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Removing labels in Photoshop

Retouching is not only about working with shapes and textures. You'll also have to remove cardboard labels and strings they are attached with, in Photoshop. So let's see how you can do that.

When the items are photographed, they are brand new most of the time. And not all the labels that are attached to them can be removed prior to the shooting. Some labels can only be cut off by customers after they make a purchase. Labels still attached prove that the items were not used before. So if you wonder which labels should be removed during the retouching process and which should stay, there's a simple rule to this: “The labels you will cut off after buying the items have to be removed in Photoshop”. They are usually made of cardboard and attached with a plastic string or with a thread. They are sometimes sewn inside of clothes, but still, you have to remove them, or they will itch. On the contrary, labels that show brand names or size, labels that you won't cut off when you buy the item, they have to stay. Let's see some examples.

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This is a brand label. You don't have to remove things like that. You shouldn't actually remove things like that, because brands are good. It doesn't matter when you shop for cheap goods on Chinese wholesale websites, but in luxurious segment of the market, it's a big deal. I once worked in a luxurious store where I could reject images and send them back to be reshot if a brand label was not straight and didn't look perfect. In most stores, it's not that important, but still, brands are good, so watch it and make sure you don't remove a brand label by accident.

This is a backside of a sweater and you can see a bunch of labels there. Pieces of cardboard, strings and things like that have to be removed, while the brand label and size should stay. Brand information is really important, so there should be no second thoughts about that. Size is not that necessary, but in most online stores brand labels as a whole are usually left untouched, size details stay where they are, too. How to remove all the unnecessary labels? Use the Clone Stamp Tool. Make the brush tip hard when you work close to the brand label, and then make it softer and bigger as you move away. It's not a big deal.

Another backside for a vest on a mannequin. This leather label has the brand information, leave it be. But this huge white piece of something should not be there, it doesn't make any sense. Who would wear a vest with a gigantic label dangling from the back? To remove it, I'll select the whole thing with the Lasso and Fill it with Content-Aware. Not bad for something that took a few seconds, right? But not great either. I'll use the Clone Stamp for a quick finish. It doesn't have to be perfect, as this is just a backside, it will be inserted in the front image of a vest on a mannequin. I just want you to see the difference between the “good” and the “bad” labels.

Sometimes there are cardboard or textile labels attached to back pockets. It happens with jeans all the time. This brown label stays where it is, but this one, on the pocket, carefully rolled by a photographer or an assistant, has to be removed? The way is the same as before – select it with the Lasso, Fill with Content-Aware and then finish with the Clone Stamp tool. Remember that you can rotate the brush tip if you hold Shift and Alt and then hold one of the triangle brackets on your keyboard. It helps when you have to stamp in a curved line. With that in mind, you'll be able to remove the label in no time.

This is a scarf and this is a label that is attached to it with a string. It has to be removed, so I'll select the whole thing with the Lasso and Content-Aware Fill it. If there's still a piece left, it can be easily removed with the Spot Healing Tool. You must have noticed already that I'm using the Content-Aware Fill a lot. It really is useful.

Okay, this one is tricky. There's a black string that is not easy to remove, but you have to. Here I will use the whole removing arsenal. I'll start with a hard Brush in Normal mode, use the Spot Healing Tool as well, and the Clone Stamp, and even the Mixer Brush. It's not really hard, it just requires some subtle moves, you can't just select and fill, it won't work. So I'll use the Normal brush on the background because the object is going to be isolated anyway. I can use it on the metal, too, as it doesn't really have any visible texture. Spot Healing tool is useful when it comes to fur, and the Clone Stamp is good when there's a good source nearby. It's a messy image, and if I got it in real life, I would go to the photographers and ask them to just put the label down so that it would hang under the belt. It would be much easier to remove. And also, in this particular case, I could have just copied this metal thingie onto that metal thingie to cover the string, but I used other methods intentionally. You don't really get lucky often, so the possibility of copying and pasting something is not that high. Just make sure you don't miss the opportunity when you can.

This one is the worst of them all. I don't know why photographers didn't put the label inside the belt loop, but they didn't. The problem is not cutting the label out, it's the shadow that is supposed to be under the belt. A huge part of it will be missing. Trying to use the Clone Stamp to stretch the leftovers will take a lot of time, so it's not really a tool of choice in this situation. If I got this image, I would reject it, because it was definitely not shot properly. But if I really had to retouch it, I would do this. Select the whole thing with the Pen Tool. Yes, it will take time, but not so much. After isolating, I'll invert the selection and use the Normal Brush, black color, Opacity 20% to draw a fake shadow under the belt. It doesn't look as hard as before, but a shadow is a shadow, at least it's there and it's not cut in half. You can't ask for more in a fast-paced environment like a catalogue photography and retouching studio.

Labels can hide under clothes, too. Especially if they are transparent. Removing them is still a necessity because I doubt anyone will wear this item like this. In this case, the Content-Aware Fill works like a charm.

Labels can hide really well. Like this one, which can be barely seen, as it's located inside of the t-shirt. If you can't really see it on your monitor, I'll adjust the Levels to make it more visible. There it is. So, if a label that has to be removed is seen under some clothes, no matter how well hidden it is, you still have to remove it. In this case, I'd use the Clone Stamp tool, as it won't require much time or accuracy.


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: Background retouching


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