One click sigmoid-like solution in Rawtherapee?

hey folks! Is there an easy global one-click (or maybe 2-3 clicks) solution for managing blown out highlights like this in Rawtherapee, similar to darktable’s sigmoid module?

The module in darktable does not ‘manage blown-out highlights’. It’s a tone mapper.

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For 1 click try Dynamic Range Compression. For click and drag try Shadows/Highlights or Tone Equalizer. All in the Exposure tab.

Which agrees with the GIMP Threshold function.

The highlights are completely blown, meaning that recovery by any means is impossible … especially with a sigmoid function.

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Above “exposure”, you will find “highlight recovery” with several options, which usually gets good results.

Maybe @JasonTheBirder meant desaturating the highlights and making the transition less abrupt, avoiding those green-yellow edges? I don’t think he’s trying to recover details in out-of-focus areas. Jason, can you confirm / describe what you would like to achieve?


Hi, Kofa. What I want to achieve is basically a smooth transition to the blown out area. Darktable / DxO Photolab do this very nicely. Of course, I don’t mean to recover details. But if you turn on filmic or sigmoid in darktable with blown out areas, the transition to them is very smooth without ugly banding.


Can you upload a problematic raw file + licence it allowing ‘derivatives’ so others can post their versions?

I’d start with “Standard Film Curve - Low ISO” and then potentially tweak the curve.

Sigmoid has a lot of advantages, but its biggest improvement over darktable was borrowing a variation of the “Film-Like” mode of the tone curve tool - - most darktable tools for a long time operated as either “Standard” or “Luminance” (“preserve colors” in most darktable tools = luminance curve) - so I’d suggest starting with a film-like curve and tweaking the curve.

Sometimes for certain desired curves, it’s easier to combine two curves than just use one.

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First stop Highlight reconstruction > Colour Propagation > Blur This will blur transitions but only a few pixels. Tweak the Highlight compression slider just below to see the results.

You can also switch to Method : Inpaint Opposed. This has do be done on a by image basis unfortunately. For some colour propagation works best for others inpaint opposed. The choice of Highlight reconstruction will affect the appearance of highlights even when not recovering much.

When I want to desaturate highlights i use Colour > Colour toning and make an L mask for just the highlights. This i save as a preset pp3 and it becomes a one click job. Mine actually desaturates blacks as well for when I want that look.


There is also a “one click” highlight roll-off feature in the current dev build which can be used to complement or replace the highlight compression slider depending on the image.
Color > Color Management > Abstract Profile > Smooth & Tone Mapping (checkbox).


Indeed, this is one of the options that uses the fewest number of commands.

I notice (my fault) that I forgot to change the label of this checkbox, which should be called “Highlight attenuation” instead of “Smooth & Tone Mapping”. I’m going to do this in a future commit

Thank you


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Didn’t understand “Color Propogation” fully, so asked ChatGPT 4o:

"Color Propagation works by spreading the colors from the well-exposed surrounding areas into the clipped (overexposed) regions. This helps to create a more natural transition and maintains the overall color consistency of the image. Instead of simply desaturating or reducing the brightness of the overexposed areas, color propagation intelligently fills these areas with plausible colors derived from the neighboring pixels, thus preserving more realistic color details and avoiding harsh transitions or color artifacts.

This method can be particularly effective in dealing with highlight clipping in colorful scenes where maintaining the color information is crucial for the overall image quality."

Excuse my bad english.

Without an image to identify the problem you want to solve, it’s just a matter of listing a few possible methods.

When dealing with a “difficult” image, you need to examine why ?

Is it an image where the channels on the sensor are saturated and there is no relevant information left? In this case, you can use one of the “Highlight reconstruction” methods. The default is “Inpaint opposed”, which is suitable in many cases. “Color Propogation” can solve more difficult cases, and was designed in 2011/2012 by Emil Martinec.

Is this a high-dynamic range (DR) image where both shadows are blocked and highlights are high? In this case, several types of tools are available. They’re often called “Tone mappers” because we’re going to reduce this dynamic to make it acceptable to our senses (eye - brain) and our systems (monitors, code).
In Rawtherapee there are several types of tools (not exhaustive) which use either methods such as Dynamic Range Compression, or Log encoding, or simpler methods (in mathematical terms) such as TRC - Tone Response Curve, Tones Equalizer, or recently “Highlight attenuation & Levels” - Slope based.
A comparison of some of these methods, with a reference image at 25Ev. Note that the best cameras reach 15Ev at best.

Or is it “simply” a desire to smooth transitions to the highlights. That is, to soften them from a certain level so that the highlights are more progressive. In this case, you can use the tools already mentioned by @nosle or @Wayne_Sutton or @Entropy512 , or use “Tone Equalizer” (main or Selective Editing), or the choices proposed in Selective Editing > Color Appearance > Source Data Adjustments > Highlight attenuation & Levels with 4 choices : Ev based, Gamma based, Slope based, Levels.

Of course, an image can combine different types of problem, so the answer can’t be a single one.