Photoshop Curves Tool: 6 techniques every photographer must know

Photoshop Curves Tool: 6 techniques every photographer must know

Essential Photoshop Curves Techniques: 05 Making selective adjustments

Essential Photoshop Curves Techniques: 05 Making selective adjustments

Make selective tonal changes to different areas of your image by painting Layer Masks to hide or reveal the Curves effect.

For example, portraits often benefit from a boost in the irises.

To achieve this, add a Curves Adjustment Layer and plot an S-shaped curve, then hit Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the Curves layer’s mask to black.

Then grab the Brush tool, set colour to white, and paint over the iris to reveal the adjustment.

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Essential Photoshop Curves Techniques: 06 Tweaking colour channels

Essential Photoshop Curves Techniques: 06 Tweaking colour channels

You can tweak different colour channels via the dropdown menu at the top of the Curves box.

By plotting different points along the colour line you can shift colours – for example, reducing reds as we’ve done in the hair here.

An upwards drag on the red line adds red and down adds cyan; up on the blue channel adds blue and down adds yellow; up on the green line adds green and down adds magenta.

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In Depth – Inside the Photoshop Curves box

In Depth - Inside the Photoshop Curves box

1 Anchor points
Plot these along the Curves line, then drag them up to lighten and down to darken.

2 White and black points
Drag these inwards to set new white and black points. Hold Alt while dragging for a view of any clipped pixels.

3 RGB dropdown
Select different colour channels here access the red, green or blue Curves lines.

4 Preset
Choose from a list of handy presets, or use them as a starting point for further tweaks.

5 Pencil and smooth
Toggle the Pencil tool on to draw a freehand Curve. Use the ‘Smooth Curves values’ option to smooth the line.

6 Adjust brightness
Toggle the Hand icon on, then drag up or down over tones in the image to control brightness.

7 Histogram
A graphical representation of all the tones laid out in a ‘tonal range’, with shadows on the left and highlights on the right.

8 Eyedroppers
Toggle the eyedroppers on, then click over a tone in the image to set it as white, black or midtone grey.

9 Input and Output
Input represents the original tones in the image (the X-axis), while Output represents the new brightness value on a scale of 0-255 (the Y-axis).

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