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The Curves adjustment in Adobe Photoshop has a reputation for being challenging for some photographers. In this workshop, Photoshop expert Tim Grey takes you step by step through every aspect of the Curves adjustment, helping you truly understand the concepts behind it so that you can quickly and easily maximize tonal range, optimize contrast, and enhance your photos' color balance. Note: This course was recorded in Photoshop CS5, but was created with users of both Photoshop CS5 and Photoshop CS4 in mind.
When applying color corrections it seems most photographers focus on the mid-tone range in the photo. Which makes sense, considering that mid-tones tend to be the most prevalent in a given image. However, by focusing your color adjustment on the highlights and shadows, you'll likely find that you're able to optimize both tone and color much more quickly and accurately. Here I've already added a curves adjustment, so I'm ready to get started. Since the sky dominates this image, I think I'll start with the blue channel. So I'll chose blue from the pop up in the adjustments panel. I'll then adjust the end points for the blue curve. I'll start by bringing the white point inward.
This will help to brighten up the blues in the image. As you can see, we're already effecting a chance within the clouds. If I hold the Alt or Option key, I can also see the clipping preview, so I know where I'm losing information in the image. I want to minimize the loss of information so I won't take the adjustment too far. I can also adjust the black point for the image in order to change where the darkest value for blue will appear. I'll then switch to the other channels to adjust them.
Making the adjustment to the highlights for green, as well as the shadows for green, and then checking my red channel as well. And I can finalize the over all appearance of highlights and shadows within the image. As you can see, this has helped optimize both tone and color at once. I've increased contrast but also helped ensure that the highlights and the shadows are perfectly neutral. Of course, I can continue to fine tune as needed. I can simply click around the mid point of the curve and then drag up or down to adjust the balance of color for which every channel I'm working on.
Red through cyan for the red channel, green through magenta for the green channel, and then blue through yellow for the blue channel. And of course I can focus each of these adjustments on a particular tonal range within the image. By focusing on the individual color channels and making your initial adjustment at the end points of the curve for each channel, you'll be able to optimize both tone and color at once much more quickly. And of course, I can always then switch back to my RGB composite channel in order to adjust overall tonality without effecting the color within the image.
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