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Scarves retouching tips and tricks

Scarves do not necessarily require a lot of effort when you retouch them. It all depends on how they were shot in the first place. And here you might get lucky – if the online store you work for doesn't shoot them lying flat. It's actually very reasonable if they do because with an angle like this you can see the design of the item very well. But it's very time consuming for all the three stations: preparation, photography, and retouching, as the item's shape has to resemble a perfect square or a rectangle, and it's not an easy thing to achieve. When you wear a scarf, it doesn't look like this anyway, all the pattern gets wrinkled and you can hardly see the design.

Flat or tied? That's the question

Most online stores just shoot their scarves folded and tied in a knot. It shows the item, it gives you an idea how it looks when you put it on, and it's very easy to shoot and to retouch as well. All the folds are natural and you don't have to do any Liquify or any other kind of shape correction.

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What you have to do is cut the dangling label away with the Pen Tool – it's not hard as you basically just make a straight line here. Then you isolate the image – and make sure you don't eat away the scarf, as it's shiny and can easily get into your background selection. So it might be reasonable to check it and fix in the Quick Mask mode. After dealing with isolation you have to restore the shadow – at least in this case, when it's sticking out everywhere it was initially. Isolating without a shadow requires a different lighting scheme. I can't really restore anything where the label was, or I'll just bring it back.

Next thing is cleaning the background. Scarves often have widespread shadows, and if there are any spots of dirt on the background, it's your job to remove them. You can use the Healing tools or mix them up with the Mixer Brush. After that, you're pretty much done. If the scarf was black, it would be even easier than that, but even like this, it's not really hard to retouch.

But let's get back to the square. Same as before, I'll use the Pen Tool to cut away the label on a string. There's also a piece of string to the right, and it has to be removed, too. Next step is isolation, which is quite easy. We're not going to restore any shadows here, as this item is flat and it's highly unlikely that it's able to drop a shadow. You need at least some distance from the object to the background for that to happen.

Now look, this is supposed to be a perfect square. To make it look decent, I have to Liquify it, but it's a bit hard without some guides to show how exactly it should look. So let's make some guides first. To do it quickly, you need to have the Rulers active. You can do it by pressing Ctrl-R, and I already have them on. Then just click on the ruler, hold and drag to create a guide, hold Alt to make it vertical. Now when you access the Liquify filter, make sure you have the “Show guides” option enabled in the View Options. You will be able to see the guides on the image while using the filter. But it doesn't mean the process of Liquifying is going to be easy. Take your time, start with a big brush and work on the big bulges first, then make the tip smaller and move to smaller defects. Be very careful with the corners and watch for the design, do not distort the pattern. Zoom in if you need, but make sure you don't waste your time. After applying the filter effect and hiding the guides you can see that the scarf looks much better. How perfect the square should depend on your final image. An image with wide margins is quite forgiving, but if your margins are little or non-existent, every bulge will stick out like a sore thumb. The smaller the margins, the more perfect the shape has to be.

There's one quick and dirty way how to make it a perfect square. Before we do that, I want to mention that this is only possible if the scarf in question is plain or has an inch or so of plain material around it, otherwise, it just won't work. But many scarves are like this, so there's a chance that you will be able to do it. First of all, Liquify it to resemble a square as well as you can, and then Trim the image, or just crop it as close to the edges as possible. If you use this method, you don't even have to isolate the scarf. When you've cropped it, select the edge of the scarf with the background – the easiest way to do so is just grab the Rectangular Marquee Tool, select and invert. Now fill the selection with the Content-aware Fill by pressing Backspace on your keyboard. The pieces of background will be filled with the plain material, and if there are some weird things going on you can just smudge them with the Mixer Brush. If you messed up the internal pattern shape, you can Liquify it. Make sure you have the “Pin Edges” checkbox ticked in the Brush Tool Options. With this option enabled, you can work on the internal pattern shape without being afraid to drag the edges in.

Now, this is a perfect square scarf. Unfortunately, it's really time-consuming, so you can only hope that you won't have to deal with scarves like this at all. There is no way to automatically make something curved straight, so you have to Warp and Liquify manually.

It might get worse than just shape correction. Some scarves get creased really easily. There's no magic in Photoshop, so in most cases, when photographers and assistants fail to make the item flat and smooth, you won't be able to make it perfect. Especially when it's patterned. But sometimes, when the conditions are right, you can fix wrinkles easily. This scarf, for example, is really easy to retouch. The lower right corner is wrinkled, but these wrinkles are basically dark areas on a light surface. Which means you can use the Brush in Lighten mode. What you have to do is pick a color from some flat area of the dark pattern. Now when you paint over the creased area, it will only affect the wrinkles, but not anything else. Everything else, like the white pattern and the background, is lighter than your color sample. This is how the Lighten mode works.

But if the scarf cannot be fixed with the Darken or Lighten modes, there's a high chance that you will either leave it as it is or reject it and request the image to be reshot with greater care for shape and wrinkles.

In general, scarves can be really easy, especially when they are dark and can be easily isolated. Not many online stores actually use any complicated angles when you have to make perfect squares and rectangles. Most of the time you will be dealing with images like this one. Isolate them and that's pretty much all you have to do.


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: Sunglasses


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