Retouching Style Guides

The Importance of Style Guides

A brand's identity is just as important as the products it sells. Aesthetic, tone of voice, mission, ethos, vision; these elements form the ‘what, who and why’ behind the product and are the reason customers connect with brands. It’s something that needs to be protected yet pushed to its potential while remaining consistent across all channels. When you consider the amount of people that might work on a single customer-facing project, you realize the importance of everyone singing from the same song sheet. Well, a style guide is intended to do just that!

Are your pre and post-production teams singing from the same song sheet?

Still not convinced? We’re here to help uncover the benefits a style guide can have for your brand. With knowledge shared by two of Pixelz’ expert retouchers, Eida and Kevin, who’ve been on the receiving end of style guides through much of their professional careers.

What is a style guide?

A style guide is a document summarizing everything a brand is and everything a brand wants to be. It should provide the technical detail required to produce work that’s consistent, but also give the reader a solid understanding of the ‘what, who and why’ of a brand so that they’re work isn’t just consistent, it sings. (See earlier reference to song sheets!)

Eida: “It’s like the GPS instructions to the final destination of image editing. ‘This is the ideal image and these are the steps you need to take.’ You're obviously skilled as a retoucher to understand and action it, but it really is the brand telling us, ‘this is what we like.”

Style guides can be all encompassing or department specific, they can be strict or open to interpretation, they can be just a few bullet points on a page but the more information it provides, the better chance your creatives have at providing the desired outcome. For example, a design team’s style guide will include rules around logo appearance, placement, size and padding (among other things). A photography style guide may evolve a little each season but will include guidance and visual inspiration on aspects such as composition, lighting, subjects, color palette, background and more. And if they don’t have their own individual style guides, it may also include information for stylists. Then it’s over to retouching…

Kevin: “A style guide is like a conversation, it’s a way to put all of the requirements into one place and define the aesthetic you're looking for. From styling to model casting, photography, camera angles, lighting, all the way through to retouch, what decisions need to be made along the way so that you can capture the aesthetic that echoes the brand.”

Why you should have a retouching style guide.

All the above could take hours to bring an individual up to speed, let alone a team. A style guide helps onboard new starters, freelancers, agencies and outsourcers quickly and remains a constant point of reference. So it’s worth the effort upfront to produce a style guide for your brand and retouching is an area that shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s no problem if you haven’t already got a style guide for retouching, our expert team will work with you and help define a retouching style guide for your brand before getting started.

Kevin:- “A style guide with granularity will save wasting resources by having to hover over a new starter until they’re up to speed. If you provide a really good style guide with some supporting examples, after a little bit of a test, you can send them on their way.”

A retouching style guide is especially important in the world of e-commerce, where imagery has a huge impact on the customer's experience. Not only do images need to accurately represent the product but they need to be aesthetically consistent and pleasing to the eye.

What to include in your retouching style guide.

If you’re setting out to create your own style guide for retouching, here’s a few specifications to include that retouchers will love you for:

  • Crop - Information such as baseline height, margin requirements and product / model positioning will ensure conformity across all your images.
  • Skin - to what degree should imperfections be removed or skin be softened? Visual references can be helpful here.
  • Garment wrinkles - how much should be removed, or is it important to show how the garment falls?
  • Color treatment - how stylized does the image need to be, are you looking to achieve a certain aesthetic perhaps for editorial work.
  • Background - what color and texture does the background need to be?
  • Shadows - is the background being tweaked or added in post, do we need to add a shadow?
  • Shaping - do you want everything to appear perfectly symmetrical or taken in if it looks too boxy? Do you want body image to remain natural?
  • Output info - file type, dimensions, DPI, compression, color profile etc.

Eida: “No information is bad information in my opinion. The more, the better. And a retoucher will be able to dial in the needs for the brand and the smoother things will run in future.”

What’s the best format for a style guide?

There’s no industry standard format for style guides, what’s important is the information within the document and how shareable that document is. You should be able to hyperlink to or email your style guide as an attachment and expect creatives to have an understanding of your brand and how they need to do their work after the first read.

But that doesn’t mean it has to be boring! How you present your style guide should match the image and tone of voice of your brand, it might even feel like a piece of customer-facing work. If your brand has decades of heritage, it should ooze from every sentence. If you’re a fresh new brand looking to make an impact, your style guide should be exciting. Creatives work best when they’re inspired, so don’t be afraid to go big!

Investing time and effort into nailing your brand's style guide and utilizing it properly will undoubtedly save you time and money for as long as your brand remains. And that’s the beauty of it! It may need an occasional tweak or update but once it’s done, it’s done. Briefing will become a breeze as you arm each creative with the information and the ‘what, who and why’ of your brand so they can hit the ground running.

Whether you have a style guide or not, if you need professional image retouching, Pixelz will listen to your requirements and ask the right questions to create a complete retouching style guide to produce consistently beautiful imagery for your brand.