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Reality Retouching

When doing this style of retouching, you usually don't remove every wrinkle, but instead just make the subject more attractive. What do I mean by "more attractive"? Well, it's subjective, but I like to concentrate on the idea of removing what's distracting me from the person I'm retouching. In real life we are animated, and this makes those little lines and spots much less noticeable. In fact, the little imperfections, as part of a real-live person, can add character and charm. When you freeze a moment in time and give the eye a chance to concentrate on these minor imperfections, however, they become more pronounced. This is where reality retouching comes in. The idea is to do the minimal amount of work necessary to lessen those slight imperfections. Among the things that you'll want to work on are blemishes that need removing, deep wrinkles that need softening, tired eyes that need whitening, and yellow teeth that need to be brightened.

Reality retouching should be invisible. Your mission is to be as stealthy as possible—get in and out without being detected. You will probably not receive any credit for this mission because nobody's supposed to know about it. You, your client, and your team (if any) are the only ones who will receive the quiet satisfaction of a job well done.

For the first example, consider an image that was designed as a point of purchase (POP) display for Reflexxions. As is typical with makeup companies, the client wants the girl in the display to look as natural as possible, while still being "perfect"—definitely a job for reality retouching.

Figure 11 An example of reality retouching.

Assessing the Image

When retouching any image, it's important to start by assessing the image as a whole, and decide more or less what you want to do beforehand. You can work with the image on the screen, making notes of the areas that need to be changed. By taking the time to do this assessment before "jumping right in," you will develop a clearer mental image of the final product. This will keep you from over- or underdoing any one area and will help you produce a better-balanced final image. It's a good idea to have a mental checklist that you go over when assessing the image. Here's an example:

Check list

  • Overall skin (including forehead, nose, cheeks, chin, and jaw)

    • Smooth the texture, remove bumps, or major wrinkles.

    • Even out the color, conceal and blend blemishes or uneven makeup.

    • Remove any unwanted shininess.

  • Hair

    • Eliminate any fly-aways.

    • Fill in gaps.

    • Fix color on roots.

  • Eyebrows

    • Check overall shape. Reshape if necessary.

    • Corral any loose or wild hairs.

    • Divide unibrow.

  • Eyes

    • Brighten whites of eyes.

    • Check for and remove mascara clumps.

    • Check for crow's feet, and blend away as needed.

    • Soften under-eye circles.

    • Remove unwanted or distracting catch lights.

  • Nose

    • Even out or blend away unwanted shadows on sides of nose.

  • Lips

    • Check shape of lips. Define and reshape as necessary.

    • Clean up bleeding lipstick.

    • Clean up and even out highlights on lips.

  • Teeth

    • Whiten teeth.

    • Correct slightly crooked teeth.

  • Cheeks, chin, and jaw

    • Lessen deep smile lines or wrinkles.

    • Smooth evenness of blush on apple of cheek.

  • Body parts (legs, arms, and so on)

    • Smooth tone and texture.

    • Improve contours of highlights and shadows.

Avoiding Beginners' Mistakes

A few things jump out when I see a bad retouching job. First and foremost is when I see a face on which parts of the skin have been retouched and other parts haven't. Also, remember your edges! The edges of anything are key to making something look "right"; so if you blur the edge of a lip line too much while retouching, it will look wrong. Working evenly and paying attention to your edges will keep you from making beginners' mistakes.

As part of your assessment, decide what to leave and what to remove so that the job is believable. Often art directors will give you specific guidelines for what they'd like to see done. On this particular job, I worked closely with the art director to decide what to remove and fix. Image 2 shows the art director's marks indicating the changes she wanted made. As you can see from all the marks, there's a lot of work to be done for something that's supposed to look natural!

Figure 22 The marked-up image showing changes requested by the art director.

After going over the raw image with the art director, I then begin the basics of retouching, starting with removing wrinkles.

Removing Wrinkles

Before you even think about touching your tool palette, be sure to duplicate your original layer. To do this, right-click the layer and select Duplicate Layer. Name the layer model copy. Work on the copy layer, and leave your original layer untouched. That way you will always have a copy to go back to for reference. I usually begin by using the Healing Brush tool to remove small wrinkles and any stray hairs that may have moved over the face during the shoot.

Figure 33 Removing the forehead wrinkle using a small brush.

Start by choosing a brush just big enough to cover the area that needs to be eliminated. You can use the left and right bracket keys ([ and ]) to reduce or increase the brush size.

For the type of wrinkle shown here, which is small and very linear, click one end of the wrinkle, hold down the Shift key (which makes the tool work in a straight line), and click to the end of that wrinkle line. You also can use small short strokes with the tool to accomplish the same effect.

Keepin' It Real: 1

Don't eliminate all the wrinkles when cleaning up the skin. If the person is smiling and you take away all the wrinkles, it will look odd and unnatural. Be aware of what you remove and make sure it's not crucial to the expression in the face. You also can quickly assess your work by turning on and off the retouching layer. This is a visual aid in identifying unnatural changes.

Figure 44 The Fade Healing Brush dialog box.

Keepin' It Real: 2

When working with the healing brush, if you want to lessen but not remove the wrinkles completely, go to the Edit menu and select Fade Healing Brush. You can use the slider to lessen the effect of the brush and bring back some of the natural wrinkles.

Next, using the same technique, work on any stray hairs covering the face. Continue this process until you have eliminated all of these fine lines, hairs, and wrinkles.

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