When to Use Solar Curves
I would like to show you a production trick while I'm still in curves here and that is the glorious thing called a solar curve and I love me some solar curve and what a solar curve will allow you to do is see cut lines or see mistakes you've made and how you do it, it's basically this giant, crazy, zigzag. I have an action that makes this. You can draw it, you can get this couple different ways. No job should go out without a solar curve having been applied to look at it. I'll say that again. No job should go out without having a solar curve. Jen Beard, I hear you. I hear her in my ear right now, production manager at BLT. I sent a job, I'm in a true confession, we can have a true confessions moment, right? I sent a job out last week, I didn't do the solar curve and one of the things, we talked about printing earlier today, didn't we? And are you working in CMYK or are you working in RGB... In CMYK, everything kind of flattens out and what you can't see on the screen, you can see in a ...
print. You will see things here that you cannot see on the screen, which is why you do this and if I cad a cut line, if I had a smudge, if the sensor had something on it and I didn't see it because it's a white background, you will see it when you do a solar curve. And so what you do is you do a curve, you keep it, I'd suggest you make an action for it or just save it on your desktop somewhere. And you just review your file and you go in and you look at it with the benefit of the curve on and it'll flip, like you'll see banding where you wouldn't normally see it so you can correct it. Honestly, it's one of my most important tools in my arsenal and in my arrogance, I don't do it all the time and I get bit in the hinny. Yes, ma'am?
I think this is amazing and I've never seen anyone talk about this.
The solar curve?
Yeah. I'm curious as to what, on this image, if there's anything when we're analyzing it, anything that in particular that stands out?
There is not because this is a un-retouched image and there's no cut, but I think I have a cut line I can show you. I'm gonna shame myself here in front of you guys, isn't that nice? See what I'm willing to do for you? Let me see if I can find it on... One moment... It might be in here. Basically, if I could use a not too elegant point, it shows your bad retouching. Bad mistakes, let me see if I have a cut line in here.
And you wouldn't have any bad...
Everybody has bad retouching, that's the best part about this. We just don't admit to it. All right, so I'm gonna come up here, turn the solar curve on, please forgive the massive mess of layers, but hopefully you'll be able to see this. I'm just making a blank canvas for us to see. All right, so what we have here is an image of a Los Angeles cityscape that was done for a composite. What the solar curve allows you to see is you actually have part of the city here and you might not have seen that with everything turned on, but it'll show up in a print. I'm certain I have some cut lines in here, so I'm gonna show you, see if I can show you something. When you're masking, you can see things that, so right here, it's a little hard to see on this screen, very hard to see on the file, I hope you guys can see that, there's some grass, a background, is basically in there. You can totally see it on the curve. A cut line, like a no-kidding straight line... So for example, I've got a little tidbit for you, occasionally when you have used puppet work or liquefy or any of the transformation tools, what will happen is you get a black line. Let me see if you can see it here. I'm trying to illustrate something here. There we go. So you will often get this little lines like this inside a adjustment layer, after a warp, or a puppet warp and you can't see it until you put the solar curve on and it'll just show up like a straight line. So if I took... It'll show up like that. Do you guys see that line? Well that line can be, let's go up to the full image again. That was a really good question. All right, so you can kinda see it here, but I'm gonna turn that solar curve off and it, wow, you can actually see it here. This happens, like let me give you an illustration. There was a movie poster I did for Wesley Snipes' film, Blade. He's standing there, it's the first one, he's standing there with a sword behind his back and it faded out to black, 100% black. It was for the sunset wall and it was back in the days when we used to output an LBT, which is a 8 by 10 piece of film and then that would be sent to China and Singapore and Europe and they would scan it and make posters out of it, back in the old days, before internet and all that good stuff and what had happened was that gray was 95% black, not 90, not 100% black, 95% black. So on this screen, actually, it's the opposite on brightness. All right... Bear with me one moment, I'm gonna illustrate a point here. All right, on this screen, the color of 95% black looks like black. It does not look like 95% black, it looks like black, and when you're hiding something with a gradient... When you're hiding something with a gradient and you think that is 100% black and it's gonna hide what's underneath it and on your screen that's what it looks like, on your home printer, that's what it looks like, on your Epson printer, that's an RGB printer, in the office, that's what it looks like. When it goes out to a CMYK printer and the densities change, guess what, that 95% black you can't see, but if you have... And we're talking about transparency, by the way, 95% transparency. So I'm going to, what am I gonna do here? I'm gonna make a channel. Don't look at the girl behind the curtain here for just one second. I'm gonna do a little trick here. See if I can illustrate this point... All right, bear with me, my friends... All righty, hang in there... Come on, let me go back. All right... All right, I'm just gonna load this channel. All right... See if we can see this solar curve. Yeah, we don't care about that. All right, so, black, right? Can't see anything through it. Oh crap, there you go. So, what this is illustrating is that on the screen and I'm, again, your screen here is collaborated a little different, but on my screen here, on most laptop screens, on most monitors we use, I can't see anything behind here. This looks 100% black, absolutely 100% black. This actually, and I'm not sure if the viewers can see this at home, but this screen here illustrates what happens when you go to press. So on this screen here, and again, you'll have to let me know if the home viewers can see this, on the screen that we have next to me, what you can see, is you can see some density here. Right here, you can see the actual object underneath. That perfectly illustrates how this does not match this and that's what's gonna show up on the printing press, not this, hence the solar curve. Because now, on the solar curve, right here, I can absolutely see what you saw there.
And just so, for your reference, it looks different to people at home.
What we see here in the classroom because the, it's set, the settings are...
So that they're screen looks more like your screen.
Okay, well, and you know what, actually, this is a really good time to illustrate or discuss this issue. My screen, so you and I, your computer there, you have a lovely computer, I don't know how old it is, I don't know how many times you have dropped it, my screen, I don't know, I don't know how many times I've dropped it, how collaborated it is, how in or out it is. Worst off, my god, my client's screen and I cannot tell you how many times, I kid you not, I don't know, the color looks a little funny. They're on their phone, they're at the beach with their kid and their looking at a job in bright sunlight on a phone. So, why I throw my hands up, it's a perfect illustration that you've got to hhinny cover 101. Can we say that, hinny cover 101?
Cover your hinny. Cover your bases. Solar curve allows you to do a color check and a value check instead of hmm, how we doing, we okay here? Now, I'd like to digress just for a slight moment about color and clients. I hope this is accurate. In no way, shape, or form should you all expect when you deliver this lovely piece of art that your client is gonna see the same thing you are gonna see. It's almost impossible to imagine that their screen is calibrated to your screen is calibrated to their phone, which you know full well they're looking at, their phone, they won't say they are, their iPad, their touchscreen, their whatever. So when you're talking color, when we are talking color and we are talking job process, it is imperative to figure out how you can have something in your hand to reference, something in your hand. So is that a color proof? Is that a, I don't know, is it a color proof? Is the printer providing a color proof? Something, because it's not fair for you or your client to expect that you guys are looking at the same thing, okay. And I want people to know that because I think there's an assumption that oh yeah, it's all the same. No, it is not all the same, and then they'll say, is your monitor calibrated? Well yeah, I calibrate mine. What did you use to calibrate yours? And does that work with your current OS? Oh, I don't know. So there's a lot of conversion about color and matching and I think as retouchers, finishers, photographers, designers, you need to know that it's not your fault if that stuff doesn't match, you just have to figure out a way to talk to each other and make sure you're talking about color in a productive way. Now, I have lived all over the world, quite literally, and done work on jobs that I can't send a color proof for. So what I ask my clients for is, I say, you send me file that has the density and the color of what you want. So let me give you an example. If I'm doing a catalog job or a wedding shoot or, I don't shoot weddings, but if I'm retouching on a wedding or a product, I ask for fabric samples if I need to match the fabric and then, even then I'm kind of guessing because I'm outside my computer, right, but best of all, is I'm like, send me a digital file that has the contrast and the color that your looking for if that is all possible. So when you do catalog shoots, they generally have their colors all already digital, get that. If it's a portrait shoot, you can ask for a value or level of retouching and you look at that and you put that next to your computer. So when I do finishing, so let's say this was a comp for a movie poster, someone probably designed that out. When I get that file and it's messy, but I'm gonna rebuild it nice, as a finisher, I ask them, is that color in contrast what you're looking for? This is important and this is production. This is real world, because you know, folks come out of art school or your fine art or you're working and you're bubble of work at home or at your home studio and then when you work in a production situation, it's a whole different scenario when you have to share work with other people and that's what I'd like to try to communicate is on a production level.