Top 10 Retouching Best Practices, creativeLIVE

Top 10 Retouching Best Practices by Lindsay Adler

To kick off my creativeLIVE on Retouching and Creative Photoshop Effects, I thought I'd start with my Top 10 Best Practice for Retouching. Take a look before or during my class, and if you haven't signed up you can still enroll for free now! (Oct 30-Nov 1)


Top 10 Retouching Best Practices: 

-       Global Adjustments First: Before you begin your retouch, you must first get your overall exposure, contrast and color correct. Changes in exposure and color will effect what you need to retouch. These changes can be made in Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom and also in Photoshop.

-       Be non-destructive: Always try to work on layers and use layer masks. This will allow you to easily view your progress and go back a few steps without destroying your image.  By working with layers, you also have the ability to back off the intensity of your retouch.

-       Manage file sizes: Don’t just duplicate your layer for every change you make. Layer masks help keep file sizes down. For liquify, make selection of area to be adjusted and only duplicate that area.

-       Keep Organized: When working with extremely complex files, consider naming your layers and even grouping layers by category. This will save you time as you make adjustments and tweak your retouch.

-       Save Yourself Time: Create tools presets for commonly used brush settings and actions for commonly used patterns of keystrokes.

-       Get Help: Get a second opinion on your retouch so you aren’t the only eye’s viewing the final product. This will help you monitor unnoticed problem areas and also help you tell when your retouch has gone too far.

-       Retouch at 100%: When you are retouching for print and images that may be viewed large, retouch at 100% zoom. Periodically zoom in and out to see how that retouch looks at various viewing sizes.

-       Brush size: When cloning, use smaller brushes sizes. This way if there are some repeated patterns it is less noticeable. When using liquify, use a larger brushes so you don’t create ‘waves’ or uneven areas in the body and skin.

-       Rest and Relaxation: Don’t retouch for more than one consecutive hour without getting up from the computer. It is bad for your eyes to retouch so long without a break, and also you will have a clearer view of what changes need to be made when you take periodic breaks.

-       Know the end use of your image: The end use of your image will make a difference to the amount of retouching and time you spend. A beauty image will have different changes than a portrait, and an image being printed 8ft tall will require different retouching than a web-only image. As a working professional you must be mindful of end use and use of your time.


I hope some of these are helpful! I'm absolutely exhausted after a great week at Photo Plus and preparing for creativeLIVE... so sorry I couldn't put a bit more excitement into the post. Either way, hope it is useful. Keep your eyes open for a few new editorials I created recently... I will be introducing them next week!




There are a few links that I mention in my class for useful brushes to download for free!

Eyelash brush download


  • Dear Lindsay,

    Thx for all your amazing work and for sharing your knowledge with us. I will attend today’ s Creative Live event for sure.


  • Lindsay, these tips are amazing! I’m eagerly waiting for your CL class to air in a few minutes. Good luck 🙂

  • Great tips, and I love that the same ideas apply to other types of photography as well! DO you flatten the layers, or merge them as part of your workflow?


  • I watched you on Creative Live today and just finished editing some senior portraits with what I learned. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and I look foward to the next 2 days!!

  • Buddy Burke

    thank you for the great work shop at creative live …. i bought the course and like to know can you shoot like that in a 8 foot ceiling with a beauity dish …and like to know what teaxture should i buy packnumber 1 or 2
    thank you

  • Lindsay: I loved your Creative Live presentation. There were great tips and wonderful techniques and you didn’t just say “click this” but gave the reasons for why you take a particular approach. I have been watching portions of it over and over again all weekend long and I glean more ideas each time I look at a section of your three day marathon. Thanks to you and to Creative Live your knowledge will help so many of us avoid plasticized people and instead, keep it real. Thanks!

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