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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.
I used to make jokes about the posterization effect you can achieve with the pencil feature in the curves adjustment. But then, I realized that every time I would make those jokes, at least a few folks in the audience articulated that they actually liked the effect. And I thought I was the only one who thought it was cool. It was then that I realized that such an extreme adjustment can actually be very effective in producing a creative image. Let's see how it's done. After adding a curves adjustment layer, you'll want to chose the pencil tool on the adjustments panel. Then simply draw a zig-zag curve.
If you use relatively small strokes, the effect will be relatively modest. What you're doing is increasing contrast in certain ranges of the image. And inverting colors in other areas of the image. The effect will be a posterized effect with some interesting color shifts. Of course here, I've drawn a very small zig zag pattern, and so the effect is hardly even visible. If you look closely though, you'll see that there is indeed a posterization effect. But lets's take a look at what you can do with an extreme adjustment.
I'll click and drag upward, and downward, and upward, and downward, in a huge sawtooth pattern. And as you can see, I get an extremely posterized, and very vibrant, image. I've got something of a rainbow effect going on in this case. What's better is that there are so many possibilities here. If you're not happy with the first result you get, simply click and drag back and forth in various different ways. Vary the size of the pattern. Vary the width of each stroke. Vary how many strokes in total there are. Vary it as you move up and down the curve, making some portions of it large versus small.
You can get incredibly creative here, applying any adjustment you'd like. It is a little unpredictable but that actually adds to the fun. So experiment around and find something that works for any image and you just might find a great new creative interpretation. Utilizing the pencil tool within curves, you can apply a virtually unlimited range of creative effects on any image you'd like. From a basic posterazation effect to a dramatic artistic effect, just about anything is possible.
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