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I'm very excited to share my strategies and experiences in commercial retouching with you. What you can expect from by blog are articles about the methods, techniques, and business subjects that we care about as professional commercial retouchers.

And just to say thanks I've put together a couple retouching tips that are really useful, plus a bonus Photoshop Action.

2 Simple yet powerful tips:

  1. Visualizers + Action Download
  2. Open Composite Data


Download this Action pack here.

Also called Solar Curves, these are Curves that you place over an image to see imperfections that you can’t normally see. Remember how the Predator switches to infra-red mode to track his prey? Works exactly like that. No shit.


What are they?

These are curves with 4, 6, 8 or more points added in a sine wave-like pattern. This just really wacks out the pixel information in a way that reveals subtle changes in tone and color by amplifying everything. When to use each one is up to you, I run through them to find which one is best for each situation.

I also find it useful to turn on a Black & White adjustment layer to eliminate the distraction of viewing the image in crazy colors. You may choose to keep it off.

See the examples below. Most people just create the sine shape on the composite RGB curve, I’ve included one that works on each channel individually which gets useful results.

4 point:


8 point:


4 point multi:


How to use them.

I just pop these curves on top of my pixel layer stack, then I start cleaning. Just keep them on and clone or heal on a new pixel layer beneath the visualizers. Set your brushes to sample Current and Below.

Notice how a seemingly clean product shot...


…has a ton of choss hiding in very narrow tonal ranges:


Here’s the same shot with a different one of the visualizers on it. Notice how it reveals different tonal areas:


These tools don’t actually do anything in the end, they just help you see imperfections that are normally hard to catch. I find them useful in a lot of situations:

  • Product cleanup
  • Skin cleaning/smoothing
  • Finding rough mask edges
  • Checking bad cloning
  • Cleaning seamless backgrounds
  • Checking and smoothing gradient banding

You can make these Visualizers yourself or save your sanity and just install my Action pack



Each Visualizer is in it’s own Action to run individually, but if you want to just run all of them (like I normally do) click on Run the pack. This also brings up the Black & White adjustment layer underneath, turn that on or off as needed.

Pro tip: Use these in conjunction with Frequency Separation for a bulletproof cleanup workflow.



Open Composite Data

I'm excited to share with you the ridiculously simple yet much beloved Open Composite Data. This is just a keystroke - an incredibly powerful keystroke - that allows a lucky Retoucher to open a layered file as a flat, single layer image without the time it takes to open the full layered file.

Oh yeah.


For some this may seem trivial, but if you’ve ever worked on a big campaign with multiple 6 Gb + images on a crappy iMac, you’ll know why I love this so.

1. Navigate to your file (or files) in Finder/Explorer, select the file(s)

2. Hold down Ctrl + Shift + Cmd, drag the file(s) onto the Photoshop Icon in the Dock and let go of the mouse

3. Continue holding Ctrl +Shift + Cmd, click YES when the dialogue pops up

If you’re dragging multiple files in, be sure to continue to hold the keys down until all files have opened, simply hitting return as the dialogue pops up. If you let go of the keys the files will revert to opening as layered.

Warning: Photoshop still thinks these flattened versions of your files are the same files. It does not append copy or anything like that. Warning: If you hit Save you will overwrite your layered files with flat versions. I know because I’ve done this :)

I hope you find these techniques useful!

-Sef McCullough