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Winning Curves tips and tricks

From: Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Advanced

Video: Winning Curves tips and tricks

In this movie, I'll share with you a few tricks that should make your life easier when working with curves. You will notice that I've gone ahead and renamed my layer contrast. I'll double-click on it to bring up curves inside the Properties panel, and just to make sure that I'm protected, because I am going to make a bunch of modifications here. I am going to go up to the flyout menu and choose Save Curves Preset and I will go ahead and name this file Black & white heft for example. Make sure to save your preset to the default Curves folder which is the subfolder someplace in your hard drive and then click the Save button, and you'll see Black & white heft in my case listed among your Presets, which means you can come back to this graph anytime you like.

Winning Curves tips and tricks

In this movie, I'll share with you a few tricks that should make your life easier when working with curves. You will notice that I've gone ahead and renamed my layer contrast. I'll double-click on it to bring up curves inside the Properties panel, and just to make sure that I'm protected, because I am going to make a bunch of modifications here. I am going to go up to the flyout menu and choose Save Curves Preset and I will go ahead and name this file Black & white heft for example. Make sure to save your preset to the default Curves folder which is the subfolder someplace in your hard drive and then click the Save button, and you'll see Black & white heft in my case listed among your Presets, which means you can come back to this graph anytime you like.

Now it's showing you how you can press the Control key or the Command key on the Mac and click on a point in order to delete it. I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Cmd+Z on the Mac to undo that change. What happens when you Alt+Click or Opt+Click or Shift+Click? Well, if you Alt+Click inside the graph you are going to increase the number of gridlines, that would be an Opt+Click on the Mac. If you Alt+Click or Opt+Click again, you will reduce the number of gridlines. And all that is, is a preference. This is not a snapping grid. So it won't help you nail the location of points. If you Shift+Click on points, you will select multiple points at the time.

So I'm going to click and then Shift+Click on these three points right there. For example, I will drag them upward and typically this is what you want to do. If I were brightening the darkest colors for example, I would drag these points upward or I could darken them by dragging downward. You typically don't want to drag back and forth, because in my case if drag to the left, I end up losing some of those points and I have to drag back to the right again in order to regain them. What you most typically do hear--I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Cmd+Z on the Mac to reset those points--is just select a handful of points and then nudge them from the keyboard.

So if I wanted to brighten my shadows and midtones I would press the Up Arrow key a few times in a row and notice that the Output value now reads 8. That is not an absolute luminance level as in almost black. That is a relative luminance level meaning that we have brightened all three of these points by eight. All right. So far I've showed you how to set and modify points on a curve, but you can also draw a custom curve graph using this Pencil right here. So for example I could go ahead and just draw a curve across the graph and presumably you're going to start somewhere down left and move your way up right, because if you go in the opposite direction, for example from up left to down right, you'll end up inverting the image like so.

You can also draw crazy graphs if you want to. I will go ahead and turn off these two grayscale layers right there so that we can see curves applied to the full-color image, and now notice if I draw something along these lines, I'm creating what's known as an arbitrary map, which among other things can end up generating psychedelic effects like these here, and you're probably not going to take advantage of this very often, but you may sometimes find these sorts of arbitrary maps to be useful when working with masks.

Now if your curve ends up having a bunch of gaps in it as mine does or it ends up spiking in certain locations, you can soften the transitions by clicking on the Smooth button. So notice each time I click Smooth, I end up smoothing out my graph like so and then I could decide this wants to go back up and then I could click Smooth a few more times. Now a more practical way to take advantage of the Pencil combined with Smooth is to Shift+Click inside the graph. Let me show you what that looks like. I'll go and turn those two grayscale layers back on and then I'll click in the bottom left corner and Shift+Click at this location here and Shift+Click again, and notice each time I Shift+Click I end up connecting my click points with straight segments.

So that's a quick way to roughen a graph, that ends up giving us this posterization as you can see here inside the image window, however. So get rid of the posterization and smooth out the transitions you click on the Smooth button, probably three or four or even five times in a row. Now the great thing about working this way is you don't have to mess with the values and Photoshop will actually create the values for you if you just go ahead and click on this little Points button there, notice Photoshop adds points to the graph, automatically sets the Input and Output values, and you're done. All right.

Another thing to note, if I grab the Target Adjustment tool, I was showing you how if you move your cursor in the image, and my cursor is in the woman's forehead right here, you can see the bouncing ball, in my case in the upper right portion of the graph and if you click, you end up setting a point to that location. Well, you also have three other graphs to work with when you're working inside of an RGB image. You can independently modify the Red, Green, and Blue channels. So there might be times where you want to set, instead of a composite point as we created just a moment ago, a channel by channel point.

So in my case, let's say I move down her brow here so I can get a kind of darker color, and right about there I will press the Ctrl+Shift keys or Cmd+Shift on the Mac and I'll click. And that goes ahead and sets a point inside of each one of the independent channels. So notice if I switch to the Red channel, I've got a point right there, and so I can press the Up Arrow key to add a little bit of redness to my otherwise grayscale image and now I'll switch to the Blue channel and press the Escape key so that the menu is no longer active and press the Down Arrow key in order to achieve a kind of Sepia effect there, and then I might switch over to the Green channel and press Escape once again and then press the Up Arrow key, maybe just a couple of times so that I don't end up making the image look too yellow and I achieve this effect here. All right.

Now I am going to switch back to the Composite version of the image like so, and you can see those channel by channel curves represented in Red, Green, and Blue inside the composite graph. All right. Let's end things with a look at what happens when you're working inside of a grayscale image. So for the moment I am going to go ahead and click on this Curves layer here inside the Layers panel, and press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac to get rid of it, and then I'll go up to the Image menu, choose mode, and choose Grayscale and I will a get series of alert messages asking me if I want to rasterize my Smart Object.

I do, so I'll click the Rasterize button. Do I want to get rid of my adjustment layers or merge them? I want to merge them, because otherwise I'll lose those adjustments. And then finally, do I want to discard the color information? I do, so I will click Discard and I am left with a single layer as well as the single channel gray here inside the Channels panel. Now if I dropdown to the Black/White icon and I choose the Curves command, you can see here in the Properties panel that everything is backward. We have the white triangle on the left-hand side and the black triangle on the right side.

And the reason for this is these guys no longer represent Luminance levels, instead they represent ink values. So if I were to click on this lower left point, you can see that the value is 0. By that it means 0% ink which is paper white and if I press the Plus (+) key in order to advance to the upper right point, its value is 100 meaning a 100% ink, so black. What that does is it ends up just messing with the way your brain works inside Photoshop in my opinion.

I can go ahead and reload that preset I created a moment ago by choosing Black & white heft, but now the whole thing is upside down and backwards. So I'm raising the points in order to darken those shadows in the upper right region of the graph and everything that's occurring with the highlights is in the down left region of the graph. If you don't like to work that way then I have to admit I don't, because everything else in Photoshop is based on luminance. Then you can click on the flyout menu icon and choose Curves Display Options and then switch Show Amount of from Pigment/Ink% to Light (0-255) and that restores the graph to its more familiar behavior.

Then click OK, and by the way, this will change the graph for all future grayscale images as well. If you work in CMYK and you prefer to work with luminance, as we have so far, then you would want to run through those same steps with the CMYK image. Those are a few tips and tricks for working with Curve Adjustments here inside Photoshop.

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This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Advanced
Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Advanced

124 video lessons · 19170 viewers

Deke McClelland
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 30m 4s
    1. Welcome to One-on-One
      2m 19s
    2. Loading the dekeKeys keyboard shortcuts
      6m 5s
    3. Remapping your Macintosh OS shortcuts
      3m 4s
    4. Adjusting a few general preferences
      4m 3s
    5. Using the visual HUD color picker
      2m 2s
    6. The interface and performance settings
      5m 31s
    7. Adjusting the color settings in Photoshop
      7m 0s
  2. 47m 0s
    1. Smart Objects
      1m 36s
    2. Three ways to place a Smart Object
      3m 6s
    3. Copying and pasting from Adobe Illustrator
      4m 11s
    4. Transforming and warping a vector object
      4m 48s
    5. Blending a Smart Object into a photograph
      3m 10s
    6. Blurring with a nested Smart Filter
      4m 57s
    7. Editing a Smart Object in Illustrator
      3m 20s
    8. Creating "true clones"
      3m 50s
    9. Duplicating a group of clones
      2m 53s
    10. Breaking the Smart Object link
      2m 53s
    11. Styling and blending Smart Objects
      2m 44s
    12. Editing originals; updating clones
      3m 41s
    13. Removing people from a scene with Median
      5m 51s
  3. 29m 59s
    1. Luminance meets sharpening
      1m 2s
    2. Correcting for lens distortion
      4m 39s
    3. Introducing Shadows/Highlights
      3m 54s
    4. Mitigating halos with Radius values
      4m 19s
    5. Enhancing the effects of Midtone Contrast
      3m 18s
    6. Creating a "bounce" with Gaussian Blur
      3m 29s
    7. Sharpening on top of blur
      2m 47s
    8. Masking a group of Smart Filters
      2m 53s
    9. Reducing the density of a layer mask
      3m 38s
  4. 49m 10s
    1. Using Curves
      2m 40s
    2. Introducing the Curves adjustment
      7m 36s
    3. Adding and editing points on a curve
      6m 27s
    4. Winning Curves tips and tricks
      8m 12s
    5. Correcting a challenging image
      6m 33s
    6. Selecting and darkening highlights
      4m 39s
    7. Neutralizing colors and smoothing transitions
      6m 6s
    8. The new automatic Curves function
      6m 57s
  5. 1h 31m
    1. Camera Raw
      2m 11s
    2. Opening and editing multiple images
      8m 1s
    3. Correcting white balance
      4m 8s
    4. The revamped Exposure controls
      8m 8s
    5. Working with archival images
      7m 54s
    6. The Spot Removal and Graduated Filter tools
      6m 4s
    7. Painting edits with the Adjustment Brush
      7m 23s
    8. Tone Curves (and why you don't need them)
      5m 57s
    9. Straighten, crop, and geometric distortions
      5m 17s
    10. Applying manual lens corrections
      5m 14s
    11. Vignette, chromatic aberration, and fringe
      6m 49s
    12. Selective hue, saturation, and luminance
      6m 36s
    13. Working with JPEG and TIFF images
      6m 36s
    14. Camera Raw Smart Objects
      6m 48s
    15. Editing Camera Raw images from Bridge
      4m 24s
  6. 32m 30s
    1. Duotones
      1m 23s
    2. Creating a professional-quality sepia tone
      4m 18s
    3. Introducing the Gradient Map adjustment
      5m 42s
    4. Loading a library of custom gradients
      3m 48s
    5. Creating a custom quadtone
      5m 48s
    6. Colorizing with blend modes and Opacity
      4m 6s
    7. Creating a faux-color, high-key effect
      7m 25s
  7. 1h 6m
    1. Noise vs. Details
      1m 28s
    2. Introducing the Reduce Noise filter
      7m 29s
    3. Correcting a noisy photo
      5m 33s
    4. Smoothing over high-contrast noise
      5m 50s
    5. Protecting details with an edge mask
      4m 52s
    6. Adjusting overly saturated shadows
      3m 35s
    7. Correcting with High Pass and Lens Blur
      3m 45s
    8. Brushing away blur and sharpening
      6m 42s
    9. Creating texture by adding noise
      5m 28s
    10. The Camera Raw Detail panel
      7m 8s
    11. Correcting noise and detail in Camera Raw
      8m 10s
    12. Adding noise grain and vignetting effects
      6m 47s
  8. 44m 30s
    1. Blur Gallery
      1m 36s
    2. Creating depth-of-field effects in post
      5m 29s
    3. Modifying your Field Blur settings
      4m 57s
    4. Editing and exporting a Field Blur mask
      6m 15s
    5. Adding a synthetic light bokeh
      3m 52s
    6. Using the Selection Bleed option
      7m 29s
    7. Creating a radial blur with Iris Blur
      6m 59s
    8. Creating "fake miniatures" with Tilt-Shift
      4m 35s
    9. Combining multiple Blur Gallery effects
      3m 18s
  9. 1h 34m
    1. Blend Modes
      1m 16s
    2. Using the Dissolve mode
      9m 47s
    3. Multiply and the darken modes
      8m 30s
    4. Screen and the lighten modes
      8m 10s
    5. Cleaning up and integrating a bad photo
      6m 38s
    6. Blending inside blend modes
      6m 55s
    7. Overlay and the contrast modes
      6m 53s
    8. A few great uses for the contrast modes
      9m 7s
    9. Difference, Exclusion, Subtract, and Divide
      5m 5s
    10. Capturing the differences between images
      4m 18s
    11. Hue, Saturation, Color, and Luminosity
      4m 45s
    12. Blend mode shortcuts
      6m 21s
    13. The Fill Opacity Eight
      8m 57s
    14. Using the luminance-exclusion slider bars
      8m 8s
  10. 44m 20s
    1. Color Range
      1m 14s
    2. Introducing the Color Range command
      7m 24s
    3. Selecting a complex image with Color Range
      5m 49s
    4. Refining a selection in the Quick Mask mode
      7m 4s
    5. Viewing a mask with or without its image
      4m 24s
    6. Painting directly inside an alpha channel
      5m 39s
    7. Correcting fringes around a masked layer
      8m 5s
    8. Turning a layer into a knockout
      4m 41s
  11. 59m 43s
    1. Refine Edges
      1m 28s
    2. Laying down a base layer mask
      6m 49s
    3. Introducing the Refine Edge/Mask command
      7m 57s
    4. Edge detection and Smart Radius
      4m 42s
    5. Using the Refine Radius tool
      7m 31s
    6. The transformative power of Refine Edge
      3m 37s
    7. Perfecting a mask with overlay painting
      10m 58s
    8. Combining Quick Selection with Refine Mask
      10m 37s
    9. Bolstering and integrating hair
      6m 4s
  12. 1h 18m
    1. The Pen tool
      1m 50s
    2. Pixel-based masking versus the Pen tool
      6m 45s
    3. Drawing a straight-sided path outline
      6m 57s
    4. Moving, deleting, and adding anchor points
      6m 10s
    5. Dragging control handles to modify curves
      5m 27s
    6. Converting a path outline to a vector mask
      5m 36s
    7. Customizing a geometric shape
      5m 53s
    8. How to position points and control handles
      7m 7s
    9. Drawing smooth points with the Pen tool
      8m 7s
    10. Duplicating and scaling a vector mask
      5m 21s
    11. Cusp points and the Rubber Band option
      6m 21s
    12. Setting anchor points in the pasteboard
      6m 8s
    13. Using the Convert Point tool
      6m 43s

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