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Mac App Review: Akvis Retoucher

Many plug-ins restore prints. We find out what Retoucher brings to the market

Restoration plug-ins may not be new, but the ease with which they operate is steadily becoming more accessible to the entry-level market, and the range of what they can do for clients is greatly accelerating.
Retoucher from Akvis is one such product that aims to present a comprehensive retouching tool in a simplistic platform. Retoucher is capable of removing dust, scratches, stains and other defects on damaged photos by reconstructing missing areas, utilising the image information of surrounding pixels.
However, now in its fourth version, Akvis boasts ‘massive’ improvements with the addition of a second major feature: the ability to remove entire objects from the scene. While Retoucher’s main agenda – rectifying faults and smoothing out wrinkles – is an automatic process, this new second string to its bow relies on the user performing a much more manual role, which could potentially deter some of the beginners originally intrigued by its simplistic approach.
To remove large areas of the photo, users have to get to grips with two key elements: the Linear Retouch and Patch tools. After selecting the elements for removal and highlighting these in red, users are required to restore the main lines of the background with the Linear tool and adopt the Patch tool as a way of cloning in the replacement data to erase the unwanted subjects.
The first part of this process is particularly fiddly if your scene incorporates a large proportion of lines or geometric shapes, and the second part can also become rather painstaking, particularly if the area you are removing is large or the background includes several integral or diverse elements. Although this process does have its merits – for example, the Linear tool is very functional for restoring the background in a specified direction – it isn’t for anyone who is looking for a one-click solution to their problems.
What are of great benefit in this new version are the dual interface modes: Express and Advanced. Express, offering the minimal tools required for a quick and simplified operation, is perfect for newcomers, whereas Advanced provides a greater palette of options for extended user control and creativity – ideal for those already proficient with editing suites such as Photoshop. Furthermore, version 4 of Retoucher ushers in a new age for the brand, as the product makes the difficult leap to a standalone product. That said, the plug-in version still exists and is now available with 64-bit support, thus compatible with Photoshop CS5 64-bit.
What the Restorer does do well is its original MO: restoring bruised and battered photos. It seeks out surrounding pixel information of the offending omitted area, such as a crease, tear, date stamp or blank area, and maps that information sensibly into place. This technique can be exploited in other ways, such as extending the photo canvas to deliver greater room for manoeuvre in relation to cropping or blowing up frames. For its part in this role, the app is very proficient, and new users and enthusiasts alike shouldn’t have any issues controlling it, and will certainly be able to achieve solid results with practice.
If restoring old prints is a priority, then a plug-in such as Retoucher will be a time-saving boon, and it arguably produces results as effective as those achieved using Photoshop’s Clone tool.
The only niggle we have with it is that it can sometimes be tricky to get precise results. That’s not to say it’s impossible – even a complex scene can be edited – but it does require patience and tweaking, and most importantly to zoom in as close as possible and adjust the size of the brush to avoid selecting overlapped areas. Having said that, the results are generally excellent and will save you some time. Like all good applications, you’ll need to spend some time with it to get the best results. If you’re in need of an app that fixes your photos, this really is it.