Create New Proofs for Each Set of Corrections

As each set of corrections is made, I output a new proof and recheck for previous corrections and, if necessary, make new ones. I have seen instances when an image has been sent through for over a dozen changes, each time the client finds something new to change. And while this is a great way to make extra money on the job, it can get rather frustrating for the retoucher and everyone else involved. Keep a cool head.

Some clients still prefer to have high-end proofs output. The belief is that they are more accurate and stable in color than lower-end inkjets proofs and more accurately represent what will happen on a printing press. This is basically true; however, there's a catch: the costs of the high-end proofs are much greater than a lower-end proofs from ink jets. High-end proofs are typically output on large, expensive machines that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Materials are proprietary to those machines and also expensive.

Other clients, in an effort to save a few dollars, are prepared to accept a lower-end proof, perhaps with one that you have set up yourself. If you think you may want to set yourself up with a proofing system and don't have the space or the hundred thousand plus dollars to implement a high-end proofing system, this may be the way to go. Just make sure that you set yourself up properly. I have seen many clients supply gorgeous-looking outputs from ink jet printers, only to find that such colors cannot be matched on a high-end output. Why? Because the color gamut on the inkjet system in no way relates to the real-world press condition. Uncalibrated, poorly implemented desktop ink jet printers make images look too good with their vibrant inks. Hence the expectations of clients are dashed when the reality of the printing press comes into play.

Know the Deadlines

Retouchers typically have to work under tight deadlines; images are expected to be completed in hours, not days. Ad insertion dates for magazines and newspapers are expected to be met. A missed insertion date can cost thousands of dollars and can be charged back to either the film house or the ad agency serving the client. You have to be able to work well under pressure and produce timely results. In the following tutorials, I'll discuss techniques I use to produce quality work in the short periods of time.

Many publications acceptin fact, many only acceptfinal electronic files that are generated directly onto the printing plates. This eliminates the need to have film produced to create or burn the printing plates. This obviously saves a lot of material, time, and money. Some pre-press houses will have a direct-to-plate machine and stock many of the popular plates for various printing presses.

Here's a tip: as the required retouching for an image is being explained to me, I begin to form a mental picture of the final result before I start any retouching. I will think of all the subtle changes that will have to be made. Most often, I have completed the image in my head before the work even gets started. I won't let myself get bogged down with all the technical aspects of the job, as this tends to hamper the creative process. I'll never mention to a client that something isn't possible because it will go over spec; clients just don't want to hear that. I'll massage the technical aspects into the image at the end of the job.

Art directors seem to come in two different flavors: those who know exactly what they are looking for and those who have no idea. The ones that do typically have been in the business for a long time and are sure of the changes and corrections they wish to make. This can make your job much easier as a retoucher, because you know exactly what it is you have to do. The art directors that don't really know what they are looking for tend to waffle and have you go in circles. They tend to be newer to the business and lack experience. In either case, you have to be prepared for anything they may throw at you.

Present the Final Image to the Client

Once an image has been retouched and the art director is happy with it, the image is then presented to the creative director or client. The creative director is the person who oversees the entire ad concept and makes sure it conveys the correct message.

At this point, the image may come back to me for further alterations. Otherwise, the image is then presented to the final client. Two obvious things can happen at that point: the client either loves it or hates it. I have had situations when there is a total change to the image and direction of the ad, and it must be recreated from scratch. In other cases, there are minor changes or none at all. It is typical to get an approval on the image within a couple of rounds.

If the image is approved, it will be passed on for further processing. This usually means mating the image(s) with the page layout file, and from there, it is either sent for final film or, most often, it is sent electronically to the correct publication house.

Regardless of the version of Photoshop or the computer platform you are using (unless it is really old!), the techniques described in this tutorial rely on basic tools to complete the tasks described. I have found that with each update of Photoshop, I will typically try the new functions, but often I end up relying on the more basic tools to perform my corrections. In other words, the program version number isn't a big issue with me, it's what I do with the tools that matters.