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What is the "must-have" retouching knowledge?

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  • What is the "must-have" retouching knowledge?

    Hey guys,

    So, as we're all aware, there are a million tutorials out there on the internet regarding tools and methods to use to retouch, but what are the principles that one ought to know to really become great at this?

    Color theory comes to mind, what else? Body anatomy? Drawing/painting? Theory behind plastic surgery?

    What comes to mind for you? Also, if there's any instructional material you'd recommend, please do share!

  • #2
    Re: What is the "must-have" retouching knowledge?

    All the retouchers I've interviewed for RetouchPRO LIVE had a serious artistic background before they discovered Photoshop. Some were painters, some were photographers, one was a musician, one a cosmetologist. And I'm not talking hobbyists, I'm talking MBA level or working full-time pro for many years.

    I'm not insisting that's the only way, it just strikes me as telling that there is a 100% correlation.

    I can't discount the generational difference, most of my guest artists are over 30. But if I could send a message back in time to my school-age self, I'd tell myself to learn painting, drawing, and piano (that last one is for other reasons, but couldn't hurt).
    Learn by teaching
    Take responsibility for learning


    • #3
      Re: What is the "must-have" retouching knowledge?

      Visual arts is visual arts. So, tone, color, proportion, that always stands. Plastic surgery is a joke. I am yet to see a decent result. All they do is remove tissue or add foreign bodies into the human organism and rely on the body to heal itself around those traumas. Not good.

      Body anatomy... it's good to have knowledge of human anatomy(human body isn't the only retouching field, you need no knowledge of anatomy to retouch car renderings). Also, because you are not painting, but have the actual base image right there, it's not really a necessity.

      Drawing/painting. As I said all visual arts are the same, so knowing how to draw or paint... it's good for hand movement coordination perhaps, but it either looks right or it doesn't.

      I would say the most important thing is developing sense of beautiful, having art references in your mind, knowing what the clients are looking for, knowing what suits the image. THat you get simply by looking at a lot of art, and being surrounded by art. So no looking at wanna be photographers and facebook all the time. I refer to those things as "visual poison", when you see bad aesthetic it somehow gets embedded in your brain all day.

      And as Doug said, most of us come from artistic background, I studied applied arts. But that is not just going to college, I've admired beautiful things since I was a kid, so after years of practice(intentional or accidental) it's bound to have an effect. It's about having that mindset, and practice, lots of practice.

      Photoshop tools are just basic. Lighten and darken, then you use brush to reveal the effect. Painting color on color layer, and more or less global adjustments using curves, selective color etc. But it's basically like a coloring book, you just follow what's already there.
      Last edited by skoobey; 04-27-2015, 12:57 AM.


      • #4
        Re: What is the "must-have" retouching knowledge?

        Very true, thank you both for your replies. In today's day and age, there's quite a number of the industry's best who are self-taught (Mert & Marcus for example.) I myself am following that route.

        What both of you say is super valid, I'll keep studying and developing that "sense of beautiful" from studying the industry's best as well take up drawing and painting courses.

        Are there any books you guys recommend that could be applied to corrective retouching as well as creative?


        • #5
          Re: What is the "must-have" retouching knowledge?

          I don't learn as well from books, which is one reason I recorded the RetouchPRO LIVE video series. Carrie Beene and the late Gry Garness both have books, and I can vouch for their skills. Unfortunately, most books are written by professional authors and presenters, not professional retouchers.

          I've had several seasoned professionals and hundreds of aspiring professionals tell me watching a single Amy Dresser or Chris Tarantino RetouchPRO LIVE show changed their life. But Amy and Chris did not have that resource and still did very well for themselves.
          Learn by teaching
          Take responsibility for learning


          • #6
            Re: What is the "must-have" retouching knowledge?

            All the Katrin Eismann books
            All the Gry Garness books
            Carrie Beenie book

            Truth about art is that noone can tech you, they can show you what the technique is, but because every project is unique, you need to have this reference library in your head in order to produce great work. Also, make no mistakes, it's all about the detail, you do things locally A LOT. 90% of the time.


            • #7
              Re: What is the "must-have" retouching knowledge?

              Thanks again guys, I'll look into both the Live videos as well as the books, but I think the biggest thing I take away from this thread is to definitely fill your head with serious artistic knowledge. You're both very right about the abundance of "how-to" material but also the need for there to be a "why" reasoning behind it.


              • #8
                Re: What is the "must-have" retouching knowledge?

                Exactly, just don't get too serious about things, focus on the visual "rules". Like what makes this shinny, what makes this contrasty, how is that different from the input etc. What color and tone combination works. There are books out there on the subject but... reading and doing isn't the same.
                Last edited by skoobey; 04-27-2015, 01:48 AM.


                • #9
                  Re: What is the "must-have" retouching knowledge?

                  Originally posted by skoobey View Post
                  Exactly, just don't get too serious about things, focus on the visual "rules". Like what makes this shinny, what makes this contrasty, how is that different from the input etc.
                  Sorry, could you explain what you mean by that?


                  • #10
                    Re: What is the "must-have" retouching knowledge?

                    Originally posted by camiloacosta View Post

                    Color theory comes to mind, what else? Body anatomy? Drawing/painting? Theory behind plastic surgery?
                    You're over-thinking this. Plastic surgery is irrelevant here. Pick up some basic art skills before you focus too much on retouching. This means at the very least a rudimentary comprehension of perspective and and some understanding of lighting from a visual perspective. Things like anatomy are subject specific knowledge. If you want to work on a specific kind of subject, you should know something about that subject. If you find a hard cover version of Albers Interaction of Color at a library somewhere, that would be worth a read. As I mentioned you should have a good sense of perspective.

                    I have yet to come across a tutorial that appeared useful. They all focus on the absolute simplest aspects. Even then most of them do a poor job, and they're too specific. Rather than provide general knowledge that might help form an approach to early problems, they provide an often poorly done walkthrough/case study. I haven't watched every one of them, but I'm skeptical that they would provide a lot of insight into the earlier points.


                    • #11
                      Re: What is the "must-have" retouching knowledge?



                      You simply stand there looking at the image, and learn the "rules". For example, shinny things have small defined highlights.
                      Last edited by skoobey; 04-27-2015, 02:02 AM.


                      • #12
                        Re: What is the "must-have" retouching knowledge?


                        There's also the issue of perceived color. Some people allow them to go too saturated, but these are subject specific issues.


                        • #13
                          Re: What is the "must-have" retouching knowledge?

                          True, that's why you can use a reference image and compare while working.


                          • #14
                            Re: What is the "must-have" retouching knowledge?

                            If you want to be a really good, all-round retoucher. Learn to draw. Study European painting from Renaissance up to the Neo Classicists, the Pre- Raphaelites, and John William Waterhouse, Frederic Leighton, James Tissot and the like. Study great photographers.

                            Regarding colour theory, you should be able to visualise the Photoshop Color Balance sliders in your mind and fully understand the relationships of RGB and CMY. If you can't, then study them until they're firmly embedded in your mind. This is the ABC of colour theory.
                            Last edited by AKMac; 04-28-2015, 02:27 AM.


                            • #15
                              Re: What is the "must-have" retouching knowledge?

                              I'm not sure that drawing is essential. I am quite good at drawing, but while shading is similar to drawing in some aspects, it's not quite the same skill, you only really need to draw things here and there, but for the most part it's just about enhancing the image, and you already have the reference.

                              I say this because I know many artists that are great at drawing, but it doesn't really translate into hyper realism that is required by retouching.


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