Commercial Retouching, Efficiency & Productivity, Fundamentals

The Importance of Layer Organization in Product Retouching – Part II

This is the second part of the article by our guest Australian Commercial Digital Retoucher Peter Worthington.
Part I: The Importance of Layer Organization in Commercial Retouching – Part I.


Previously, I mentioned how to select all of the images you require in Adobe Bridge or Adobe Lightroom and create a layered file that contains all of the photographer’s capture files that you need to complete your work. This puts you in a good position to proceed to step two in getting your work file in order…

Naming, Moving & Grouping Layers

In this next stage, you will be naming, moving and grouping your layers.

Naming is an integral part of your organization when your document has many layers. Even if the photographer has not named his image files, you should go in and rename the layers so you know the exact purpose for each. Start with the hero, or main image, that has been indicated by your client or photographer.

This is the foundation for your work. Drag it to the bottom of your layer stack so that in essence, it becomes the background. Then duplicate the “hero” capture and rename this copy to “BASE”or whatever helps you recognize it as your foundation.

Now you should have your “Base” layer sitting just above your background and above that, all of the other elements that the photographer has given you to make your final composite image.

I always like to have a background layer that is never retouched or altered in any way.

The easiest way to progress from here is to simply start building your work from the ground up.

Think of it like building a house: you can’t start with the roof. Or, in Photoshop terms, you can’t start with your colour grades or individual elements etc. Select the “BASE” layer and all of the other image files/layers sitting above it and group them in a folder named something like “RETOUCHING” and then assign this folder a colour. I’ve always used the same colour for my specific folders throughout any of my jobs, for the sake of consistency.

The “RETOUCHING” folder is where you will do all of your construction work and get all of the parts that a photographer has shot for individual elements placed in your composite, essentially building the walls of your “house”.

The image below shows you what the layers panel will now look like.

Peter Worthington for Retouching Academy: The Importance of Layer Organization in Product Retouching. Part II

Whatever the client or photographer has requested in the retouching brief will most likely dictate how many different image files/layers you have been sent. With product photography, it is not uncommon to have a large quantity of files for things like:

  • exposures/lighting for left side/right side,
  • fill light for a lid,
  • fill light for a product label,
  • backlight,
  • flat light,
  • reflection, etc.

Make Paths Around All Key Elements

The next step, now that you have your grouped files all in a “RETOUCHING” folder, is to turn off that folder, so you can only see your background layer. Then, make a path around every possible element — path lids, bottles, reflections, anything that you think you might need to isolate at a later time to edit.

If there are multiple products on your page, make sure you have a path around each one. This might sound like a waste of time, but spending an extra 20 or 30 minutes at this stage could save you significantly more time later if your client decides at the last minute they would like to move an object 2mm to the right, or straighten a lid slightly in a product bottle.

Once you’ve made paths around everything, you are in a position to start isolating your layers into groups so you can access your layers with ease!

See you in Part III!
The Importance of Layer Organization in Product Retouching – Part III


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One thought on “The Importance of Layer Organization in Product Retouching – Part II

  1. Andrey says:

    I didn’t realize this fing: “Since my layers are already in my masked “BEER” subfolder, I know that when I brush in these elements, they will stay within the bounds of the subfolder mask.”

    Don’t you have to add a mask to each layer in the subfolder? What means “brush in”? We already have a mask attached to the group of layers.

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