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.

Comments (4)

Article: Zerene Retouching
Arie Nagel says...
"retouching tool is to Zerene what cloning is to Photoshop" - does it give better results than Photoshop?
25th July 2015 4:27pm
Johan says...
It's the Zerene Stacker equivalent - not so much better or worse, just that type of functionality. But, that said, I wouldn't want to try to clone from one 20Mb JPG layer into another 20Mb JPG in photoshop with 250 layers like that loaded - last time I tried that my PC wasn't overly thrilled... so in that sense ZS is the better tool.
25th July 2015 5:51pm
Jay Roland says...
I have been using the trial version of Zerene Stacker for a couple of weeks now to determine whether I purchase this or Helicon Focus. I have had some great results (nothing like those on this site however) but for the life of me I cannot seem to be able to use the retouching tool. I make the selection and get a small 'dot' on the image which can be moved around, alas it seems to perform no function at all. Would this be because I am using the trial version perchance?
3rd September 2014 9:01am
Johan says...
Jay, no limitation that I'm aware of. If you're getting the dot then you should be able to use the centre scroll on your mouse to increase and decrease the dot size (which is the area selected), and then flip over to the retouched window to see it in action. It's like cloning onto a different layer in photoshop you don't see it on the source layer you have to look at the retouched one! Keep at it, maybe reread the instructions, maybe you're just doing something simple wrong like the brush being so small and being on the wrong layer so it looks like it's not working when it actually is :)
3rd September 2014 6:43pm
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