Help Layers

Help Layers!


Today we’re tackling Help Layers!

The Eye Help Button has been a HUGE part of the Retouching Toolkit ever since – and is one of my favorite tools in the kit.

Therefore I think it’s a good idea to give you a quick rundown of all the Help Layers included, a brief description of what they do and how I like to use and combine them myself.


The Help Layers

To access the Help Layers, you need to click on the “Eye Help”-button that is included in Conny Wallström’s Workflow Panel.   Of course, you can also add it to your own panel, if you’re only using the Panel Maker.

There are 7 different layers that have individual purposes to help you be able to see and deal with individual problems in the image.

As soon as you click on it, you will end up with these layers.

The Solar Curve

We’re kicking it off with my personal favourite Help Layer: the Solar Curve!

What this does is….basically showing your image on LSD!

It cranks the colors and contrasts to an absurd level in order to help with seeing things that were hardly visible to the eye beforehand by making them stand out or POP!.



I use this a lot to get rid of sensor dust, stray hairs, hairs in general and also to make sure my background is not messed up after I cleaned up the outline of the hair or peach fuzz that stands out due to lighting, and exceeds the edge of the body part it’s attached to. 


There are often subtle gradients on the background that are hardly noticeable to the naked eye, but they could show in print, after color grading or simply after having another look at the final image (which you should always check before sending stuff off!)


The Solar Curve makes these issues super visible and easy to fix.


One occasional challenge that is just how the curve itself works is that, as you can see in the screenshot above, it blows out the background. 

It’s important to note that it doesn’t always blow out the background – this can happen to any part of the image depending on how bright it is.


To solve this problem, I combine the Solar Curve with the Negative Help Layer. 

This simply inverts the curve and makes everything that was invisible before visible and able to work on or fix.


As you can see, the background and the stray hair is PERFECTLY visible now and easy to work on.

Next is a layer I mentioned previously: the “Negative” Help Layer next.


The Negative Help Layer

As mentioned above, this layer simply inverts your image’s colors and luminosity and makes it a tad darker for better visibility.

Chances are, your model will look like a smurf, but that’s okay!  It will be worth it!



Now, what’s the purpose of this?


I like mixing it in so that my eyes can see something different from time to time.


Eyes get tired after a while and you can start to miss things because your eyes simply ignore them, after staring at the same photo for an hour.


Switching to Negative will suddenly enable me to see things I’ve missed before and after a while of working with the negative turned on, I switch back to normal and again see more things that I may have missed.


Apart from switching it up for the eyes, there is also another purpose for this feature.


Think of a dark shadow on the neck for example. It’s often hard to spot and work on issues in that area – in fact, dark areas get often overlooked entirely.


The Negative curve will invert this area and make it bright and a lot easier to see and work on. That way all the issues in the image can be fixed which is super important for consistency.


One IMPORTANT thing to note is that, when working with Dodge & Burn while having the Negative Help Layer switched on, you have to DODGE what you want to have darker (while Negative is on) and BURN what you want lighter (while Negative is on).


Since the luminosity is inverted, light spots will appear dark and dark spots will appear light. So be prepared when you start, otherwise it will get confusing and frustrating!


A perfect example of this is rubbing your belly with one hand and tapping your head with the other and then switching hands!  It gets a bit tricky!


The Contrast Layer


This layer does not require too much explanation. It boosts the contrast and makes contrast issues more visible, which is sometimes useful for when an image needs to be very clean.




I like combining this layer with the Luminosity layer, which eliminates all the colors and leaves you with only the luminosity of an image.


These two combined make for a great pair when I have to make skin almost porcelaine like, which many beauty brands still require.


That being said, handle with intense care!  It is way too easy to get carried away with this as it shows every little detail that hasn’t been smoothed out yet.


If you don’t have a lot of experience working with it yet, I recommend you to not use it for long and to not zoom in.


I only use this combination when it comes to beauty jobs that need to be super clean.


The Luminosity Layer


As mentioned above, this help layer removes all the color from the image, leaving you with only the luminosity.


This is super helpful when doing Dodge & Burn, as it cancels out color issues. Dodge & Burn doesn’t address color issues in the image, yet they can sometimes easily be confused with a luminosity issue. You’ll likely end up making them worse by trying to fix them with D&B and that’s where the Luminosity Layer comes in handy.


The Hue Layer


The Hue layer eliminates the luminosity from the image, so you are only left with the actual hue.

By doing so, it enables you to easily spot differences in hues, just like you usually see differences in luminosity and make them uniform.



The Color Layer


This visual aid combines hue and luminosity and gives an excellent idea of what the true colors appearing in your image are.



The Saturation Layer


Last but not least, the saturation layer. This help layer boosts the saturation to show differences in saturation, for example on skin.

Very desaturated areas like highlights appear dark, whereas saturated areas get lighter.


This makes it quite easy to spot patchy areas, just like when it comes to Dodge & Burn.

If you want to get rid of any distraction, combine it with the Luminosity help layer and make your image perfect!



As you can see, the help layers are very versatile, have different purposes and help with a variety of needs. First and foremost though, they’re very useful!

Be it for learning to see little differences, to check the quality of the work or to simply switch things up for your eyes.


I’m curious which help layers YOU use the most!


Until next time 🙂


Kai Gut

Kai Gut

Kai Gut is a full time retoucher and the founder of Aurora Retouch, a high end retouching house based in Germany. Aurora Retouch specializes in the post production of fashion photography as well as beauty and portraits, for editorials and commercial purposes.