Photoshop Action Hack ‘Un-Airbrushes’ Women’s Bodies

Dove has been running “Real Beauty” ads for more than a decade. Their agency Ogilvy in Toronto cam up with a pretty dope hack/secret weapon to raise awareness with photo re-touchers, art directions and designers to reconsider the messaging that they and their clients are promoting by thinning, coloring and generally adding or subtracting to women’s bodies for benefit of advertising to the masses.

By disguising a desirable Photoshop action in popular blogs Dove has seeded it in a way that folks will download it for their work. What appears to be a skin “glow” or brightening action actually reverses all previous manipulations and reverts images back to their original state and posts a layer of messaging about why they’re doing this. Clever hack for their cause.

44 Responses to Photoshop Action Hack ‘Un-Airbrushes’ Women’s Bodies

  1. Aaron March 7, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    Yeah, this will really teach those hobby photographers and amateur retouchers a thing or two.

  2. sherri innis March 7, 2013 at 10:00 am #


  3. P March 7, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Coming from the company that sells skin whitening products in india… Dove isn’t doing it because they care, they’re appealing to the modern north american woman so they buy their shit. If only their intentions were pure…

    • jerrry March 6, 2015 at 11:57 am #

      It doesn’t matter what their intentions are, they are running a very valuable campaign.

  4. travis commeau March 7, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    As a retoucher I find this fairly insulting and duplicitous. I’m not skinni-fying women for my own kicks – I’m doing what a Client asks. The Client is responding to focus groups made of regular folks. Ultimately this is just a ploy from a marketer aimed at consumers, placing blame on the wrong parties with the message “look how terrible marketers are.” Can Dove really say they only use images straight out-of-camera? No. This isn’t clever and it’s certainly not honest.

    • Joet March 7, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

      I agree, whoever did this thinks they are some kind of hero, but they are targeting the wrong people. It isn’t the workers who do this to society, it is the owners/capitalists. They are the ones responsible for constructing false ideas of beauty in our minds to sell us something. Also: I don’t like the thought that many unsuspecting people were a target of this stupid ploy to change our perception of beauty. You cannot even justify it by saying you are enlightening people. If you are trying to raise awareness to this prejudice, you need to target young people, that is where they plant their seed. I don’t know about you but when I was a kid I wasn’t looking for ‘skin glow’ actions for photoshop…

      • mikrat March 8, 2013 at 9:11 am #

        Give us a Break – Those Evil Owners & Capitalists…

        So the fact that YOU choose to accept those Owners & Capitalists checks as just a “worker” excuses you of any association? You are just following Orders?

        Its up to you “workers” if you decide to take a job. And if you choose to accept a Job that has end results that you do not agree with – then don’t pass the blame onto those who hired you – those Evil Owners & Capitalists.

        Those Evil Owners & Capitalists also make your Computers and IPhone’s.

      • Mike T March 13, 2013 at 7:37 am #


        You are just another ignorant liberal jerk that doesn’t understand capitalism and the benefit’s you lame liberals enjoy every day …including the instrument used to post your ridiculous message. Please take your liberal friends and move to some socialist country and quit ruining the great countries that have flourished due to capitalism

  5. Nicholas Gonzalez March 7, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    She looks SOOOOO so much better with curves anyway.

  6. Ben Pettit March 7, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    Freaking love this. This is advertising at it’s best. I agree. Better with curves!

  7. Roman March 7, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    It is Dove advertising, and it has “target” in mind!!!
    They use trendy retouching issue to advertise their product. That’s all.
    If they care so much they could eliminate some of toxic ingredients they are using in their products.

  8. Ben Banks March 7, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    The bottom line is that youthful and ‘thin’ sells. It is part of our biology that we are attracted to the best looking and fit people we can attract for procreation. Just because obesity and ‘out of shape’ has become the norm, doesn’t mean we need to accept in our advertising. Lowering the standards to make more people feel okay with themselves is the fast road to ruin.
    Personally, I prefer a little editing in my advertising; it forces me eat better and hit the gym more often. For thousands of years, societal framework; whether in animals or humans; has progressed because of the survival of the fittest. Pandering to the weakest slows progress down and makes the ‘herd’ more vulnerable to extinction.

    • Maskido March 7, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

      Thank you! Well said.

    • jt March 26, 2013 at 8:26 am #

      Actually I don’t think thin is part of our biology and I somewhat doubt youth is – though I am willing to be swayed on youth.
      But on thinness – no way that is biology.
      Look back at advertising over the last 100 years.
      Look at sex symbols from the 50s, 40, 30s etc.
      Marilyn Monroe, Diana Dors, Jane Mansfield
      Those ladies maybe sexy, but they are not thin, taught and terrific – at least not by today’ standards.

      Check out the thighs on Jane:
      They’d be photoshopped out in a second these days, but in those days they were sexy as fcuk.

      If it were biology then we would not have changed our idea of the ideal women- shit look at the sexbombs Reuben used to paint. These days Reuben would be called a chubby chaser.
      Thin may sell, but it is not biology – it’s psychology.
      It’s training and it is the media that is training us.
      For good or bad, for client or not.

      And if you’re open minded to consider this idea, check out a women’s magazine and compre the models in it with the models in a “lads” magazine.
      For the most part it is not men that want women thin. It is women.
      Playboy bunnies, penthouse pets etc tend to be a fair bit curvier and heavier than most of the women you’d find in Cosmo, Marie Claire or Vogue.

      All that said, yeah, the Dove thing is a stunt.
      The message is the youtube video no the PS action.

  9. Maciej March 7, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    It should read read: learn some retouching instead of using actions like this one, with horrific glow… Why did you downloed it in the first place. Slap yourself – avoid tempatation.

  10. Gregory Wilson March 7, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    Funny the Ad agency created this action, aren’t they the folks that direct and hire photographers w/ these specific skills. This is a terrible concept and the Ad agency is the one to blame, not the designers, retouchers and photographers who are just providing a service to keep their clients (aka Ad Agency and Product company) happy. I’d love to see Dove run some ads w/ normal sized people. Until that happens this is ridiculous.

  11. Please Sheeple March 7, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    Listen, If your perception of ANYTHING is THAT easily manipulated, then you deserve to be fooled , manipulated, and lied to.

    Knock off your crying Dove!

  12. David March 7, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    I read the comments above, and I am not going to disagree with anyone who talks about how severe manipulation of an image is a fundamental need when trying to appeal to a mass advertising market, but I am going to take the counter argument here.
    In 2006, Dove created the Dove Self-Esteem Fund. It purports to be “an agent of change to educate and inspire girls on a wider definition of beauty and to make them feel more confident about themselves” (direct quote). We have all seen the videos. We can easily equate Doves actions as a very intelligent marketing strategy, directed towards garnering emotional support directly from its target demographic, and selling product.
    The question becomes; is it appropriate for Dove to promote acceptance of the natural body shape, and benefit via sales while doing so? Is it wrong to do so? Would we be so quick to knock any other lifestyle based advertising strategy as inappropriate and self serving?
    Example : GoPro, they sell cameras, and use ads promoting an active action based lifestyle. Do cameras make you any more fit than soap? Of course not, but lifestyle sells.
    My take: Cudo’s to Dove, as they are actually informing the public regarding retouching, and suggesting that people look at ads with skepticism, and this approach is catching on. A few months ago 17 mag did an issue that included only images that had limited retouching. This is becoming marketable … and that’s not a bad thing is it?
    The desire to be thin and beautiful will not change, its inbred and has been for thousands of years.
    Advertiser needs to promote this, will not change, as the markets need wont change,
    Retouchers will continue to respond to advertisers, as they need to be paid too,
    This cycle is closed and unalterable, to the point that we question a companies strategy to open a discussion about it.
    Are we part of the problem?

  13. Matt Timmons March 7, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Yes, retouching is done for advertising gains. BUT- often the problem is that the photo (underscored) needs retouching, not the model. More often I find that someone who looks great in person and on video, just isn’t represented well in a still shot. We’ve all head the phrase, “the camera adds weight”. It’s true. And it also sometimes makes noses look bigger, brings out shadows and blemishes that are never noticed in “real life”. So I think retouching when used to correct a photo- and not a person- is a welcomed tool.

  14. Rikard Lindby March 7, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    Just because it “sells” doesn’t mean it’s right!

  15. Balint March 8, 2013 at 12:41 am #

    This is a typical scam ad, that the agency created with the sole purpose to win awards.

  16. Homer Screws March 8, 2013 at 5:32 am #

    Beware of the of the message or messenger…institutions want us to believe their intent is pure but it is an illusion. Laughable that they care so much about a retouched photo. Lets focus on the ingredients in their products or the propaganda they spew to the general public.

  17. John E. Smith March 8, 2013 at 5:59 am #

    Interesting …

    First, someone alters reality in order to sell a false image.

    Then, someone else creates a false image in order to restore reality.

    Methinks, some ethical discussions need to occur here.


  18. Rick March 8, 2013 at 5:59 am #

    LAME. Chase, you are perpetuating the concept that what the cam sees is in fact reality, a point we all know is bogus.

  19. Jon March 8, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    Hey! Go to Dove’s website and look at all the fat ugly people they chose for their photos! Oh, wait…there are none.

  20. Alf March 8, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    Yeah, Dove ought to boycott those terrible art directors and graphic designers who are going behind their backs and making the models Dove hires look better than they do. Doves next video will show a hidden camera of art directors and photohop “professionals” chortling after Doves “square” product managers leave the meetings, like an episode of “Mad Men”. It all goes to show what happens when hapless Canadian businessmen who just want to sell n innocent bar of soap to housewives,make a trip to the “big city” and get taken by those city slickers in their black frame glasses. If they just hired their countrymen they could show “real beauty” like on the Red Green show. Eh?

  21. CP March 9, 2013 at 12:26 am #

    The ad’s “cleverness” is only eclipsed by its self-serving preachiness.

  22. Phil March 9, 2013 at 12:35 am #

    It’s a clever little ad, I suspect it’s just making a point rather than trying to convert retouchers. That said, you got to wonder about the integrity of the message when the same company also sells products using messages like this …

    • faisal March 9, 2013 at 2:06 am #

      Very well executed and doesn’t make it look difficult.

  23. Pete March 9, 2013 at 5:55 am #

    Hard to take Unilever seriously with all this real beauty stuff when they make and market Axe, which reduces women into brainless pieces of meat.

  24. Tim Roper March 9, 2013 at 8:05 am #

    What professional/credible retoucher, or designer is going to download some random “skin glow” action (and art directors don’t download anything themselves)? Even the name sounds suspiciously lame. Guess this whole thing will fool people who don’t know any better, though.

  25. Make A Blog March 11, 2013 at 12:09 am #

    I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself or did you
    hire someone to do it for you? Plz answer back as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to know where u got this from. thanks a lot

  26. Cherry March 12, 2013 at 6:02 am #

    Although this is very funny, I do agree with some of the comments that a photo straight off the camera could already be manipulated. I do touch ups sometimes to get rid of airplanes and other unwanted things on photos I’m planning to print.

  27. Dawn Danko March 27, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    I personally touch up – and liquify – photos of myself all the time. I don’t see what the big deal is. I know that in real life no one notices the little bulge on my hip from the weird angle my dress falls – but I don’t want to see it in a photo of myself – because I want to look better than real life…which is really how I sell my work to clients too.

  28. Jenny April 18, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Great work, love the retouch
    Maya Kreskin
    jewellery retouching

  29. Nestor June 11, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    I’m not that much of a online reader to be
    honest but your sites really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back in the future. All the best

  30. Sajith Amendra June 24, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    Er… correct me if I’m wrong, but usually whenever I’m ‘trying out’ a new action / preset on Photoshop / Lightroom, I try it on a flattened jpg of my original PSD, just to see the effect…

    In that case, shouldn’t this Dove action just…. fail?

  31. Rutana October 19, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    You have superb knowlwdge on this website.

  32. Going at url_domain January 14, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

    I am not saying your content isn’t solid|I mean, I don’t want to tell you how to run your blog, however what if you added a title that grabbed a person’s attention? I mean BLOG_TITLE is kinda vanilla. You should glance at Yahoo’s home page and note how they create news titles to get viewers interested. You might add a related video or a related pic or two to get people interested about everything’ve got to say. Just my opinion, it would bring your blog a little bit more interesting.


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