How would you "PhotoShop" this?
September 5, 2007 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Challenge/Question for PhotoShop Gurus: Here is a before (raw) and after (retouched) publicity photo for the film King Arthur. Take the 1st photo, retouch it into something close to the 2nd, and tell us how you did it (or how you would do it, if you don't have time.) I'm particularly interested in the intense vibrance of the colors of her hair, skin, clothes, cape and bow.
posted by Shane to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Using IrfanView and concentrating on the girl I got close by reducing brightness by 37, gamma correct 0.85, saturation 200, and increasing red by 10.

The trouble is a lot of that work is custom. Her breasts have several details visible that isn't on the original (beyond the size alone), the backside of her hair, to the right of the bow, is completely different, the arrows and red sky are new, and I think they did a faded reduction in brightness that touched the bottom more than the top. So it's hard to tell how much of this is actually an artist painting it up from scratch and how much is filters and such.
posted by jwells at 12:50 PM on September 5, 2007

Honestly, saturation +60 in Photoshop gets you 90% there on the skin tones and such.
posted by smackfu at 12:56 PM on September 5, 2007

A lot of this is a technique known as "painting with light", where a neutral gray layer is applied in Overlay blend mode, and shadows or highlights are enhanced using a low-opacity brush: black for shadows and white for highlights.

The overall golden glow is some kind of colour filter or colour balance adjustment.

The saturation of the colour is most likely just that: an increase in saturation, possibly in LAB mode by increasing steepness of A and B channel curves.

There's a big increase in contrast too (areas of the forehead and chest are "blown out" or overexposed), which can increase colour saturation.

Other obvious retouches: addition of billowing cape, replacement of background, bust size made bigger, eyes and lips made bigger. Just the usual stuff that gets done to females these days.
posted by TiredStarling at 12:59 PM on September 5, 2007 [6 favorites]

I've worked on movie posters before and the source files for this kind of retouch. There are literally hundreds of layers addressing every single detail when working on something like this. Sometimes you work on separate photos with tons of layers then merge those photos into another multi-layered file.

Do some research into the work of Jim Fiscus ( He does extremely complicated setups and retouches. If you're a beginning Photoshop user, it can take years to learn this kind of retouch. All I can say is that its labor intensive and you won't find a quick step-by-step solution here.

And all work like this is done in Photoshop, period.
posted by paulinsanjuan at 1:09 PM on September 5, 2007

This tutorial might help.
posted by divabat at 1:34 PM on September 5, 2007

To deal with the shapes and the outlines (by which I mean specific "enhancements"), I would use a mix of the cloning tool (set to 90% opacity, size of 3-5 px, 50% hardness) and the smear tool (which would be set to about 80% flow).

First I would create a layer to draw the approximate destinate shape I'm going for, then I'd use the smear tool to drag out the edges I want. You can set the brush to be somewhat large (say, 30-40 px) for areas where you want to move a chunk of an edge out.

Next, I'd use the cloning tool to recreate any patterns, and to fill in the choppy edges. You can typically find the right angles with more or less the same shading and color somewhere else on the image.

Finally, I would fix the shading and colors. The paintbrush is my primary tool here. Use the "Color" mode to adjust any hue inconsistencies. I like the "Overlay" mode here too.

Just so you know, everyone's methods differ; however, I find that the final step works best when I have the opacity and flow set fairly low, and I rely on incrementally small changes.

As an addendum to smackfu's response, I'd add a Hue/Saturation or Levels layer so that I can turn it on and off easily. The "painting with light" technique mentioned is useful afterwards.
posted by spiderskull at 3:08 PM on September 5, 2007


I often do that too, but I imagine that most of these modifications to the shape/outline have their foundation in the Liquify filter. (GIS examples). It's most notorious for those wildly distorted cute animal face images, because they're obvious, as when used subtly, it's all but invisible.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:12 PM on September 5, 2007

Exactly what he said. And honestly, unless you're paying me to do this for you I don't have the time.

It's really tricky... some people have given some good advice, but the thing about Photoshop is that there are a million ways to do the job. Each image you retouch is a whole new animal with its own challenges, and things you thought might work sometimes don't and you have to experiment until you get the right look. Not to mention, that as with any art form everyone has their own personal styles. In a room filled with 15 people retouching key art, you'll find that some people love the extract tool, some people have never heard of it. Some people use a subtle blurred overlay layer to clean up complexions. Others don't. There is no ONE right technique & most of the learning is done on the fly.

So my advice to you if you are trying to do this kind of work is never stop experimenting. Listen to tips, but be prepared for them to not work and to have to try other ideas. It's just very hard to tell you one particular way to do this kind of a job, especially when (as in that image) there are hundreds of different layers composed together to revise it. Much of it is trial and error every day when you're doing it. Never stops.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:02 PM on September 5, 2007

One thing I will tell you, I love using selective color to punch everything up. That's my shtick.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:03 PM on September 5, 2007

Oh yeah, another thing... for $99 you can join the National Association of Photoshop Professionals and they have ALL sorts of free tutorials and forums there. I've gotten many of my best tips from that.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:09 PM on September 5, 2007

By the way, after reading my comment I must say I didn't mean to sound so snotty! Fact is, it's 8pm and I'm still sitting here retouching junk that's taken me daaaayyyyys to do. Definitely didn't mean to project my crankiness, though! Deepest apologies.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:54 PM on September 5, 2007

It's unlikely that first example is "raw," btw. I worked in entertainment advertising for ten years, and no sane marketing exec or publicist would allow an unretouched photo to get released. Even (especially) when the actress in question is as lovely as Keira.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:32 PM on September 5, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers, folks. The tips on saturation and such are usable for me, and I figured we'd also get a few more professional, complicated explanations that are really interesting.

I'd mark a Best Answer but they're all great. sane marketing exec or publicist would allow an unretouched photo to get released.

roger, thanks for that insight into the entertainment biz. I'd always suspected as much, and it's a good LOL!
posted by Shane at 8:40 AM on September 6, 2007

Response by poster: Also, thanks for the tips on enhancing colors with low-opacity color overlays (or "glazes," as I think of them from some faux-finish painting experience.) I've been meaning to play with this idea.
posted by Shane at 8:45 AM on September 6, 2007

« Older What to do w/ 600ft of rope?   |   Scandalous Women? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.