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In Photoshop CS4 Adobe added an important feature to the Curves adjustment, an on-click image adjustment tool. This is a visual method of adding points to the curve and reshaping the curve from right within the image. The process is really intuitive, and it streamlines the work of finding a particular tone on the curve, adding points to a curve and adjusting those points. Here's how it works. I'm going to add a Curves adjustment layer to this image by going up to the Adjustments panel and clicking the Curves icon.
In the Curves adjustment panel, I'm going to enable the On-click feature by going to this icon and clicking there. Now that I've enabled that feature, I can do several things. One thing I can do is just move my cursor over the image, and notice that when I do that I get a hollow circle in the part of the curve that corresponds to this area of the image. So if I'm looking say for the lightest part of the image, all I have to do is move my cursor around the image, and that hollow circle will move on the curve, identifying where the lightest part of the image might be. I think it's just around there.
Another thing that I can do with the On-click adjustment is to add points to the curve from inside of the image. So if I wanted to add a point here in the lightest part of the image, I would just click and I now have a point there on the curve. I can add another point in the mid- tones by moving over a middle gray area of the image, and clicking there, and I can add another point to the dark areas by moving over some dark shadows and clicking there. Now that I have some points on the curve, I can use those to manually reshape the curve.
So right now I have the dark point selected on the curve. If I go to the arrow keys on my key board and press the up arrow, I'll be opening up the shadow areas. To move to another point on the curve, I can just click on that point, or I can click the plus or minus keys on my keyboard. So I'll click the plus key to move to that mid-tone point, and I'll click the plus key one more time, and it selects the highlight point that I added. Then I'm going to use the down arrow key on my keyboard to darken the highlights in the image. So that's one way that the On-click adjustment comes in handy.
But I think that the biggest advantage of this On-click feature is that I can use it to make adjustments to the curve directly from the image. I'd like to show you that, so I'm going to go back to the default curve by going up to the Curves menu at the top of the Adjustments panel, and from the list of presets there, I'll choose. That sets the curve back to its original shape without any adjustments to the image. I still have the On-click adjustment enabled here. What I can do is come into the image, find that part of the image that I want to adjust. Say I want to open up the shadows down here, click and hold, and I get this icon that shows a finger with a double pointed arrow facing up and down.
What that icon is trying to tell me is that if I drag up, I'll be lightening this area of the image, and if I drag down, I'll be darkening. So I'm going to drag up here to open up the shadows, and you can see that that has reshaped the entire curve. So that adjustment has made the shadow areas look better. But I don't like what it's done to the sky. I had some really nice contrast-y clouds there a moment ago, and now they are all washed out. To bring them back, I'm just going to move my cursor over at the sky, and I'm going to click and hold and drag down to darken the highlight areas. Keep your eyes on the curve as I do this and you'll see that I'm basically reshaping the curve from inside of the image.
This is such an intuitive way to use Curves that it really makes the feature accessible to everyone. And I've realized that if you've been using Curves for a while and you have an establish workflow, that it may take you while to get used to the new on image adjustment workflow. But if persevere, I think you'll agree that it really is intuitive and a time saver in Photoshop CS4.
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