Zerene Stacker Retouching

by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel
Last updated August 31, 2017


The Zerene Stacker retouching tool is to Zerene what cloning is to Photoshop. Zerene Stacker retouching lets you bring in the detail from the sharpest individual frame to eliminate the fuzzyness caused by out of focus backgrounds or foregrounds.

Retouching In Zerene Stacker

Focus stack retouching is pretty easy but a fair few stackers seem to overlook this aspect of stacking with Zerene Stacker. But like anything, once you learn how to use it, retouching becomes second nature pretty quickly and when you have the hang of it becomes an invaluable tool in the focus stacking arsenal.

  1. Select output image, then Edit ›› Start Retouching
    • The two image windows stay aligned as source and stacked images are zoomed and panned.
  2. The retouching brush displays as a yellow circle
    • Retouch by holding down the left mouse and selecting an input image.
    • Change brush size by rotating mouse wheel (or using [ and ] on keyboard).
    • Move image by pressing spacebar and using mouse.
    • Zoom image by pressing spacebar and rotating mouse wheel.
    • Flip between source and stacked by pressing spacebar and s key.
    • Fast scroll through the stack of input files by, over a source image, hovering mouse, pressing the shift key and using the mouse up and down.

Ninja Retouching

Ninja retouchers maximise real estate on a screen by showing only a full screen destination image and press the s key to flip the source image in place of the destination image, while simultaneously pressing shift and dragging the mouse to select a specific input file.

If your retouching tool seems to have disappeared, it maybe bad brush width. Press [ to make it visible again

Ninja retouchers deal effortlessly with a tricky patches by adding a manual slab or substack. They stack just the input files with that area in focus and use retouching tool to merge the slab output into the main stack output image. To stack a subset, highlight files and Stack ›› Stack Selected.

The ability to grab a few files and make a substack out of those and use the result to retouch into a master dmap stack from all the files is one of the great features that Zerene Stacker has but Helicon Focus surprisingly seems to lack.

Ninja retouchers avoid trying to do tricky bristle areas in dMap, but instead make a cheeky pMax substack and use that to retouch. They also use substacks to eliminate transparent foregrounds, and are aware that by using a larger brush rather than a smaller, adjacent pixel values are picked up better than by using the smallest of brushes.

Some Ninja retouchers even use a Wacom tablet for their retouching and remap the s key, brush size and spacebar, realising that the process name on windows is javaw and on mac is Zerene Stacker.