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Adjusting with Color Curves

From: Photoshop Elements 8 for Mac Essential Training

Video: Adjusting with Color Curves

The Adjust Color Curves command offers a sophisticated level of control over tone and color. With this one command you can individually adjust color and tone in the highlights, the midtones, and the shadows of a photo to your liking. This command, the Color Curves command, is the one to use when you need more control and fine tuning than you can get with other color and tonal adjustments that I have shown you in this chapter. Some photo adjustments like Levels and Hue/Saturation are available as Adjustment layers, as I have shown you. Unfortunately, Color Curves is not.

Adjusting with Color Curves

The Adjust Color Curves command offers a sophisticated level of control over tone and color. With this one command you can individually adjust color and tone in the highlights, the midtones, and the shadows of a photo to your liking. This command, the Color Curves command, is the one to use when you need more control and fine tuning than you can get with other color and tonal adjustments that I have shown you in this chapter. Some photo adjustments like Levels and Hue/Saturation are available as Adjustment layers, as I have shown you. Unfortunately, Color Curves is not.

So before I apply a Color Curves adjustment, I am going to make a copy of the layer that contains the photo, in this case the Background layer. I will hold the Ctrl Key and click on the Background layer in the layers panel, or if I have a two-button mouse, I will right-click on that layer and choose Duplicate layer. I will click OK, and with the Background Copy layer selected, I will apply a Color Curves adjustment to that layer, preserving my original photo on the Background layer. I will go up to the Enhance menu and down to Adjust Color, and I will choose Adjust Color Curves.

That opens this big Adjust Color Curves dialog box. I am going to try to move it out of the way as much as possible, putting it up here, so that I can see some of the image behind, because whatever changes I make in this dialog box will be automatically reflected as a preview over here in the document window. Another place that I can preview the adjustments is here in the After portion of the Adjust Color Curves dialog box, and I can compare the adjustments that I am making there to a Before version of the image. I will start with the Select a Style menu, which contains some preset Color Curves.

The way that I use this is basically to start at the first choice and just cycle through them using the Arrow keys on my keyboard and keeping my eye on this After image, until I see a result that I like. In this case I think I am going to use the Up Arrow key on my keyboard to start with Increase Contrast. Now, I see that the image is still pretty dark, so I need to do some tweaking to this preset, and that's done with the Adjust sliders here in the middle of the Adjust Color Curves dialog box.

I want to adjust the Shadows, making them brighter. So I will go to that slider and I will drag to the right. As I do, keep your eye on this curve, in the Curves diagram. Dragging the Adjust Shadows slider to the right moves the point on the curve right here. That represents the three-quarter shadows. I also want to increase the brightness of the midtones in the image. So I am going to go to the Midtone Brightness slider and I am going to drag that one to the right as well, and you can see that point moving up in the Curves diagram, and the midtones in the image are now significantly brighter in the After preview than they are in the Before preview.

If I want the highlights to be brighter too, I will go to the Adjust Highlight slider and I will drag that one to the right. Now, all this could have been accomplished by going to this Curves diagram and clicking on these points and dragging them, but I think it's a lot more intuitive and easier to use the Adjust sliders here to fine tune the initial style. When I am satisfied with the result, I can go up and click OK, but before I do that, notice that I could cancel all the changes that I have made from here or reset all the sliders to their defaults by clicking Reset.

I am going to click OK and here is my image with its changes back in the document window. Now unfortunately, because this is not an Adjustment layer, there is no way for me to go back into the Color Curves Adjustments. So if I wanted to further tweak this image, I could do that with another kind of Adjustment layer, maybe a Levels Adjustment layer, or I could make yet another copy of this Duplicate layer and apply more of a Color Curve adjustment to it. But I am going to leave things as they are for now. If you have got a photo that needs different tonal adjustments in the shadows, the highlights, and the midtones, I think you will find that Color Curves gives you the control that you need to manually adjust each one of these tonal areas separately.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop Elements 8 for Mac Essential Training
Photoshop Elements 8 for Mac Essential Training

81 video lessons · 7187 viewers

Jan Kabili
Author

 
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  1. 2m 35s
    1. Welcome
      1m 18s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 17s
  2. 13m 0s
    1. Touring Elements
      7m 24s
    2. Starting from the Welcome screen
      5m 36s
  3. 16m 11s
    1. Importing photos from a camera
      8m 48s
    2. Dividing scanned photos
      3m 52s
    3. Capturing frames from video
      3m 31s
  4. 23m 13s
    1. Touring Bridge CS4
      7m 44s
    2. Opening files from Bridge into Elements
      5m 1s
    3. Rotating photos
      1m 17s
    4. Moving, deleting, and hiding photos
      4m 11s
    5. Renaming photos
      5m 0s
  5. 29m 16s
    1. Tagging photos with keywords
      6m 28s
    2. Rating and labeling photos
      5m 55s
    3. Sorting photos by filter
      6m 23s
    4. Finding photos
      4m 33s
    5. Organizing photos in Collections
      5m 57s
  6. 52m 52s
    1. Touring the Quick Fix workspace in the Editor
      8m 34s
    2. Applying Quick Fix lighting controls
      3m 33s
    3. Applying Quick Fix color controls
      6m 30s
    4. Applying Quick Fix sharpening
      3m 44s
    5. Using Quick Fix touchup tools
      7m 43s
    6. Fixing group shots in Guided Edit
      6m 25s
    7. Merging multiple exposures in Guided Edit
      7m 24s
    8. Applying the Scene Cleaner in Guided Edit
      6m 31s
    9. Running Automated Actions in Guided Edit
      2m 28s
  7. 30m 57s
    1. Touring the Full Edit workspace
      6m 5s
    2. Working with tabbed documents
      4m 28s
    3. Arranging panels
      4m 14s
    4. Using tools
      8m 15s
    5. Setting editing preferences
      3m 8s
    6. Adjusting color settings
      4m 47s
  8. 46m 0s
    1. Using Undo History
      6m 6s
    2. Zooming and navigating
      5m 38s
    3. Creating a blank file
      5m 43s
    4. Photo resizing and resolution
      8m 21s
    5. Enlarging the canvas
      3m 10s
    6. Cropping and straightening an image
      3m 12s
    7. Using the Recompose tool
      3m 23s
    8. Processing multiple files
      6m 16s
    9. Saving and formats
      4m 11s
  9. 23m 25s
    1. Understanding layers
      3m 30s
    2. Working in the Layers panel
      8m 53s
    3. Combining images with layer masks
      11m 2s
  10. 22m 24s
    1. Understanding selections
      3m 39s
    2. Manual selection tools
      7m 36s
    3. Automatic selection tools
      3m 9s
    4. Refining a selection
      3m 59s
    5. Modifying and saving selections
      4m 1s
  11. 55m 51s
    1. Using adjustment layers
      9m 21s
    2. Adding a Levels adjustment layer
      4m 49s
    3. Applying a Shadows/Highlights adjustment
      3m 24s
    4. Adding a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer
      5m 30s
    5. Adjusting with Color Curves
      4m 3s
    6. Removing a color cast
      3m 55s
    7. Correcting skin tone
      2m 10s
    8. Reducing digital noise
      3m 44s
    9. Sharpening photos
      9m 42s
    10. Working with raw photos
      9m 13s
  12. 18m 58s
    1. Using the Smart Brush tool
      5m 20s
    2. Using the Detail Smart Brush tool
      3m 30s
    3. Dodging and burning
      1m 49s
    4. Healing blemishes
      3m 51s
    5. Removing content with the Clone Stamp tool
      3m 15s
    6. Removing red-eye
      1m 13s
  13. 26m 26s
    1. Applying filters
      5m 6s
    2. Adding effects
      3m 0s
    3. Using layer styles
      3m 36s
    4. Using shapes
      8m 25s
    5. Using the Cookie Cutter tool
      2m 54s
    6. Converting color to black and white
      3m 25s
  14. 7m 35s
    1. Creating text
      4m 7s
    2. Editing text
      3m 28s
  15. 27m 26s
    1. Making a photo collage
      7m 15s
    2. Stitching a photo panorama
      3m 43s
    3. Saving for the web
      6m 40s
    4. Creating web galleries in Bridge
      6m 47s
    5. Creating a PDF slideshow
      3m 1s
  16. 4m 34s
    1. Printing photos and contact sheets
      2m 49s
    2. Sending photos by mail
      1m 45s
  17. 23s
    1. Goodbye
      23s

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