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Strategy for retouching

Adobe Photoshop provides a comprehensive set of color-correction tools for adjusting the color and tone of individual images. You can, for example, correct problems in color quality and tonal range created during the original photography or during image scanning, and you can correct problems in composition and sharpen the overall focus of the image.

Organizing an efficient sequence of tasks

Most retouching follows these eight general steps:

  • Duplicating the original image or scan. (Always work in a copy of the image file so that you can recover the original later if necessary.)
  • Checking the scan quality and making sure that the resolution is appropriate for the way you will use the image.
  • Cropping the image to final size and orientation.
  • Repairing flaws in scans of damaged photographs (such as rips, dust, or stains).
  • Adjusting the overall contrast or tonal range of the image.
  • Removing any color casts.
  • Adjusting the color and tone in specific parts of the image to bring out highlights, midtones, shadows, and desaturated colors.
  • Sharpening the overall focus of the image.

Usually, you should complete these processes in the order listed. Otherwise, the results of one process may cause unintended changes to other aspects of the image, making it necessary for you to redo some of your work.

Adjusting your process for intended uses

The retouching techniques you apply to an image depend in part on how you will use the image. Whether an image is intended for black-and-white publication on newsprint or for full-color Internet distribution affects everything from the resolution of the initial scan to the type of tonal range and color correction that the image requires. Photoshop supports the CMYK color mode for preparing an image to be printed using process colors, as well as RGB and other color modes for Web and mobile authoring.

To illustrate one application of retouching techniques, this lesson takes you through the steps of correcting a photograph intended for four-color print publication.

For more information about CMYK and RGB color modes, see Lesson 16, “Producing and Printing Consistent Color.”

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