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Deconstructing color saturation with Levels and Curves

From: Photoshop CS4 for Photographers: Creative Color

Video: Deconstructing color saturation with Levels and Curves

In this chapter, we are going to continue to talk about how we can improve the colors in our photographs. What I want to do in this movie is begin to deconstruct a little bit about how we can enhance the colors in our photographs by using Levels and Curves. Well here you can see in my Layers palette that I have three layers. I have a background image, really interesting photograph and we will be working on this photo in the next few movies. This particular photo I captured when I was down in mainland Mexico in the small town of Sayulita. I just love those colors. Then we have a black background and then this green color layer. Let me go ahead and click in the green color layer. What I am going to do here is open up a Curves adjustment and I am going to do that right on this layer.

Deconstructing color saturation with Levels and Curves

In this chapter, we are going to continue to talk about how we can improve the colors in our photographs. What I want to do in this movie is begin to deconstruct a little bit about how we can enhance the colors in our photographs by using Levels and Curves. Well here you can see in my Layers palette that I have three layers. I have a background image, really interesting photograph and we will be working on this photo in the next few movies. This particular photo I captured when I was down in mainland Mexico in the small town of Sayulita. I just love those colors. Then we have a black background and then this green color layer. Let me go ahead and click in the green color layer. What I am going to do here is open up a Curves adjustment and I am going to do that right on this layer.

You can open up a Curves adjustment by pressing good old Command+M on a Mac, Ctrl+M on a PC. Now you know how Curves works, right? If I click and drag up I will brighten up the image. Well what's going to happen to the color? Well, when I do that I am actually losing color. It's almost like I am filling the room with more light. There is less and less color until very at the end, I am removing all the color. So if I brighten up the image or add white to it, my color is shifted one way. Now on the other hand, if I darken the image we get a different shift. Now in this case, we have more and more color or color density and in a sense, color saturation when I drag this down. Again, I am removing more and more of the color because things are becoming completely black.

Okay well that's kind of interesting. If we brighten it, we shift it one way; darken it, another way. Well what about contrast? How are contrast and color connected? Well in Curves you can remove the contrast by lowering these two endpoints here and as long as I make sure the middle point is right where it always was, you can see here that I am just lowering the contrast of this photo. Now what has happened is I have a much less saturated green color here. On the other hand, I can increase the contrast by bringing these points in the other way and again, just bringing them in equal amounts. The center is still in the center point. Now here is my before and after. Well in that case, I have increased the color saturation and brightness and density of the photograph. So I have increased both the brightness and the density at the same time, giving me a more saturated color.

Now there are a couple of ways that we can do this with our photographs. Let's go ahead and cancel out of that and then go and turn off the visibility of those two layers and apply what we have learned to a photograph. Because you may be thinking I don't really get this. Well, stick with me. All right, we are here. We are going to go and click on our Curves adjustment layer. So we have a Curves layer above the background image. Now I am going to apply an S curve, which means I am going to brighten up my white. So I have brightened up the image. So I have a little bit of a brighter tone. Then I am also darkening my blacks. So when I do that I all of a sudden have this real intense color saturation.

Now I have gone a little bit too far but keep in mind, we are trying to deconstruct how this works and we are just beginning to think about how we can use Curves and Levels. Okay, well let's take a look at Levels. I will turn off the Eye icon for that layer. Click on my Adjustment Layer icon and choose Levels. Now here I only have three points but I can increase the amount of black I have in the image. Now the image is becoming too dark and if I go too far right, I remove all the color. But if I bring that up more black in the image, also a little more of white. So I am turning down the lights, I am adding the density and again, we have a very similar effect. Before and after.

So as you begin to work with color and color saturation, keep in mind that color intensity and contrast are closely related and sometimes all that you need to do in order to enhance the color in your photographs is to add a bit of a Levels adjustment or a bit of a Curves adjustment. Now the easiest way to do that is to go ahead and go back to your Adjustments panel. Now from here we can choose Level Presets. Let's say Increase Contrast 2. What it did is it brought those two points in at a certain level. Here is my before and after, wonderful.

I can also then go back there. There are different options for Levels as well as good old Curves. Here we can go to Increase Contrast but what does that look like? It looks like and S curve and then again, it increases the overall color saturation as well.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS4 for Photographers: Creative Color
Photoshop CS4 for Photographers: Creative Color

74 video lessons · 17552 viewers

Chris Orwig
Author

 
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  1. 4m 33s
    1. Welcome
      1m 41s
    2. Learning strategies
      2m 4s
    3. Using the exercise files
      48s
  2. 15m 1s
    1. The effect of color
      1m 50s
    2. Why color matters
      1m 56s
    3. Understanding color adaptation
      3m 16s
    4. Understanding color relationships
      2m 55s
    5. Introducing Adobe Kuler
      5m 4s
  3. 1h 15m
    1. Adjusting color and tone in a sunset portrait
      4m 23s
    2. Enhancing sunset colors pt. 1: Curves
      4m 7s
    3. Enhancing sunset colors pt. 2: Color Balance
      4m 26s
    4. Jellyfish pt. 1: Adjusting composition and color
      4m 52s
    5. Jellyfish pt. 2: Working with lighting effects and opacity
      4m 18s
    6. Jellyfish pt. 3: Integrating tone, color, and creativity
      6m 3s
    7. Night photography pt. 1: Brightening and contrast
      5m 12s
    8. Night photography pt. 2: Vibrance, hue, and saturation
      5m 29s
    9. Fisherman's rope: Color and Contrast
      3m 55s
    10. Fisherman's floats: Subtle color with curves
      5m 20s
    11. Wind tunnel: Masking using the Color Range command
      4m 14s
    12. Old desert sign: Quick color adjustments
      4m 24s
    13. Old neon sign: Creating impact
      2m 46s
    14. Artist's chalk: Enhancing vivid colors
      4m 9s
    15. Strawberry ice cream: Making subtle color enhancements
      2m 45s
    16. Hallways: Combining images with creative color
      4m 44s
    17. Santa Barbara Harbor: Adding color to grayscale images
      4m 29s
  4. 34m 14s
    1. Deconstructing Hue/Saturation
      3m 36s
    2. Using Hue/Saturation to change color
      2m 31s
    3. Adding accent color
      1m 49s
    4. Changing color with Quick Mask mode and Hue/Saturation
      2m 56s
    5. Replacing color with the Replace Color tool
      2m 49s
    6. Replacing and modifying color
      6m 59s
    7. Changing the color of an old fishing boat
      6m 50s
    8. Enhancing and changing eye color
      4m 30s
    9. Changing makeup color in a fashion portrait
      2m 14s
  5. 22m 6s
    1. Deconstructing color saturation with Levels and Curves
      3m 53s
    2. Adjusting vibrance and saturation
      1m 59s
    3. Using Hue/Saturation
      3m 18s
    4. Using the Selective Color command
      1m 56s
    5. Using Hue/Saturation and Curves to understand relative color
      4m 24s
    6. Increasing color saturation and variety with Lab
      3m 29s
    7. Getting creative with Lab
      3m 7s
  6. 24m 28s
    1. Using Color Balance to cross process
      5m 10s
    2. Using Curves RGB channels to cross process
      2m 22s
    3. Introducing Curves presets
      1m 52s
    4. Using Curves presets to cross process
      2m 52s
    5. Cross processing black-and-white photos
      3m 13s
    6. Integrating cross processing into a creative workflow
      5m 7s
    7. Using plug-ins to create a cross process effect
      3m 52s
  7. 22m 45s
    1. Removing color to create impact
      3m 48s
    2. Creative color reduction using Color Balance, Curves, and masking
      4m 30s
    3. Creative color reduction using Hue/Saturation, Curves, and masking
      6m 32s
    4. Multi-image project: Removing and adding color and creating a layout
      7m 55s
  8. 26m 44s
    1. Adding a sepia tone with Hue/Saturation and Soft Light
      3m 2s
    2. Improving tone and adding subtle sepia effects
      7m 43s
    3. Using Curves to create a sepia tone
      4m 48s
    4. Beach swing pt. 1: Creating a bleached contrast effect
      2m 1s
    5. Beach swing pt. 2: Adding glow
      3m 4s
    6. Beach swing pt. 3: Adding noise and final color and tone adjustments
      3m 21s
    7. Creating a sepia tone quickly with Variations
      1m 19s
    8. Using actions for a quick sepia conversion
      1m 26s
  9. 29m 10s
    1. Model portrait: Creating a muted color and contrast effect
      4m 3s
    2. Autumn leaves portrait: Muted color and tone made simple
      4m 11s
    3. Rock-star style: Putting it all together to create edgy color and tone
      6m 11s
    4. Tower Bridge: Enhancing color and tone
      2m 27s
    5. Concrete wall pt. 1: Adding color
      1m 30s
    6. Concrete wall pt. 2: Finding and installing custom fonts and brushes
      2m 48s
    7. Concrete wall pt. 3: Working with type
      3m 35s
    8. Concrete wall pt. 4: Using custom brushes
      4m 25s
  10. 12m 54s
    1. Introducing plug-ins by Nik, onOne, and Alien Skin
      40s
    2. Using onOne plug-ins
      3m 43s
    3. Using Alien Skin plug-ins
      2m 48s
    4. Using Nik plug-ins
      2m 44s
    5. Links for the color curious
      2m 59s
  11. 55s
    1. Goodbye
      55s

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