When it comes to retouching a photo in Photoshop, just about anything is possible. When faced with unlimited options and possibilities, even a seasoned retoucher may struggle to find the most efficient path to finishing the project. That's why it's important to step back and consider the retouching process before exploring the tools and techniques that make it possible.

What Is Retouching?

When most people hear the word retouching, they usually think about portrait retouching. It's no wonder. In the days before digital, when photographers were shooting film, the things that could be done in post-production were quite limited. A film workflow had two basic types of retouching: film retouching (mostly negatives) and print retouching.

Film retouching was done with dyes applied to the negative, and print retouching was done with pencils, dyes, and sprays applied to the print.

Print retouching was often necessary after film retouching because of the limited abilities of the film retouching. Any other limited tonal and color manipulation took place in the darkroom and was considered enhancement or correction, not retouching.

Today, the term retouching has taken on a whole new meaning because so many things are possible using only a handful of tools. A wrinkle can be smoothed out, or a complete head can be swapped between images. Now retouching is defined ...

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