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Non-destructive retouching: please explain?

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  • Non-destructive retouching: please explain?

    Hello all,

    I'm fairly new here but I am working hard at improving my retouching ability. I'm always doing tutorials, practising and I've managed to catch about 4 webinars here already. I've really loved them!

    I've been browsing the forums a bit. They are fascinating and I've seen this topic come up fleetingly in threads about other topics.

    However, I'm a bit overwhelmed by how much information is actually on here and I thought that to get help understanding this subject the best thing for me to do would be to just post this question on the board and hope some knowledgeable folk out there will answer:

    What really is destructive / non-destructive retouching???

    I have seen and heard retouchers talk about it here and there. My understanding thus far is that if a retoucher is interested in doing high-end retouching they must make sure that their techniques don't degrade the image. Or lose / destroy image information. Is this correct?
    That's all I know so far. But I'm not even sure if I'm right about this.

    When I watched the "Surpise" with Carrie Beene webinar I remember her saying she very rarely uses the Clone Stamp tool on Normal mode as this can smudge pixels (or something to that effect). I also see people writing about not converting images between colour modes over again as then you lose colour information. What about liquify tool and restructuring techniques?

    When I was first starting out some time ago I used to mask Surface Blur onto studio set plain backgrounds such as white floors or colorama's to smooth them out. Now I'm wondering if that's actually been a massive "no-no" all this time!

    So what I want to know is what are the destructive techniques? So what should I NOT be doing or what techniques should I avoid?
    And of course, what techniques are good and NON-destructive?? What are the techniques that keep as much information as possible?
    How do I find out more about this?

    And does this only really apply if you are retouching images to be blown up to billboard size?

    I hope my question makes sense and that someone can help me understand this a bit better so I can get my technique on the right track.

    A big thanks in advance for your responses!
    (I'm really loving this site)

  • #2
    Re: Non-destructive retouching: please explain?

    Always edit on adjustment layers instead of directly onto a pixel layer, making a background copy to work on if this isn't possible. Clone/heal on a separate layer and erase using masks.

    Good practice is to take care to preserve all pixel data to allow yourself to make later alterations on any level, although it does increase file sizes considerably.


    • #3
      Re: Non-destructive retouching: please explain?

      There really is no secret about those terms.

      Open a photo, grab the paint brush and paint on it ----> destructive.

      Open a photo, create a new layer and paint on it ----> non destructive.

      Think of it this way. If you make a change that you can toggle by turning a layer on and off, that was a non destructive change.


      • #4
        Re: Non-destructive retouching: please explain?

        Okay, thanks very much to Dmeadows and Flexmanta for those responses! I do appreciate it.

        I also understand that doing things like cloning on anything less than 100% smudges pixels and that seems to be why I've seen retouchers not drop the Opacity of their Stamp brush but rather the flow or indeed the Opacity of their layers.

        So is it absolutely crucial that we all retouch non-destructively all the time or is it just for certain cases? Obviously I want to do the best job I can at all times but I'm wondering if retouchers are mostly concerned about this in certain cases such as retouching skin on a portrait for a large print for example.

        Apologies if I'm asking a question that has an obvious answer!

        I totally get the concept of working non-destructively - but I'm just making sure I have a complete understanding of what it means to my technique.
        I want to make sure I know how I can alter an image but still preserve the data.
        So I always new there was more to it than just doing everything on a new layer.

        Thanks again!


        • #5
          Re: Non-destructive retouching: please explain?

          Non destructive retouching is very nice for when you have a client that wants to go back and change something. Hopefully, you won't need to start over from scratch or redo a bunch of work outside of their requested change.

          Ultimately, one is no better than another as far as final images are concerned, however, non-destructive will make you life much less of a hassle overall, and as such, is considered the standard amongst professional retouchers.


          • #6
            Re: Non-destructive retouching: please explain?

            Willow_wisp, yes, that is the concept. It's only a way of working. It does not have anything to do with final quality.

            Now, regarding the opacity thing you mention. No, smudging, cloning and healing are done at 100% because that's the way it works best, although there are times when you will want to lower the opacity of a single stroke. For example, when cloning away little eye veins, you might clonse stamp, and then ctrl-shift f to fade the last stroke you did.

            Now, there is a difference between brush flow and opacity. You'll learn it quickly.

            Opacity: Say you have a brush at 50% opacity, and 100% flow. You click and without releasing, you start painting. No matter how much you drag the brush around, the opacity will always be 50%, even if the brush passes several times over the same spot (provided you don't release the button).

            Flow:2 Options here.
            Standard mode: Amount of paint per pass until it reaches opacity value.
            Say you got a 100% opacity brush at 50% flow. You start painting a straight line. At first, the initial opacity of the stroke will be 50%. If without releasing you paint over the same area for the second time, opacity will reach 100%. So, in standard mode, flow defines how much is painted every time you pass over a pixel. At 50% flow, you will need to paint twice on a pixel to reach your set opacity.

            Airbrush mode: Amount of paint over time till it reaches opacity value.
            When you activate the airbrush icon, flow will define the amount of paint over time. You can quickly see it working if you click but don't move the cursor.

            ...i tend to work at 100% master opacity (but with pen pressure sensitivity on for opacity), and 1%-10% flow for D&B work.
            Last edited by flexmanta; 02-09-2010, 03:35 PM.


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