advanced photoshop

Professional Retouching Tips and Techniques Part 1

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Anna-lisa Saywell

Brazil-based retoucher Victor Wagner reveals the Photoshop tools, tips and techniques for professional fashion, beauty and commercial images

Professional Retouching Tips and Techniques Part 1
What are the Photoshop tools you prefer to use in your beauty retouching work? Why do you like to use these tools?

There are 3 basic tools I use in my general retouching: the Clone Stamp tool, Healing Brush and the Brush tool. The Clone Stamp and healing tools are used to copy areas where the skin is clean to then use to cover some ‘dirty’ areas, and the Brush tool is used on a lot of different adjustment layers – basically it’s the one we use all the time.

What details are important to enhance, and which are important to soften or tone down when working in beauty retouching? Are there certain areas that it’s important not to overwork?

In beauty retouch it’s very important to enhance the objective of the photo. This could be the liptstick, eye shadow, eyelashes, hair, or nails, for example. We do still have to remember to work on every part of the image at the same time. However, if you’re dealing with a natural beauty image you have to pay attention to whether there is an overworked area and vice versa.

Professional Retouching Tips and Techniques Part 1
On average, how many layers do you work with on a single PSD file when retouching? How do you organise and work with these different layers?

Organization is the key to a perfect workflow. Make sure you clearly organize each layer, group by group, step by step. It makes everything easier to find and to fix; and the progress of the work also becomes very easy and clear to another viewer. It’s hard to say exactly how many layers I usually create as each image needs a different process, but I can say that on average I use 5 layers, though there are cases where I’ve used 40 layers if there is a need to do some manipulation or use other images as references.

What advice would you give to retouchers just starting out in the industry? What core skills must they have/develop?

We all face challenges everyday, especially those of us who are young professionals. A lot of clients are always looking for very experienced people, with a wide background and impressive portfolio. It’s really hard sometimes when you receive a lot of declines and no replies, but there are always people looking for brand new retouchers in the industry because they sometimes would rather ‘polish’ a new retoucher than search for one that fits into their particular working style.

Professional Retouching Tips and Techniques Part 1

My Top 5 beauty retouching tips


1. Be organised. Separate everything using layers and groups – it helps your workflow if you need to go back or hide some steps.

2. Look into your client’s portfolio and talk to him/her beforehand to know more about their tastes and style. It helps to avoid re-doing all your work later.

3. Look at a lot of fashion magazines/make-up books, learn by viewing other artists’ works, and get some references. All this can improve your vision as a retoucher.

Professional Retouching Tips and Techniques Part 1
4. Zoom in and zoom out frequently. When working on a super zoom you need to see how the picture looks in general, and when you are working on a zoomed out view to make big changes, you should also keep looking to see the small details. This makes a big difference.

5. Be careful with colour toning and saturating/desaturating the images. Before working on the colours, you need to figure out what the focus of the image is, and not distract the viewer from that principal objective. For example, super saturate an image where the important element is a strong red lipstick, so all the colours of the image will be strong and result in a piece that is distractingly vibrant. Be sure to calibrate your monitor correctly, so the colours will be as close to the final prints as possible.

Professional Retouching Tips and Techniques Part 1
See more of of Wagner’s work at,,, or and don’t miss Part 2, where Wagner will take us through a tutorial on his techniques for dealing with blemishes and creating the perfect final finish