Tools of the Trade


Portrait Retouching Basics


Lesson Info

Tools of the Trade

If you don't have the right equipment, or if you're not looking at the colors accurately, it can become a problem. It can hinder your results. And in fact, I remember when I first started retouching, I used to have a really cheap monitor and I didn't know about monitors. And so what happened was, my very first year or two, I was working on this really cheap Samsung $200 panel, not to say that all Samsungs are cheap. But I'm just saying the cheap versions. And I had a portfolio ready, and I didn't know why I wasn't getting work or as much work as I wanted. And I remember going to an Apple store one day, and looking at my website and it looked awful. It just looked atrocious cause it wasn't calibrated. My monitor at home wasn't calibrated. It wasn't a good IPS panel display. And I didn't know much about them. I thought, well maybe contrast ratio matters, and brightness matters and all these marketing verbage that manufacturers will put out there. It really got me, and I didn't know what ...

to look for. So it took a long time to realize that what I was looking at wasn't to par as what I should be seeing. And especially with monitors, because you spend so much on gear, that the last thing that you want as a bottleneck is your monitor and what you're seeing as a display. Because if you're not looking at the colors as accurate as possible, then you're not showing the full representation of what your cameras are capturing. So let's get into that first. And I made a little slide show here of a few tabs that I want to mention. And first is going to be ... Let's talk about monitors. So this is the monitor that I have at home. It's the NEC 27-inch Color Accurate Display. And the actual model number is PA272W. Makes it really easy to remember, right? They make it super easy. But the most important thing to remember about this is that it has a 99.3% coverage of the Adobe RGB spectrum, which basically means you're seeing as much of the color as possible when you're working the Adobe RGB color space, which most of your files are when you're working on them in Photoshop. But more importantly is that a lot of monitors now have this range. Before, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, not all of them did. It was really hard to find them. Eizo had them, NEC had them I think, and LaCie also used to make monitors back then. They stopped making them, but this is the one that I use. Another great brand that people have been mentioning is BenQ. They make, I wouldn't say entry-level, but it's well priced for what this is. And they also have a 30-inch variety as well, but I think either 24 or 27-inch is pretty decent for what it has. The other thing that this monitor has, which is really amazing, is that when you put this together with a calibrator, like the X-rite i1, for example, and this is the one that I use. I find this to be the most accurate calibrator just because of the way it's built. The spectrometer and everything in it is quite accurate. But more importantly, when you combine that with a monitor like the NEC, what it allows you to do with specific software. And they have a proprietary software called the SpectraView. The SpectraView software, when combined with the monitor, basically allows you to take readings and it sends those numbers directly into the monitor itself. The difference is that when you work with a Apple display or anything else, for example a laptop. If you ever try to calibrate a laptop and you realize that the results are changing every time you calibrate it, it's because every time you take a reading with your calibrator, it's not sending those results into the actual display. It's sending them to the graphics card in the internals. So what that means is it's just sending numbers, and it's kind of interpreting it. It's not making exact adjustments. So with the SpectraView, which is also why this monitor is so nice, is that you can be assured that every time you make a calibration, the results are accurate. So you don't have to worry about, is this correct? Is this not correct? And so forth. Now there's a couple of things I'll mention about calibration. It's the fact that there's certain settings that I have with calibration. And I get asked this all the time. What's your white balance, and what's your brightness? Now when you get the X-Rite i1 or any other calibrator, for instance, it asks you, "What's your white balance or white point?" The white point is 6500K or D65, which is what the setting is. Now it gives you a few options. I think it's like D55, D65, but I put D cause it seems to be the most neutral and industry standard from what I've seen. In terms of brightness, I always keep it at for the web, or at least for display purposes. But typically, this can change, especially if you're doing things for print. So the other really good thing about having a good monitor is that if you are doing any fine art prints or if you are doing something where you want to make sure that your black point is accurate, having a monitor that can calibrate accurately will make sure your prints match what you're seeing on screen. I remember once I was assisting a fine art photographer. And he asked me why isn't my monitor looking like my prints? And he had a cinema display, with the Apple cinema displays. And they just couldn't come down in brightness far enough to match the deep blacks that he was seeing the prints and all the detail and the highlights. And so when he got a better monitor, he was able to calibrate it for prints specifically. And you can put specific profiles, so one profile can be for the web. One profile can be for print. So if print is, let's say 80CDM2, then for example, it makes it easy to kind of flip back and forth and see what you're looking at. Aside from the monitor and the software, combining this allows you to use them together. The other really good thing about the i1 is that not only can you use it for your home display, but you can also use it for your laptop. Now like I mentioned, it's not gonna be as accurate, but it's gonna be the best you can get for calibration goes for your laptop. The next thing that I want to mention really quickly is that, tablets. How many of you guys here use a tablet? Yeah? Perfect. How many of you don't use a tablet? How many people were too shy to raise their hands? (laughs) Yeah. So tablets is something that I think is controversial and I say that in a funny way because obviously it's not really controversial. But in the sense where a lot of artists will really harp on about, "Oh, you definitely need a tablet", and it's very true. You definitely do need a tablet. But at the same time, I understand where people are coming from when they just couldn't get used to using tablets in the beginning. I was one of those people. I spent a couple of years using a mouse just because I used to be a gamer, for those of who who probably already know. And I never really liked using tablets. I just couldn't get the hang of it. Even though I came from a drawing background, it took me a while to get used to it. But the thing was, if you are not the type of person to pick up a tablet right away and get used to it, it just takes practice. And I think when you actually practice with it for a while, you end up getting used to it. I have here a really dirty, small version of the Intuos, and you can see how much I use it. It's a lot. And this is just my travel version. This is not my home version. I like small tablets just because of the fact that you don't really have to move your hand so much when you're working. It's more of a case of, how easy is it to access every point of your screen without having to move your hand so much? Because as a retoucher, I actually work a lot through the day retouching. So what happens is, the less movements and work that I have to do to get where I'm going, the easier it is for me to work and the more comfortable it is. So I'm also pretty lazy. I don't like to move very much when I'm working. You know, I like to make sure I'm just seated and going through the motions rather than trying to have a big tablet that I'm constantly moving. So that's just a personal preference. Some people do like the large version, but for the most part, if you're new to tablets, and because this is kind of like a basic retouching course in that sense, I recommend just getting a small version. They also do have the Intuos, the non-Pro. They used to call it the Bamboos before this. They keep changing up their names, but it's the Intuos now. That's also fine. The only difference is that the pen's a little different. The grip itself isn't as comfortable to hold in my opinion. It's just a lot narrower. This one has a better grip in my opinion. It has a few different buttons but aside from that, pretty much everything else is the same. I think the technology is the same. I also turn off pressure altogether anyway when I'm working, pressure sensitivity. So it doesn't really matter from that point of view as well. So aside from that, I think they're all great tablets. These have lasted me quite a long time. They also have wireless functionality built in. So if you don't like keeping yours plugged in, you can unplug them on the road and use them on a plane or whatever it is that you want to use them at. Coffee shops. It's great.

Class Description

The idea of retouching portraits doesn’t have to be daunting. In this quick start course, Pratik Naik explores and teaches powerful and easy to follow tools that will allow you to retouch a portrait with relative ease! It will instill confidence into your new found workflow and allow you to keep people looking natural, yet refined.


Travis Ziegler

Solid class. I enjoyed this. Simple, straightforward and useful. Well done.

Bjorn Carlen

I like the fact that Naik is presenting us with a full retouching workflow, however basic it may be. This makes it a lot easier to wrap your head around as you’re learning. It’s a very short and basic class, but the calm and logical approach of Naik makes it a gold mine for someone who’s trying to make sense out of skin retouching.


Solid class, though could use some work with pacing. I really liked the part about using different layers for editing work