the same situation, but there’s a slight difference between this image and the previous one. On this one, you can’t just liquify the arm as easily, because there’s a shadow that is very close to the arm. If you’re not careful enough, you can make the shadow look weird and curved. The best way to prevent this from happening is using the Freeze Mask tool. I’ll mask the border between the shadow and the wall so that it stays intact when I liquify the upper arm. Be careful and don’t make it look too thin, it’s better if you don’t do it enough, than if you overdo it.

Whatever is wrong with the images, it’s up to you to decide if it has to be taken care of or not, but the main idea is that customers should not be distracted when they look at the items they might want to buy. So, when looking at this particular top, no one should wonder, why one breast is hanging lower than the other. It means you have to grab the Liquify brush and pull it up. This image has many other problems, not just the breasts. There’s some colored moire on the top, there’s a bunch of hairs sticking out of the armpit, the hairline is frizzy and so on. But let’s just concentrate on the shape for now. I can pull the whole breast up with the Liquify filter, but the nipple will probably still be out of place. As the standard of the industry demands that nipples should not exist anyway, I can just remove them both and settle for it. It’s not an easy thing to do, but the Frequency Separation method makes it possible in no time. I’ll use the basic Radius, which is 4, and then just use the Mixer Brush to remove the fold under the right breast, as well as both nipples. It’s not about the technique, it’s about being able to recognize problematic areas on an image.

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As you see, we’ve come to the point where we’re not retouching models anymore, but work on clothes instead. And this is completely another story, as clothes can be also shot on mannequins, or they can be shot as flat lays, but still, they have a lot in common. So let’s finish with the models, as we covered pretty much everything any retoucher has to know about them. You know the principles and the tools, and this is enough to do your own retouching with the understanding of what and how you’re doing and most importantly – why. I only want to add a few words about plus size models before we proceed to the next chapter.

Plus size models

What I want to say first, is that we're not in the '90s anymore. We don't do as much liquify and smoothing to models as before when plastic hourglass-shaped people were trending. We don't do this to models and we don't do this to plus-size models as well. So to make sure you understand the idea of plus-size I'll show a few images and do some explanation. There's nothing special about plus-size models that makes them deserve a special section of the course. Normally you treat them like any other models. But there are some people out there that seem to dislike the whole idea of plus-size, that think that modeling, especially for swimwear and underwear, should be done by slim models only, and if you have a bunch of bigger size items, you just shoot them on a plus-size model and then retouch until they fit in the regular model S-size, just with bigger breasts. But it doesn't work like that. This approach is horribly outdated.

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We are retouchers, not crazy plastic surgeons. Plus-size models are bigger than your average models. But they are supposed to be like that and it's perfectly normal. The only thing worth liquifying here is the left arm, which is a common thing with all the models alike. But I'm not going to do anything else, as there's no need for that.

Same story here, there's nothing to do at all. Perfect! Just resize and that's it. And don't forget to remove the dust from the panties.

I've browsed a few online stores to see how they treat their plus-size models and I found out the situation is pretty good. As years pass, you can see less and less retouching done to models. But some stores are still in the '90s, so I've got an example to show you – what should not be done to people. The whole image looks fake 5 meters away from the screen. Don't do this kind of hip cutting and skin smoothing, unless they threaten to fire you if you don't.

I realize that the Plus-models section was not really helpful as I haven't taught you anything useful, but trust me, not retouching sometimes can be much better than retouching. When you make women look like teenagers with F-size cups, it is not just weird, it's ridiculous. So whatever you do, don't cut people from the sides to make them look thinner, it doesn't work. If what I said sounds like blasphemy to you and you expected me to teach you how to cut away chunks of human bodies, well, go to asos.com, find the Woman's curve & Plus size section and see how they treat their plus-models. If one of the most visited e-commerce websites in the world doesn't butcher people, I don't see a reason why anyone should.

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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.

Next chapter: Clothes retouching

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