Commercial Retouching, Efficiency & Productivity, Fundamentals

The Importance of Layer Organization in Product Retouching – Part IV

This is the fourth 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
Part II: The Importance of Layer Organization in Product Retouching – Part II
Part III: The Importance of Layer Organization in Product Retouching – Part III

Grouping Adjustment Layers

Without proper organization, placement of colour adjustment and grading layers can quickly get out of control because of the number of additional layers involved. If you just place adjustment layers anywhere, they can affect everything underneath them, and you can quite easily get confused.

I work in two different areas when I commence grading adjustments for a job. The first of these is inside the specific subfolders, which, having already been masked for the retouching work, are easy to target without further masking.

For example, I’ll create a new subfolder inside my “BEER” group and name it “GRADE” and colour code it. Again, I always colour my grade folders the same colour throughout all of my jobs for easy reference.

I can then make as many grading adjustments as I need to the beer portion of the image without affecting the rest of the image. This helps keep everything together and easy to locate.


The second area in which I perform grading occurs in a completely new folder, above the “RETOUCHING” folder. This folder is used for overall grading of the image and generally is created toward the completion of the work once all of the compositing is finished. I simply make a folder, tag it a different colour than the “RETOUCHING” folder and call it “GRADE” or something similar.

Below is an image that gives you examples of the two different areas that would be a good place for specific grading (inside the folders) and general overall grading (above the “RETOUCHING” folder):


Up to this stage, no retouching has actually occurred, but you now have a well organized file, with everything masked, grouped, and put into folders. This might seem like a lot to do before you even start your work, but the effort becomes second nature and can save you a lot of time later.

It’s worth noting that your client may make retouching requests that completely conflict with this style of organization and that retouchers generally like to develop their own routines to help them get the work done. Sometimes objects just can’t all be grouped together and sometimes it’s just too time consuming to create paths for everything.

This structure of organizing is more helpful when you know you have a lot of elements to combine, or the client is known to make late changes 30 minutes before deadline. Once you get your files into Photoshop, stop and consider which areas would benefit most from your time and which areas you can skip over completely. Retouching can be extremely time-consuming, especially when you are still learning, so working out a rough timeline is quite crucial. You will become faster and more methodical as your skill set expands and your confidence grows dealing with clients/photographers.

Each job you work on will present a new series of problems you have to solve, so although this series described one approach to organizing your layers, this approach won’t always be the most effective way. There isn’t a right or wrong way to reach the end goal in Photoshop, so play around, place layers in areas that are comfortable for you and keep organized!

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2 thoughts on “The Importance of Layer Organization in Product Retouching – Part IV

  1. T T says:

    Great information. I like a structured approach as well but will incorporate this concept into my work for sure. Thanks for sharing your workflow.

  2. Nice article. Importance of layers. It is a clean approach. I also suggest to share a common workflow afterward as part of organized layers.

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