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Curves

From: Photoshop for Designers: Color

Video: Curves

Another very powerful tool for adjusting the contrast and consequently the color in our images is the Curves adjustment and that's what I am going to use to work on this image. As with Levels, I am going to apply this as an adjustment layer. Now the reason I'm using Curves here is because I want a bit more control than Levels can give me. Curves is going to allow me to work on specific tonal regions of this image, while leaving other tonal regions unaffected or relatively unaffected. And we are going to see how? When I start moving the curve around to add more brightness in certain tonal regions and less in others, that is going to shift the colors, but then I'm going to show you how we can make sure that the colors are not shifted and it just becomes a change in the contrast, if that is what we want, and I think it is.

Curves

Another very powerful tool for adjusting the contrast and consequently the color in our images is the Curves adjustment and that's what I am going to use to work on this image. As with Levels, I am going to apply this as an adjustment layer. Now the reason I'm using Curves here is because I want a bit more control than Levels can give me. Curves is going to allow me to work on specific tonal regions of this image, while leaving other tonal regions unaffected or relatively unaffected. And we are going to see how? When I start moving the curve around to add more brightness in certain tonal regions and less in others, that is going to shift the colors, but then I'm going to show you how we can make sure that the colors are not shifted and it just becomes a change in the contrast, if that is what we want, and I think it is.

What I see here is this very interesting shadow and a repetition of this shape within the window and I would like to make the shadow stronger. So this is what a linear curve looks like. So firstly before we get to the image, let me just give you a quick breakdown on what's going on in the Curves dialog box. A linear curve, up here and the top right we have our brightness values, down at the bottom left we have our shadow areas, right here is our midpoint area. The curve is superimposed upon a sort of scrunched up histogram, which is the same shape as the histogram that you would see, were we working in Levels.

Curves are particularly useful when performing color corrections, because you can work on the individual color curves, and of course, you can do that with Levels as well, but I think you have a little bit more flexibility when doing it with curves. You can also set your black and your white points here, the same way as we did with Levels. You can edit your curve by putting points on the curve, and that's what we are going to do, but you can also draw the shape of the curve. So firstly, if you wanted a psychedelic look to your image, you could click on this pencil icon, and then actually come on to the curve and just draw yourself a random curve like that, and what you get is going to be kind of random, but sometimes it can be a happy accident.

That's not what we want here. So I am going to reset this to how it was when we came in. You also have the option of using these predefined curves and it's worth taking a look at what a strong contrast curve looks like. It's the classic S-shape which for an RGB image, remember when we move up, we are adding light, what's happening here is that light is being added in the highlight areas, light is being removed in the shadow areas. Consequently, we get a strong contrast. Now, while I want something like that that's not quite what I am after, so I am going to reset my curve and I am going to put the points on the curve myself.

One other thing I should mention just before we do that and that is that currently I have a 4?4 grid on my curve. If I wanted a little bit more control, perhaps, I could go to a 10?10 grid and this is just a visual thing. If you hold down your Option or your Alt key and click on the grid, then you switch to a 10?10 as opposed to a 4?4 grid. So, with all of that as our background, I am now going to choose this guy up here, my Targeted Adjustment tool and then move over to this area in my image where I have these shadows, and you can see that as I do so, I get a bouncing ball up here on my curve, and that bouncing ball indicates where these tonal values occur on the curve.

So what I want to do with the shadow is make the shadow a little bit deeper. So I am going to click right there and since I want less light, I am going to drag down. And you can see that drags the whole curve down. Then, I am going to move the other side of the shadow and you can see that the bouncing ball now repositions itself and here I want to add more light. So I am going to click and drag up. Then we should now have more contrast in that shadow. Let's just evaluate what's going on there. I can turn that adjustment layer off and back on again.

Now just for kicks, let's see what would happen if I tried to lighten the tonal area of this window. So I am going to come down to the window and you can see that I have got my bouncing ball now in the bottom of the grid on my curve. I am going to click and drag up from that point, so that I add light to that area. It's almost like we put a light on in that room. Now I have to say this is not really how if I were editing this image, and I have edited this image before, it's not how I would do it. It is a way it can be done.

I find that, I prefer to work with masks and gradient masks as a way of controlling how much light there is in the different tonal regions of my image, but there are people that do like to do it this way and it's a perfectly viable way, although I think you are working a little bit too hard. Okay. Now, let's just see what happened to the color, I am going to click on my Info panel, and I am now going to take some color samples. So I am coming over to my Color Sampler tool and I'll sample one right there, and we'll also look at the color in the chimney and the sky.

We are looking at RGB values and obviously they have changed. And that's no bad thing. It's not even necessarily a bad thing that the color has shifted. But let's say that we don't want the color to shift. I am now going to change my color samples to show me my HSB Values and we see that the Hue has shifted or at least it has for sample point number three. So the color of this sky is changing. If we don't want the color of the sky to change, I am just going to adjust my curve a little bit more, make that adjustment a little bit more drastic and now we have all of those hues for all three sample points are shifting.

If we don't want them to shift, we can change the blending mode that is applied to the adjustment layer. Do you remember in the movie where I was talking about the histogram panel, where I pointed out that we have a luminosity histogram? Well, we don't see a luminosity histogram here, there is no option for it, but we get the equivalent if we choose the luminosity blending mode for the adjustment layer that applies to the curve and we see there that now the Saturation and the Brightness values are changing and that's so good, we need that to happen, but we have restored the color to its original state.

So here is the before and here is the after. More contrast, but no shift in color.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop for Designers: Color
Photoshop for Designers: Color

75 video lessons · 17519 viewers

Nigel French
Author

 
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  1. 1m 41s
    1. Welcome
      1m 0s
    2. Using the exercise files
      41s
  2. 25m 26s
    1. Defining color terms
      2m 38s
    2. Understanding the color wheel
      4m 3s
    3. Understanding color relationships
      1m 7s
    4. Using Kuler to understand color harmony rules and create color palettes
      4m 2s
    5. Using the Kuler web site
      3m 10s
    6. Colors on screen and on paper
      1m 42s
    7. Color as a signifier
      3m 14s
    8. Color inspirations
      2m 39s
    9. Color and accessibility
      2m 51s
  3. 38m 22s
    1. Demystifying the Color Picker
      2m 57s
    2. Understanding the role of foreground and background colors
      5m 39s
    3. Choosing colors
      6m 41s
    4. Managing swatches
      7m 40s
    5. Transparency
      9m 42s
    6. Color channels
      5m 43s
  4. 41m 4s
    1. Understanding additive and subtractive color
      2m 57s
    2. RGB mode
      1m 56s
    3. CMYK mode
      2m 41s
    4. Lab mode
      3m 49s
    5. Indexed mode
      2m 16s
    6. Grayscale mode
      5m 0s
    7. Color management
      14m 15s
    8. Color depth (8-, 16-, 24-, and 32-bit)
      4m 19s
    9. Monitor calibration
      3m 51s
  5. 26m 43s
    1. Evaluating color with the Histogram panel
      3m 18s
    2. Evaluating color with the Info panel
      1m 48s
    3. Boosting color with levels
      3m 48s
    4. Auto Tone and Auto Contrast
      7m 38s
    5. Manually setting the black and white point
      3m 50s
    6. Curves
      6m 21s
  6. 18m 30s
    1. What is color correction?
      5m 45s
    2. White balancing in Camera Raw
      1m 46s
    3. Color correction with color balance
      1m 34s
    4. Color balancing using photo filters
      1m 26s
    5. Color correction with variations
      4m 27s
    6. Color correction by the numbers
      3m 32s
  7. 33m 14s
    1. Selecting color with the Magic Wand
      4m 43s
    2. Selecting color with the Quick Selection tool
      2m 26s
    3. Selecting color with Color Range
      4m 0s
    4. Neutralizing whites with the Multiply blend mode
      2m 55s
    5. Neutralizing blacks with the Screen blend mode
      57s
    6. Masking colors with the Blend If sliders
      2m 54s
    7. Masking hair with a channel mask and removing contaminant colors
      2m 58s
    8. Shifting targeted colors using Hue/Saturation
      5m 4s
    9. Matching colors using Hue/Saturation
      3m 16s
    10. Matching colors using the Match Color command
      1m 36s
    11. Matching colors using the Color blend modes
      2m 25s
  8. 21m 8s
    1. Saturating colors
      4m 9s
    2. Desaturating colors
      1m 57s
    3. Desaturating in Camera Raw
      3m 1s
    4. Creating a color accent with selective saturation
      2m 38s
    5. Enhancing a sunrise with a gradient map
      5m 49s
    6. Increasing vibrance
      1m 19s
    7. Using selective color
      2m 15s
  9. 32m 42s
    1. Designing with spot colors
      12m 15s
    2. Adding a fifth color to a CMYK image
      5m 0s
    3. Adding spot colors to a grayscale image
      5m 24s
    4. Create a metallic print effect
      3m 8s
    5. Creating duotones, tritones, and quadtones
      6m 55s
  10. 30m 45s
    1. Creating a silkscreen print look with a limited color palette
      7m 59s
    2. Combining color with black and white
      2m 22s
    3. Creating a nostalgic travel poster using the Cut Out filter
      6m 27s
    4. Mapping an image to a color look up table (CLUT)
      7m 56s
    5. Converting to black and white
      6m 1s
  11. 48m 34s
    1. Creating a hand-tinted portrait (the easy way)
      3m 29s
    2. Creating a hand-tinted portrait (the harder way)
      11m 23s
    3. Creating an Andy Warhol look
      4m 44s
    4. Applying a gradient map
      4m 4s
    5. Sepia toning an image
      8m 41s
    6. Color tinting an image
      5m 15s
    7. Split toning an image
      2m 9s
    8. Working with line art
      8m 49s
  12. 23s
    1. Goodbye
      23s

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