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Fantasy Retouching

Fantasy retouching is my favorite kind of retouching. It's basically the same technique as the reality retouching except that it is designed to give a more obviously enhanced, "painted-on" look. Whereas a reality retouch will go undetected if done well, a fantasy retouch will be noticeable to all but the most casual observers. Because fantasy retouching often goes hand in hand with plastic surgery, I begin this section with an image that combines fantasy retouching with a fair bit of plastic surgery.

Yummy Skin and Body Sculpting

I refer to this style of heavily retouched skin as "yummy skin." When a client asks for "yummy skin," I know that texture is not important and that the photograph is supposed to have a painted quality when it's finished.

Image 65Image 65 Before and after the skin retouching, with the retouch layer at 90% Opacity.

Having read the preceding section on reality retouching, you will already know the techniques used to accomplish this initial step. The only differences for a "fantasy" retouch are that the Opacity is set to 90% on the retouch layer rather than 30% to 60% and that broader retouch strokes are used over larger areas of skin.

As you can see from Image 65, a dramatic difference has been achieved with retouching alone. Now let's nip and tuck.

Nip and Tuck

You can give a little more definition to the model's waist in two ways. First copy a portion of the buttocks and create a new layer from the selection. Then use the Spherize filter (Filter > Distort > Spherize). This pushes the arch out to the right a little (see Image 66). You may need to erase around the edges of your selection to blend the transformed area when the filter is complete.

Brush Hardness

If you're working on a sharp edge, a harder brush is needed, whereas a fuzzy edge requires a more feathered brush. This takes practice; learning to make the curve feel natural isn't easy, so don't be discouraged, and keep at it until you're satisfied. Use Shift+[ and Shift+] to soften or harden your current brush.

Now add more curvature to the waistline by using the Clone Stamp tool, with the Use All Layers option checked, on this same layer and carefully changing the shape. Use the tool to clone background over the unwanted areas, cutting-in the skin with the black background and carefully changing the shape (see Image 67). Make sure to analyze the edge you are working on, and use the right brush hardness accordingly.

Image 66Image 66 Using the Spherize filter.

Image 67Image 67 After spherizing and cutting in the waistline.

The next step is to narrow the width of the waist. What are we going for here? Well it's pretty much up to you. I like curves in women—I have a few myself—and so my preference is for a more curvaceous silhouette.

To start, grab a chunk of the left side with the Polygon Lasso. Then feather by 2 and create a new layer from your selection.

The Shear filter is very handy for adding slight curves to just about anything. I especially love this tool for the waistline. We are going to distort this section of the waist so that it is more indented, giving it a little bit more curve and shape. Use the Shear filter (Filter > Distort > Shear) by dragging the center of the line slightly to the left, adding curvature to the waistline.

Image 68Image 68 Using the Shear tool to add a curve to the waistline.

So here is where we're at now.

As you can see from Image 69, the difference is quite dramatic. We have made a big difference in just a few quick moves.

At this point, I Save and then Save As under a new filename. I keep many different versions of my files, creating a new one under a different name any time I flatten something or make a change I may need to reverse someday. Because you are going to flatten the image, this is a good place to begin on another copy of the file.

Image 69Image 69 After shearing the left side of the waistline.

Defining the Legs

Now define the legs even more by dodging and burning. Use the Dodge and Burn tool to create more muscle definition on the thigh and calves. This will give the leg a sleeker look. You must make sure your image is flat before you do this, because you want the Burn/Dodge tool to be operating on all your work to this point. Flatten (Layer > Flatten Image), and then make a duplicate of your main layer as backup. Now, go to your top layer and begin burning and dodging the highlights and shadows with the Burn/Dodge tool to create more muscle definition (see Image 70).

The reason a copy layer is so important is that, after you're done dodging and burning, you may take a look and realize that you did a little too much here and there. You can easily remedy this by using the Eraser tool on the top layer. By altering the Opacity to adjust the intensity of any of the dodging and burning effects you have just done, you can get things just right.

Image 70Image 70 After burning and dodging the leg muscles.

A few last things are bothering me. First is the dip at the top of the right thigh.

Grab a piece of the upper thigh, feather by 2, and create a new layer from the selection. Free transform the selection by pulling up and out on its upper-right corner. You need to rotate the selection a little counterclockwise to make it match up. For final cleanup, touch up the edge of your selection with a soft brush.

Image 71Image 71 Transforming the shape of the back of the thigh.

The left side of the waist needs some work; I don't think it curves in quite enough. I will again grab a chunk of the waist and use the Shear tool as seen in Image 72.

Image 72Image 72 Shearing the right side of the waistline.

You can grab the bar at different points to make just the right curve and narrow her waist a bit. Again there should be minimal cleanup after this step.

Image 73Image 73 Before and after of the fantasy retouch.

As you can see from image 73, all of these small changes make a big difference in the overall shape of the body.

The secret behind what I refer to as fantasy retouching is the "painterly" approach to the retouching itself, using long brush strokes with the Clone Stamp tool. Because we are retouching on a Caucasian model, we also can use the Green channel to our benefit when working.

Overall, the important thing to remember is that you will be blending tones while doing large, flowing strokes. As opposed to reality retouching, where you want to leave detail in the image, with fantasy retouching you are obliterating the detail and going for smooth and "yummy" skin that looks like it would be incredibly sleek and soft to the touch.

This chapter provides one more image from start to finish to give you another example of the fantasy retouching style.


Quite a lot has actually gone into this image. This section covers the major steps so that you can get an idea of the workflow and the order in which things were done. In this part, I also include information on how I created her surroundings—even though this information goes beyond the "retouching" focus of this chapter.

Image 74Image 74 Completed "L'amour" shot.

Image 75Image 75 Before the retouching.

Star Curtain

I began by putting the stars into the background. In preparation for this, I took a shot of the set before we began shooting the model.

Using the Marquee, select a group of stars from the shot of the background and copy them. Then, in your main image, use the Magic Wand to select the background area where you'll be inserting the extra stars. Use the Paste Into command (Shift+Ctrl+V) to paste the copied stars into the background area you have selected. Finally, free transform what you've inserted so that the stars follow the pattern of their preexisting neighbors.

Repeat the star copying and pasting all the way across until you have created a curtain along the back (see Image 78). I like to create a layer set (Layer > New > Layer Set) for these parts just because it's easier to work with a file when things are organized as much as possible (see Image 79). This will complete your background for the moment.

Image 76Image 76 Selection of stars to copy

Image 77Image 77 Selection of background area to paste into.

Image 78Image 78 Two steps showing the pasting and transforming of stars in the background

Image 79Image 79 Separate folder for background layers.


On every job I do, I always photograph the set alone. Even if it's just a gray backdrop I shoot a picture of it. I do this because I never know when I'll need to extend something. Suppose, for instance, that someone needs a billboard and needs a lot more background to the right or left. With the set shot alone, I can create extra space more easily without having to get rid of the subject first.


Now it's time to begin retouching. Begin as you did at the start of this chapter, by opening two views: your normal window, which shows the full-color image; and a Green channel window, which shows only the grayscale view of the image's Green channel (see Image 80). Your Channels palette should look like Image 81.

Image 80Image 80 Using a view of the Green channel to retouch.

Image 81Image 81 The Channels palette with the Green channel on.

Image 82Image 82 During the blending process using in the Green channel.

Image 82 shows the retouching in progress. Really work on creating even blends from tone to tone. I find that if I click and drag in medium strokes, I can create a beautiful and flawless skin tone. The shadows and highlights can also be worked with at this stage to create more definition in the face. To see the actual work you've done, view the retouching layer in isolation. This will give you a look at the areas you've retouched and make it easier to see whether you may have missed something.

Image 83Image 83 The retouching layer viewed in isolation.

After you have retouched the model's skin. The next thing to do is fix the eye makeup. Notice, on the right eye, the prominence of the pearlescent highlight of the eye shadow. I want to make the left eye just as pearly and shiny.

Image 84Image 84 Selection of the eye shadow.

To copy the highlight area from the right eye, make a selection using the Lasso and feather the selection by about 10 (see Image 84). Copy the selection into a new layer, and then flip it horizontally and move it over the brow bone of the left eye. Adjust the pasted eye shadow using the Free Transform command to fit it into its new space.

Image 85Image 85 Pasting and transforming the eye shadow.

By turning on and off the layer you just created, you can check your work, and hopefully see that the result is much more even than the original.

Image 86Image 86 Before and after duplicating the eye shadow.

Now it's time to do some dental work. Begin by smoothing the teeth and blending the highlights using the Clone Stamp tool. Then select the leftmost tooth and create a new layer from your selection.

Move and transform the pasted tooth to fit into the empty space on the right side. Use the Levels command, moving the middle slider to the right, to bring down the overall brightness of the tooth (see Image 88). Go back in with your Clone Stamp to touch up the shape for a more uniform look (see Image 89).

Image 87Image 87 Selection of the left tooth for copying and pasting.

Image 88Image 88 Using the Levels command to darken the tooth.

Image 89Image 89 After pasting and transforming to create a new tooth on the right.

One other thing that makes the teeth look less straight is that the big white highlight is only on the right tooth. If you copy, paste and blend that highlight on the left tooth as well; this makes the teeth appear more even (see Image 90).

Image 91 shows the current state of the Layers palette at this point.

Image 90Image 90 Before and after pasting and blending the highlights on the teeth.

Image 91Image 91 Snapshot of the Layers palette at this point.

As a final step, before working on the image as a whole, lighten the eyebrows a bit.

Image 92Image 92 The selection for lightening the eyebrows.

Image 93Image 93 Using the Selective Color options to lighten the eyebrows.

First select the eyebrows and feather them by 5. Then use an adjustment layer for Selective Color to go in and lighten the blacks. This way you leave the light and midtone areas untouched and simply adjust the dark parts of the brow to be a bit lighter.

As you can see from Image 94, the eyebrow adjustment is subtle but just softens her noticeably.

Image 94Image 94 Before and after lightening the eyebrows.

Final Enhancements

For some final adjustments, work the light and shadows with the Dodge and Burn tool. These are very subtle yet very powerful tools.

Image 95Image 94 Before and after dodging and burning to change light and shadows.

It looks as if I have adjusted the whole image (see Image 94); in actuality, however, I just dodged and burned key areas. I significantly lightened the hair without changing any of the other tones. I also burned in the liner around her eyes, her lipstick, and under her chin, but the eyebrows remain light. I love this tool. It can really transform an image because it's like painting with light.

Warped Surroundings

The warped surroundings are all that's left to be created to finish off the image. First make a selection around the model, feather it by 50, and then create a new layer from your selection.

Image 95Image 95 A layer without the model.

The result should be a layer that looks something like Image 95. Next, I used a KPT5 filter called Radwarp, from Corel (see Image 96). This filter does a great job of warping images—something that would take many different native Photoshop filters to create.

You can see my settings in Image 96. I play with this until I have the feel I'm looking for.

You should get a layer that looks something like Image 97.

Image 96Image 96 Using the KPT5 Radwarp filter.

Image 97Image 97 After the warp.

Notice how the warped image no longer covers the entire area; warping it has made it smaller. You need to transform it and stretch it to fit the entire area again. At this point, your image should look like something along the lines of Image 98.

Image 98Image 98 The original layer under the warped layer.

Okay, now what? Well, you need to combine the two backgrounds into one. The easiest way to do that is to lower the Opacity of the new warped layer to see where you need to blend and erase to make it work with the original background.

Image 99Image 99 Lowering the Opacity to see the layer underneath.

This gives you some idea of what needs to be done. You need to erase the layer where it overlaps the model, as well as in other key areas, such as the pink fur, that you may want to retain from the original.

To get back the original background, carefully erase between the star curtains to reveal the original pink fur. This is a time-consuming part; it takes patience, and you may have to go back if you make a mistake. Make sure during this process that you keep putting the Opacity back to 100% so that you can see how the blending and erasing are looking in the final composite (see Image 100).

Image 100Image 100 Erasing the warped layer.

After you have done this, you should end up with something like Image 101.

Image 101Image 101 After uncovering the background layer.

My final step is to flatten the image and add a little bit of blur. Everything is a little too sharp, and I think adding blur will give it a more dreamy quality. Open the History palette (Window > History) and make a new snapshot on the History palette by selecting New Snapshot from the History palette's drop-down menu. Name the snapshot Final. Then run the Blur filter—I used KPT5 Blurrr filter, and chose the Gaussian Weave setting because it gives that small crosshatch effect I was looking for (see Image 102).

Image 102Image 102 Using the KTP5 Blurrr filter.

Image 103Image 103 The History palette, showing snapshots used for the History Brush.

Make another new snapshot on the History palette and name it Blur. Then use the Step Backward menu command to step back one step in your History palette. Click in the box to the left of your Blur snapshot to activate it as the source for the History Brush (see Image 103), and choose the History Brush from your Tool palette.

Now you can begin to paint with the blurred image, adding blur into the image according to your individual taste. By varying the brush Size, Hardness, and Opacity of the History Brush, you can vary the amount and intensity of blur that gets added in. This is very much a thing of individual taste, so it's up to you where to use it and with how much intensity.

Image 104 shows the final image. I hope that breaking this down has given you an idea how to achieve something like this in your own work. Arriving at this image has definitely required a lot of steps, but the end result doesn't "look" like it.

Image 104Image 104 Final image.

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