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Creating an inverted color effect

From: Photoshop Curves Workshop

Video: Creating an inverted color effect

It might surprise you just how complicated an inverted effect for a photographic image can be. Sure there are very simple ways to invert the pixel values within an image, but using curves you can apply considerable control over the process. Let's take a look. I've added a curves adjustment layer and I'm going to start off by choosing a preset that creates an inverted effect. Specifically, the appearance of a color negative. Choosing that preset you can see the effect is quite dramatic. This is approximately what the color negative would have looked like, if I had taken this picture, with film. And of course, I can adjust the individual channels if I'd like to, in order to take the effect a little bit further.

Creating an inverted color effect

It might surprise you just how complicated an inverted effect for a photographic image can be. Sure there are very simple ways to invert the pixel values within an image, but using curves you can apply considerable control over the process. Let's take a look. I've added a curves adjustment layer and I'm going to start off by choosing a preset that creates an inverted effect. Specifically, the appearance of a color negative. Choosing that preset you can see the effect is quite dramatic. This is approximately what the color negative would have looked like, if I had taken this picture, with film. And of course, I can adjust the individual channels if I'd like to, in order to take the effect a little bit further.

Or, to tone it down. In this case, I'm actually going to apply a more simplistic inversion effect. So, I'll reset my curves adjustment. and then drag the black point up to the top left of the curve adjustment, and the white end point down to the bottom right of the curve adjustment. As you can see the effect is similar, but not quite as dramatic. I can continue to fine-tune the shape of the curve, to adjust the final affect for the image. The key is that to create inverted colors, you need to have the curve going downhill from top left to bottom right, rather than the default of from the bottom left to top right.

It can also be interesting to change the blend mode for the curve. For example, what if I were to invert luminocity without inverting the actual colors? I can accomplish that after inverting the image with curves by changing the blend mode for the curve to luminocity. This will cause the image to be inverted in terms of brightness values, but will leave the colors as they were. Of course they don't actually look the same since the tonality is changed but the base colour is the same. If I only want to change the colour without effecting luminosity, I can also choose the colour blend mode.

Here the colours have been inverted but the tonality has not. I think I will go with the Luminosity blend mode in this case becasue I like the effect that it's produced for this particular image. With curves the possibilities are truly limitless. By bending the curve in any number of ways you can achieve a wide variety of creative interpretations for your photographic images. The key is to feel free to experiment.

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Photoshop Curves Workshop

30 video lessons · 978 viewers

Tim Grey
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