Curves: The most Powerful Photoshop Feature


Well, it’s here, another Curves tutorial that I’ve done. This is the biggest and baddest one yet. I’ll take you from absolutely no knowledge about Curves and by the end of this video you will understand how to control the contrast, tone, and color of specific areas of your image without a mask and increase or decrease contrast as well as introduce or reduce colors in your images. Curves might be the most powerful feature in all of Photoshop. is our sponsor! Check out the deal for readers right here!

1. Curves Dialog Box: Light vs. Dark


The fastest way to get to Curves is to go Image>Adjustments>Curves, but this way of working with Curves will apply your changes directly to your image and isn’t a non-destructive method like Adjustment Layers are. More on that in a moment. Open the Curves dialog box and click the middle of the diagonal line you see and drag up to brighten your image or drag downward to add darkness to your image.

2. Avoid Flat Spots and Downhill Runs


Two of the things you want to avoid when you’re working with Curves are flat spots and downhill runs in your diagonal line as you click and add more points to your Curves line. Flat spots will leave big parts of your image completely without and contrast (they will become solid gray) and downhill runs will make parts of your image appear as a negative style image. If you need to get rid of a point on your Curve simply drag it away and off of the dialog box.

3. The Histogram in Curves


There is a histogram in the rear of the Curves dialog box. The histogram shows how many dark to light pixels you have in your image. The left side of the histogram starts with solid black and moves right until the far right which represents solid white. Everything in between are varying shades within your image. If you want to brighten primarily the light part of your image, pull up on the Curve line over closer to the right side of your Curve line.

4. The “S” Curve to Create Contrast


To introduce more contrast, pull down a little in the dark part of your Curve line and pull up a little on the lights part of the Curves line. The “S” curve will always increase contrast and a reversed “S” curve will reduce the contrast.

5. Color Correct with Curves


In the Curves dialog box you will see three eyedroppers, the gray eyedropper will allow you to click on a spot in your image that you know should not be tainted with any color, if something that you know is a perfect gray actually have a blue color shift, then your whole image has that color shift. By clicking to correct that one area, the whole image will be corrected.

6. Giving Curves “The Finger”


There is also a single finger icon in the Curves dialog box. This is a very intuitive way to use Curves and allows you to simply click and drag up/down on any part of your image to brighten or darken primarily that part of the image. Every time you click and drag, you add another point to your Curves line to create one flowing curve that will tweak and adjust your image to your heart’s delight.

7. Fading, Color Channels, and the Curves Adjustment Layer


The incredible power of Curves includes being able to pump light directly into the darks, or fade the brightest areas of your image with ease. You also have access to each of the Red, Green, and Blue color channels and can even use the finger tool to pump color into parts of your image, or add the opposite of that color (Red/Cyan, Green/Magenta, and Blue/Yellow) into either dark or bright parts of your image. We also have the ability to contain the entire power of this adjustment with an Adjustment Layer. All of that and MORE is covered in the video above.

Be sure to watch the video at the top of this article tutorial for even more detail!

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