What is a solar curve and how to use them on your files

When we talk about photo retouching, we talk about details. A “Solar Curve” is a wild curve with a very regular wave pattern which is supposed to push the color information so much that it exposes parts of the image that you don’t normally see.

To create a “Solar curve“, click on “Curves Adjustment Layer” and add 6 equidistant points.
Now drag the first point to 100%, the second to 0% and so on. See the picture.

This would give a really strange look to your image but it would also accentuates the highlights, shadows and midtones to reveal things that are normally hidden or don’t match. People started calling these things “Solar Curves” because they can make an image seem “Solarized“, but it’s not really what they’re used for though.

The biggest benefit of using these curves is that they make retouching mistakes very apparent. They’re also helpful to expose things like lens dust, patterns, or irregularities in gradients and very dark or very light areas.

Place your “Solar Curve” on top of the other layers, and you can retouch below it by setting the Clone Tool or the Healing Brush Tool to “Current & Below“. This way, the curve won’t affect your work.

It’s easy to work your imperfections out, once you get used to the bizarre colors.

What for?

  • Add it above skin layers. It really highlights blemishes.
  • Add it above a restoration to find missing details.
  • Add it above cloning to check for variations.
  • Add it as a final step to check banding on gradients etc.
© 2012-2017 Andrei Ivascu