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Understanding the basics of curves

From: Photo Restoration with Photoshop

Video: Understanding the basics of curves

Probably the most used adjustment in Photoshop-- Curves adjust the tonality and color of an image. A little like the Levels adjustment, Curves works on a much broader spectrum. Levels adjust three points--black, white, and midtone--and Curves adjusts these points plus all points in between. Click on the Add a new fill or adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and select Curves. Let's go first to the Color Channel dropdown menu. This holds the information for the separate color channels. You can stay in the combined channel mode for all the adjustments or do them by channel for even more control over the adjustments.

Understanding the basics of curves

Probably the most used adjustment in Photoshop-- Curves adjust the tonality and color of an image. A little like the Levels adjustment, Curves works on a much broader spectrum. Levels adjust three points--black, white, and midtone--and Curves adjusts these points plus all points in between. Click on the Add a new fill or adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and select Curves. Let's go first to the Color Channel dropdown menu. This holds the information for the separate color channels. You can stay in the combined channel mode for all the adjustments or do them by channel for even more control over the adjustments.

At the top of the dialog box is the Curves type presets dropdown. These presets can sometimes be pretty interesting, and are worth a quick look- through, if nothing else. Now let's look at the histogram. Histograms are downright frightening to many people, but all a histogram is really is a graph that shows all the tonal information of an image. The upper right-hand corner is the set black point, the lower left-hand corner is the set white point, and the middle is the set gray point.

So all the darkest values are here, all the lightest values are here, and all the tones in between are here. You can edit these set points in a number of ways; one is the On Image Adjustment tool here next to the Channel menu. With this you can adjust the histogram by selecting points on the image itself and then dragging it one way or another to lighten or darken. You can also adjust the set points using the eyedroppers. Use the black eyedropper on the darkest part of the image, the white at the lightest, and the gray at the midpoint.

Sometimes it's not so easy to see the midpoint, and you might have to click around and try different areas to see if any of them have a look you like. In some cases the midtone dropper won't even work at all. One reason for that is, not all images have midtones or neutral gray areas, and you can't find what's not there in the first place. You can also adjust the histogram by manipulating the line manually. By default, the histogram is set to the Edit points to modify the curve right here, which allows you to move the set points themselves and all areas in between.

Right under the Edit points to modify the curves settings is the Draw to modify the curves settings. This one takes a lot of practice and isn't something you should use right off the bat without lots of practice. With this you actually draw in your own curves settings, and it can be pretty difficult to control. Or it can be used to make psychedelic art. Another setting is the Auto setting. It's a one-click fix that sometimes works, sometimes doesn't, but it might at least work as a starting point for your photograph.

Curves are one of the most powerful adjustment tools in Photoshop and probably the single most used adjustment in digital photo restoration. It's probably safe to say that many who use curves only use the eyedropper settings and never even pay attention to the histogram, or the other settings. You can get by like that I'm sure, but it's a much more rewarding to get to know your tools and understand all they can do.

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This video is part of

Image for Photo Restoration with Photoshop
Photo Restoration with Photoshop

70 video lessons · 15628 viewers

Janine Smith
Author

 
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  1. 1m 33s
    1. Welcome
      48s
    2. What you should know before watching this course
      13s
    3. Using the exercise files
      32s
  2. 16m 47s
    1. Customizing your workspace
      2m 17s
    2. Using layers
      1m 58s
    3. Assessing the damage
      1m 52s
    4. Rebuilding color channels in a grayscale image
      3m 47s
    5. Using a Black & White adjustment layer
      1m 57s
    6. Using the Clone Stamp, Healing Brush, and Patch tools
      4m 56s
  3. 27m 30s
    1. Fixing a faded black-and-white photo
      2m 20s
    2. Removing small splits, specks, and spots
      3m 44s
    3. Repairing red-eye
      4m 58s
    4. Reducing paper texture
      4m 34s
    5. Reducing dot patterns in printed photos
      3m 51s
    6. Fixing lens distortion
      4m 19s
    7. Straightening a crooked image
      3m 44s
  4. 24m 16s
    1. Fixing large rips, tears, and other damage
      3m 9s
    2. Removing long scratches
      3m 24s
    3. Fixing creases
      5m 8s
    4. Stitching large photos using Photomerge
      3m 17s
    5. Reassembling torn photos
      4m 56s
    6. Replacing missing pieces
      4m 22s
  5. 27m 55s
    1. Removing stains
      3m 48s
    2. Removing ink marks
      2m 34s
    3. Repairing adhesive tape damage on a black-and-white photo
      2m 14s
    4. Repairing adhesive tape damage on a color photo
      6m 1s
    5. Fixing mold damage
      5m 20s
    6. Reducing starburst light glare
      5m 11s
    7. Reducing eyeglass light glare
      2m 47s
  6. 21m 32s
    1. Understanding the basics of levels
      2m 50s
    2. Understanding the basics of curves
      3m 29s
    3. Finding the black, white, and gray points in an image
      3m 28s
    4. Adjusting color levels by channel
      1m 58s
    5. Making selective contrast adjustments
      4m 48s
    6. Adjusting image shadows and highlights
      4m 59s
  7. 18m 13s
    1. Adjusting color with the Photo Filter adjustment
      2m 23s
    2. Correcting color casts using inverse color correction
      3m 2s
    3. Correcting color problems using the Color Balance adjustment
      3m 19s
    4. Correcting color casts using the Variations command
      3m 55s
    5. Correcting color by combining levels and curves
      1m 44s
    6. Improving color by adjusting the hue and saturation
      3m 50s
  8. 33m 14s
    1. Removing distracting elements
      5m 35s
    2. Repairing and recreating backgrounds
      7m 43s
    3. Extracting areas using masks
      5m 5s
    4. Matching colors in elements you add
      4m 11s
    5. Matching textures
      4m 45s
    6. Replacing facial features and missing body parts
      5m 55s
  9. 29m 59s
    1. Converting to black and white
      4m 48s
    2. Enhancing faded color
      3m 30s
    3. Smoothing a subject's skin
      4m 2s
    4. Enhancing black-and-white photos with duotone
      2m 34s
    5. Enhancing the eyes
      4m 10s
    6. Bringing out facial features with light
      5m 22s
    7. Sharpening
      5m 33s
  10. 32m 32s
    1. Assessing the damage
      1m 26s
    2. Repairing the crack
      1m 52s
    3. Replacing the missing body parts
      3m 5s
    4. Removing the specks, spots, and scratches
      3m 7s
    5. Fixing the missing corner
      1m 14s
    6. Lightening the stains
      5m 22s
    7. Restoring the faded tone in the face
      3m 8s
    8. Balancing the tone in the image
      1m 58s
    9. Evening the color with a Black & White adjustment layer
      49s
    10. Cleaning up the image
      2m 24s
    11. Adding definition to the face
      2m 20s
    12. Softening the image
      58s
    13. Sharpening the image
      2m 4s
    14. Bringing back some of the original tone
      1m 34s
    15. Comparing the image before and after
      1m 11s
  11. 24s
    1. Final thoughts
      24s

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