Photo Retouching

Retouching sample (before)

Retouching is a technical term that refers to the process of editing an image, usually by computer. This can include anything from removing specks and blemishes, fixing damage, adjusting colours, merging images, or total edits. See some examples of my retouching plus a simple tutorial.

Aaltje Ottignon photo

Retouch sample 2 - Aaltje Ottignon photo (before) Retouch sample 2 - Aaltje Ottignon photo (after)

This was one of the first photos on which I performed extensive retouching. My previous experience had been to remove the odd speck of dust or minor scratch, but never on such a scale.

Aaltje Fieggen photo

Retouch sample 3 - Aaltje Fieggen photo (before) Retouch sample 3 - Aaltje Fieggen photo (after)

When I received this photo via e-mail it was in very poor condition, covered in dark spots and blotches. By the time I had finished with it, the extensive retouching had also improved my skills extensively.

Theo Thijssen photo

Retouch sample 4 - Theo Thijssen photo (before) Retouch sample 4 - Theo Thijssen photo (after)

This image contained ghosting from an underlying page, and was comprised of dots rather than continuous shades, making the editing process more difficult. I also added extra to the shoulders to match the square format of other family portraits.

Shoe lacing photo

Retouch sample 5 - Shoe lacing photo (before) Retouch sample 5 - Shoe lacing photo (after)

This photo started out dark and reddish overall, with the flash creating a purple highlight towards the middle. Some tweaking to brightness and color balance gave this photo a more natural look.

Diamond ring photo

Retouch sample 6 - Diamond ring photo (before) Retouch sample 6 - Diamond ring photo (after)

A raw photo of a diamond ring often looks "lifeless". This whole ring was lightened, dust specks were removed, the gold was made less pink, the diamonds were brightened and whitened, then a couple of sparkles added the finishing touch.

Basic Retouching Tutorial

When it comes to photo retouching, good image editing software is essential. Most professionals traditionally used powerful (and expensive) programs like Adobe Photoshop. Today, there are free alternatives like GIMP with functionality approaching that of Photoshop.

In this basic retouching tutorial, I'll demonstrate how to achieve surprisingly good results using nothing more than the Paint program that comes free with Windows!

NOTE: This tutorial was written many years ago using the version of Paint that came with Windows XP. The current versions of Paint will undoubtedly look different – but the concepts remain the same.

Step 1 Retouching tutorial, step 1

Run Windows Paint (usually in the "Accessories") and open your damaged file (eg. "Damaged.tif").

Step 2 Retouching tutorial, step 2

Click on the "Free-Form Select" tool in the top-left corner of the toolbar (the button with the rough star). This tool allows you to select a part of the image.

In order to make the selection process easier, zoom in on the image by choosing:


(or press the shortcut key: [Ctrl]-[Page-Down]).

Step 3 Retouching tutorial, step 3

Draw an outline around an undamaged area of the image by clicking and holding the mouse button while moving the mouse to trace the outline. The undamaged area should be close by and as near as possible in color and shading to the damaged area you are trying to repair.

In this example, my selection is aimed at fixing the large diagonal scratch.

Step 4 Retouching tutorial, step 4

At this point, you could use the familiar Windows sequences of COPY and PASTE to make a copy of the outlined area, but there's a much quicker shortcut!

If you simply hold down the [Ctrl] key, then click-and-hold inside the outline you have drawn, a copy can be dragged to a new position. Having positioned that copy over the damaged area, let go of the mouse button.

Step 4 Retouching tutorial, step 5

Here's the finished result after fixing part of the scratch. With practice, you'll find that you can simply hold down the [Ctrl] key continuously, draw outlines and drag them over the top of damaged areas to very quickly clean up the image. The main skill is in choosing the best area/direction to copy from.

Good luck!

Retouching Tutorial Summary

Again, this basic tutorial was not intended as a substitute for powerful image editing software! It was merely an example of photo retouching in its most basic form.

"Never underestimate what a simple person can do with clever tools, nor what a clever person can do with simple tools."

– Ian Fieggen

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