Correct tone with curves and mAsk Photoshop: Retouching

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Correcting tone with curves and masking

One of the most powerful and flexible adjustment layers that you can create is a Curves adjustment layer, and here I want to take a look at how we can create a couple of Curves adjustments in order to deal with some of the brightness and shadows issues in this photograph. Let's zoom in a little bit in order to take a look. One of the things that I notice is that there is a bright spot on the forehead; we've already talked about how we can deal with that. Yet there is also some shadows around the eyes. In order to fix that I'll go ahead and click on the Curves Adjustment Layer icon. Here I'm going to click and drag up or you can use the Targeted Adjustment tool.

If you click on that in order to target that shadow area, and then drag up. While I drag up I can see that the shadows look better, but the rest of the image doesn't, so we need to modify the mask. This will be pretty easy. All that we need to do is to click on the Mask icon and then press Invert. You can also invert your mask by pressing Command+I on a Mac or Ctrl+I on Windows; that will change the mask from black to white, and sometimes that's a handy shortcut to have. All right, well next we'll go ahead and we'll press the B key to select our Brush tool.

We want to choose white, so we can paint with white. We want to lower the opacity, so here we'll decrease our opacity by clicking and dragging this to the left. You know, there are so many different ways to change your brush size and the characteristics of your brush. One technique that I use every once in a while is to Ctrl or right-click on the image with the brush. Here we can then change the size and hover over this. And I like this because it allows me to see my brush size relative to where I am. Rather than having to access this menu up here, it's in context; it is right next to that area that I'm working on.

In order to exit out of this dialog, well, you can just click off of it somewhere in the interface. Next, we'll go ahead and start painting. And here because I have a pretty big brush. I have my opacity really low, and I'm going to go ahead and paint over the shadows in a little bit more of a broad way. I'm looking to do this slowly, when you're working with lights you want it to be feathered and tapered and I want to make these adjustments in nice kind of general ways. So I'm just going to try to diminish a couple of these general shadows that I'm seeing here, and go ahead and paint over those areas.

Next, I'll press the left bracket key to make my brush smaller. Now with the smaller brush, I'm going to get into some of the smaller little wrinkle areas. If you want to change your opacity on the fly, just press a number on the keyboard. You can press 2 to go to 20% or 3 to go to 30, and we've talked about that before, but I just like to call that out here in a situation like this. All right! Well, again we're just going to try to work to bring in some light into this area. We can click on the Eye icon. Here is our before; now here's our after.

After we've done that what we also want to do is feather out the edges of our brush strokes. Let me show you what that means and how that works. If you press Option or Alt and if you click on your mask you can see all of your different brush strokes. Here they are. Next, if you increase the feather, you can see how it just kind of smoothes those out. If I increase this a lot it's just going to turn them into almost big blobs. So as you increase this, you're just looking to kind of soften those edges, so they're not quite so dramatic or so etched into the photograph.

Well here, let's Option+Click or Alt+ Click the Mask icon again, this will just take it back to their regular view. And you can use that technique to evaluate or review your mask as far as the Option+Clicking or Alt+Clicking as we did there. All right, well now, let's click on our before and after and see how we're doing? Great! That's looking a lot better. Last, but not least, with this layer, we want to click on the Curves adjustment here and then go to our different channels in order to modify the color. And in this case, I'm just going to add a little tiny bit of red and then perhaps just a touch of a yellow as well.

I want to just modify this so that the tone there fits with the rest of the image. Looks like I brought in too much red, and when you're making really small adjustments, it's hard to work with this, so a better way is to set a point and then to use your arrow keys. I'll press the up arrow key just to add maybe a few points there of red, and then go to the Blue-Yellow channel and then also modify that color there in that part of the photograph. All right, well, now that we've done that let's also deal with our hotspot; we already know how to do this, but I just want to highlight that again.

We'll click the Curves adjustment layer icon. Grab our Targeted Adjustment tool. We can click and drag down on that area of the picture. Sometimes it's helpful too to drag your white point down a little bit as well. Next, let's invert our mask by way of the shortcut. Do you remember the shortcut? You press Command+I on a Mac, Ctrl+I on Windows, then press the B key to select your Brush tool. Here we'll paint with white. We want a bigger brush, so let's right- click or Ctrl+Click to open up our Brush dialog and let's increase our brush size, and then you can just click out of that dialog there to close it, and then we'll go ahead and start to paint away this little highlight here.

You could also paint over other highlights that you think might be kind of distracting with your photograph. Just make a few little brush strokes as we do that, and here you're getting pretty good at working with all of these tools. If you're following along, and if you're tracking with this, this is some advanced stuff and it can really help you out as you seek to improve your portraits. Next, we need to soften the edges of our brush strokes. So click in the mask and then just increase your feather a little bit until you think it looks nice. Last, but not least, you always want to look at your before and after.

Here it is. There is our before; now here is our after.

Correcting tone with curves and masking
Video duration: 5m 39s 6h 4m Intermediate


Correcting tone with curves and masking provides you with in-depth training on Photography. Taught by Chris Orwig as part of the Photoshop for Photographers: Portrait Retouching

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