While scanners provide an effective means of capturing colour images, that’s often just the beginning. Once a photograph, for example, has been digitised, its appearance can be dramatically altered by use of a bitmap editor or paint package.

In advertising and publishing, very few images are used raw – models’ features are cleaned up, wrinkles ironed out, eyes sharpened and coloured, and untidy hair trimmed. There’s also a trend towards producing attention-grabbing images by distorting and montaging elements of photographs. Recent examples include United Airlines’ stretched mini, and Pepsi’s famous colour-change ads featuring, among other things, blue strawberries and blue tomato ketchup.

Generally the photo-retoucher is trying to do one of two things – change some elements of a picture in a natural way that cannot be detected (changing the colour of someone’s eyes, for example) or produce something unreal and impossible-looking. Either way, the hand of the retoucher must be invisible.

Most of this kind of work is produced using Adobe PhotoShop, but even the simplest paint packages allow these kind of alterations. However, while a lot can be achieved with the cheaper packages such as PaintShop Pro and PC Paintbrush, packages like PhotoShop, Xres and Corel PhotoPaint make complicated effects much easier to achieve

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