The curves adjustment in Photoshop is generally thought of as a tonal adjustment. It can also be used to apply color adjustments to an image, but in addition, it can be quite creative. Now, I'll be the first to admit that this particular creative adjustment is a little bit wild. It's a pretty dramatic effect for an image, but it can be a lot of fun as well. Let me show you how it's done. I'll go ahead and add a curves adjustment, I'll click on the Add New Adjustment Layer button at the bottom of the layers panel. And then choose curves from the popup menu.
Normally when I'm working with curves, I would be working with anchor points. I would simply click on the curve and drag downward to darken or upward to brighten, adjusting Brightness and Contrast throughout the image, for example. But we can also get a little bit more creative using the Pencil tool. I'll go ahead and reset my curve back to its initial state, and then I'll choose the Pencil tool, from the bar on the left side here in curves. I can then can draw a custom curve. Now a more traditional curve might be something like an S curve, for example. But we can get really wild with that curve in order to produce an interesting effect in the image.
I'll go ahead, for example, and draw a zigzag pattern going up the curve here, making essentially a sawtooth type of pattern. And if you look at the image, you'll see that we have this sort of posterized rainbow effect, I often refer to it as a bit of an oil slick effect. We can also create a more exaggurated curve. I'll go ahead and make a much more dramatic up and down swing, that saw tooth pattern going wildly up and down, all the way across the curve. And you see that we get a rather interesting rainbow sort of posterized look in the image. And I can continue drawing any variety of shapes for this curve zigzagging as I go up and down, and even varying the degree of zigzag. For example, starting off with very large zigzags.
And then continuing with smaller zigzags, in order to effect a different change in the shadows versus the highlights, for example. And you can just have fun with it, just experiment around and zigzag throughout the curve and see what sort of interesting effects you can come up with. It's not for everyone, and it's not going to work for every image. But sometimes, it can be just the fun, creative effect you need for a photo.
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