Celebrity Retouching: 10 Reasons to Revise Your Reality

By Jim F

3015-retouching.jpgEverybody knows that every magazine cover photo is retouched – right? It’s a never-ending quest to make the model perfectly pleasing to the eye – at least according to the editor or art director.

We may be aware of retouching, but that doesn’t mean we are immune to the subtle feeling of self-loathing that may result from seeing these images every day of our lives

Here is an eclectic  collection of links that demonstrate the amazing art of retouch.

Email your friends, call your Mom, and tell your husband or wife. It’s time to stop thinking “I wish I looked like that”. It’s time to start saying “Gee that retouch job is a bit overdone” – and then getting on with a life that runs deeper than a piece of celebrity skin.


You’ll see stomachs flattened, skin blemishes removed, breasts made fuller, navels made ‘perfect’, limbs made skinny, and waistlines lose inches. Photoshop is an amazing tool, if you want see how to do-it-yourself – grab a retouching tutorial, and get into it. You’ll quickly learn that it’s not easy.


Even Martha Stewart isn’t immune.
Newsweek pasted her head on top
of a model’s body for this cover
  1. Portfolio site
    Retouchers portfolio site showing the epitome of the retouch. Watch those hips shrink before your eyes – or see this woman say goodbye to those wrinkles and pores.
  2. Vitaly Druchinin
    A selection of digital divas.
  3. Digital Retouch
    Drag the little slider from the left to right and watch the images change.
  4. NY Photographics
    Shock! You mean a model had stretch marks?
  5. Touch of Glamour
    Digital liposuction? (click the Slimming button and be amazed).
  6. Vintage Retouching
    A comparison of old painted pin-ups and the photos that inspired them.
  7. Glenn Feron’s Portfolio site
    A truly impressive portfolio of photoshop wizardry.
  8. Worth1000 Photoshop Contests
    The opposite effect – this is de-touching gone crazy. Celebrities made fat. Celebrity photobombs. There’s some amazing work on this site.
  9. G!rlpower Sweden
    And (finally) a body-positive demonstration site showing the ease of retouch.
The power of a retoucher
with too much time on their hands.
Liz Hurley’s worst nightmare?

So why all the retouching? Because we want it. Apparently.

Industry leaders say they cannot stop re-touching photographs, because if they do, people will stop buying their magazines. They say consumers simply are not interested in seeing every flaw that a person being photographed has. (source: VoA – Real Girls Are Beautiful)

In recent years there have been calls for more regulation surrounding retouching, or even a scale indicating the amount of alteration that has been done.

And what do the photographers say?

“People would be shocked to know what some of the models really look like. Sometimes a model walks in and I don’t even realize it is the model…”

What happens when retouchers mess up? You get Photoshop Disasters.


  1. Kat

    The 8th link (Nasonart) has either been highjacked or just is spam. It redirects at least 5 times to other sites, and ends up in some “your computer has a virus installed” limbo, where you can’t close the browser. Thanks for that.

    • Ted

      Thanks for letting us know and so sorry. I’ve removed it.

  2. Bonnie

    pretty things are nicer to look at. TRUTH!!! Mag covers are just the new paint/canvas It’s art – not real life. Get a grip and move on

  3. Princess

    Since being pregnant and then going on contraceptives I have gained a LOT of weight, more than I gained when I actually was pregnant. I’ve tried to get it off but it just doesn’t want to budge. I used to feel really crappy about myself but it really affected my husband and daughter. Recently I got a new haircut and color and I feel sexy again – almost as sexy as I felt when I was 16, but now I actually respect myself because my sex appeal comes from the way my new hair frames my face and highlights my eyes instead of how low my top is. Anyway, my husband says all women are fake no matter what just because of things like hair color and make-up. I use my make-up bag every morning to “photoshop” myself but it’s something I am okay with and if I happen to go out without make-up on it’s not the end of my world. Even if you’ve been staring at these images all the time you can do small things to make yourself feel sexy and be more like the woman in the magazine – without compromising who you are as a woman. I get the Victoria’s Secret catalog every once-in-awhile and guess what? I don’t admire those women at all; to me they look more skanky than sexy and I’m horrified that anyone would look at them and be more inclined to buy the product because of the way they look. And no, I’m not old, I’m actually 21. I’ve just been blessed with a great husband who will love me and think I’m beautiful no matter what and he helps with my self-esteem every day that I get down. I’ll still try to get down to a weight I’m comfortable with but if I can’t because of my contraceptives I will be okay with myself and change my hair, make-up, and clothes to fit and flatter my body, not the other way around.

  4. marco

    “Barbie effect” is a matter of culture. Everybody wants to looks that way and it’s (sad but) true. But we can live with that without dramas: paying few bucks to siphoret for having a better facebook cover, or playing around with pinkmirror it’s not a crime. Fight them with their own weapons! 🙂

  5. staci

    it disgusts me that magazines do this; number 1 its insulting to the person getting retouched, celebrity or not, they still care that they look bad enough that retouch just has to happen; number 2 and most importantly, can’t i feel normal reading a magazine? must i look at these fake bodies and say to myself “i know its unachievable but i simply must look like this beautiful person” it just makes you feel less guilty knowing that celebrities look like real people; not this absolutely ridiculous shape that no one in their right mind would starve themselves to be.

  6. Hayden

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Just because you don’t find someone attractive, doesn’t mean another person doesn’t.

  7. Mark

    As a retoucher, I find this type of articles extremely insulting. Most of the featured websites don’t even show real fashion models who are naturally practically flawless. And the goal of retouching is to reveal a picture’s full beauty potential. And to all the people who say anyone could retouch a picture, ok it’s simple to remove a blemish or a wrinkle, but could you do high end work on an image, clean a background, do flawless hair for a shampoo ad, fix blotchy skin or do fine tuned colorimetric adjustments? The answer is NO. For me, retouching should look unnnoticeable. It’s an art that exists since the creation of the film photography and I would like that people pay a little more respect to our work!

  8. Jess

    I wasn’t even going to comment, but this is pathetic. You do realize the people that do this are artists right? I’m a digital retouch artist myself. I love my job. It takes skill, and creativity to retouch images. No the models don’t look like this, but it’s art. It’s not easy work. Give these people some slack. They’re extremely talented artists doing their job. If you don’t like it don’t support it, just don’t bash it.

  9. Mary

    Model must be perfect enough before they can be a perfect model, they need a little retouched

  10. Guest

    Well, men’s bodies and faces are also Photoshopped, typically by female Photoshop masters, not only for men’s magazines but for women’s magazines too. They brainwash females thinking that this is what the ideal male should look like. It’s bad enough females reject everyday males because of these retouched images of male models and celebrities that they’re highly exposed to in women’s magazines and that males do crazy things to females who stare at photos of sexy, fit, yet altered males. For example, when I was in middle school and high school, guys would harass me and some other girls for ogling male celebrities, like the Backstreet Boys, even though I was more into their talent vs. looks, or male models. Guys would simply grab these images from girls’ hands and/or lockers, tear them apart, and throw them in the trash, which is crazy. Heck, guys still do that these days when girls like Justin Bieber, The Jonas Brothers, or Taylor Lautner from the Twilight movies (or the other male cast members). (There was a young female Justin Bieber fan somewhere who was ran over and killed by a jealous boyfriend with a vehicle, which was stupid. He could have broken up with her, just like my friend’s boyfriends over BSB and other famous guys, or tolerated her but he didn’t.)

    Even in online dating and social networking sites, I’ve seen guys post retouched images of themselves, which includes their faces and bodies, (or male celebrities) on their profiles, thinking this is what girls go for, rather than the real thing. The truth is when you see enhanced images of the opposite sex, especially guys, on online dating and social networking profiles, it’s sometimes difficult to tell if these people are real or not. For guys with retouched images on their profiles, they could be creepy sexual predators, for girls with the same thing on their profiles, they might either have a boyfriend or a husband but are looking for other guys to cheat with.

    Also, didn’t you know guys with low body image and self esteem commit a lot of crimes, not only against women and children but also against other good-looking and/or rich men too? There’s been numerous stories of male celebrities, models, and other handsome everyday guys being threatened and/or killed by average guys, especially over their women, in the past. I mean, that’s what happens when guys are envious. They kill.

    So therefore, ladies, be careful when admiring and/or dating guys who are handsome, sexy, fit, yet altered. They may not only be problematic but you could risk being raped, kidnapped, and or murdered over them by an average-looking guy or they (these hunks) could be murdered themselves. Hey, that’s what happens when women start dating and/or admiring handsome, hunky men. They risk attracting creepy, insecure, predatory, yet unattractive men. So use caution.

  11. Emma

    kristen is not that pretty go to google then to the images type in kristen stewert there is no natural beauty that I can see

  12. ConnorL.

    WOW. I just looked up Bianca’s work. Thank you for mentioning Gloria. She is just wonderful!! I’m a bit shocked at the same time….lol.

  13. rose

    thst’s just B-E-A-UTIFUL

  14. Hannah

    Excuse me if i am wrong, but are you agreeing with making people lose their self-esteem? 13 year olds like me would KILL to be like the people on the mags.

    I dont know if a lot of people know this, but these magizines with the models who look mean and (pardon my language) but just plain bitchy, can also effect people personalities. I know someone at my school who pretends to be a (pardon again) a slut, and no one really appritiates except for the guys.

    I share my dream of acting with others, and I know probably half of that percentage’s self-esteem is lowered by the fake barbies on the front page of some $20 dollar magizine.

    • MaxV61

      Hannah–staying in school and getting your education will support you and thousands like you who think that everyone who wants to be a star makes it. If a magazine cover affects your personality, you have some issues more severe than not using spell-check and disillusion. Get your college degree and be above the bitchy people and sluts.

  15. Hannah

    Dear Lisa,
    I truly agree with you. I am a 13 year old who has always wanted to be an Actress; not because of the fame, but because I always love to feel the vibe of the Character’s feelings and emotions. The reason why i agree with your post, is because the “Twilight” series has been very popular. Kristen Stewart has amazingly natural beauty, and I have been inspired by her, but I know i cant be a pretty as her; thanks to the magizines.

  16. Milo

    Since when is a photograph in a magazine meant to represent reality? People go to movies to be transported to another place, people buy magazines to escape reality, to go to a world where people are richer, more glamorous, better dressed and lead more exciting lives. If people in magazines all looked like us, then no one would want to buy the magazine.
    Retouching has been around since the invention of photography. Most of the techniques used on photoshop are extensions of old darkroom techniques, dodging and burning, spotting, colour grading, use of filters etc. No one complained in the days of analogue photography that the images are not ‘real’.
    No photograph, film or digital is ‘real’, it is an interpretation of an actual scene or event by a photographer, which is then finessed to create a final picture. Airbrushing has also been around since the invention of photography. I have a book George Hurrel’s Hollywood portraits which shows before and after retouching photographs of many famous Hollywood stars. The retouching was extensive, but nobody questioned it then, they accepted that the photographer was an artist, creating iconic photographs of their idols.

  17. another girl

    um, somegirl, as another girl i feel like i should tell you that the only person who you should be beautiful for is yourself. it shouldn’t matter anyway that some men think “naturally beautiful” women are acceptable. people, of course, want to appeal to whomever they want to impress but in the end, it reeeeeeally doesn’t matter about the majority of the other (or same) gender. if you meet a guy who thinks you’re “ugly” because you are how you are, don’t you dare feel bad about yourself. if someone thinks you’re beautiful then props to them but also props to you if you don’t rely on anyone else to feel like you deserve to be who you are.

    if another guy reads this, using the word beautiful in the sense of conventional beauty is stupid. would you seriously tell a girl that “isn’t beautiful” that she’s decent because she’s not braindead?

  18. hey

    lol gossip magazines aren’t art and neither are a lot of other magazines stuuuupid

  19. Mel

    It always seems that we chastise celebrities for allowing their images to be falsified and retouched but we rarely take into consideration how we would act if we were in their Jimmy Choos. I have to admit that I have had some of my favourite photos retouched by an online company in the UK called FakeMe.co.uk. Why should celebrities be the only ones who can have their photos retouched. I got some fantastic results that made me feel really good about myself. OK, I’m never going to be that person, but I’m still me and I know that being “me” doesn’t always have to involve constant dieting, endless trips to the gym and expensive short term make overs. At the end of the day they are just photos, but a little bit of glamour and a touch of the celebrity treatment can go a long way when there’s no chocolate to hand.

  20. JimDandy

    I didn’t read all the comments but believe me as a professional retoucher I can attest that ALL photos in EVERY book and magazine are retouched, not just covers. We professionals don’t start off with that goal in mind, we are generally only following the art direction of the editors, art directors and CLIENTS.

  21. henry

    The worst examples get the most attention? I guess bad attention. I’ve seen quite a few great artists that got my respected attention. Thanks for that note Gloria.

  22. Daniel Meadows

    Thanks Gloria 🙂 We kinda get a fair bit of stick for it sometimes, but it’s the worst examples that get the attention 😉


  23. Gloria

    The quote, listed below, of the last comment is very true! I love the work of retoucher Bianca Carosio- perfect example of a non-hobbyist.

    “Retouching is an art, and the best artists remove distractions, they don’t instantly start making breasts bigger and waist narrower just because they can. A lot of hobbyists do because they think it’s the right thing to do”

    • Sam

      Bianca is in New York now right??

  24. Daniel Meadows

    Thought I’d jump into the lion pit here to say that we’re not all bad 😉 A lot of the reason behind retouching is that in a sharp, still image the eye notices elements that wouldn’t be picked up on during a face to face conversation. Maybe someone has slightly blocked nose pores, something no-one would ever notice or pay attention to, under the scrutiny of print it looks awful. Can’t take your eyes off it, the same goes for spots and blemishes. A good retouch job removes these distractions and gives a fairer representation. Funnily, the images with ‘too much photoshop’ are usually the opposite. It’s laziness and corner cutting that leaves blurry, poreless skin, and I’ve never been a fan of the Liquify tool (which is the one that tucks in the curves and reshapes your wobbly bits).

    Retouching is an art, and the best artists remove distractions, they don’t instantly start making breasts bigger and waist narrower just because they can. A lot of hobbyists do because they think it’s the right thing to do (mostly male 😉 ) but we’re not all like that, I promise 🙂

  25. Mandy

    Everyone will look great if they have their photos done professionally. For our valentines day, my BF actually got a photo of us retouched from myphotogenie (myphotogenie.com) and I loved it. I think the plastic look comes when you air brush the photo too much, which I hate because no one wants to look plastic. Actually I take that back. It seems like most of our culture likes the plastic look a lot better.

  26. John

    Random thoughts, are we ready to make way for a higher state of mind part and conscious evolution?

    Why not ask some more questions or should people simply stop expressing themselves?

    Someone had a bad hair day and needed a touch up, lol…what happened to “beauty” is skin deep?

    As the saying goes, what’s new is old and old is new! Fashion, glamor, vanity, etc fuels the constant cycles of economies and stimulates our imagination!

    What if we all had to conform to one dress code? Some people like to push boundaries and some don’t.

    Bottom line, do we all want flawless perfectionism?

  27. Teeth Whitening Kit

    Yes, I do agree with photo retouching because when we see we think that we can we like that but infact it is not possible …

  28. Linda

    I stopped reading magazines when i was 16 yrs old. I dont know why, just one day i realised everytime i saw a hot girl on the front cover it made me mad that i couldnt look that good. So my solution? Stop reading it. Plus they always had that dirty section in the middle. At 16 who wants to see a mans diddle? Lol seriously…

    Ps…im 24 yrs old now

    • Supa

      I was never really into magazines at school anyways. I read Bliss because my friends did. Everything looked nice but I didn’t feel a pressure to look like these people. I guess I knew the reality between fake and real. I’m real, my happiness is real, I have friends who I love and who love me. I have hobbies and a life outside of reading magazines. So they had very little effect on me. I’m 24 too, I’ll be 25 soon.