Nature Notes

November 28, 2008

Photoshop Tutorial- Understanding Curves

Filed under: Photoshop Tutorial,Processing Tips — Tags: , — Harold Stiver @ 3:18 pm

Photoshop Tutorial-Curves

One of the things I heard when I first received critiques on my photos was that they “needed some pop” or “a bit of curves”. My initial forays into the curves filter in Photoshop intimidated me, but I finally shook myself and made a determined effort. In the following tutorial you will find some easy lessons that will allow you to master this technique.

The Basic Layout

Lets open up a Curves command and get a look at things. You will see a central area divided into squares and intersected with a darker line running from bottom left to top right. This line represents the exposure values in your image, ranging from the darkest values in the lower left to the lightest in the upper right.Move your mouse over your image and you will see that it changes to an eyedropper icon. When you click on your image you will see a dot click on your curves line. This represents the exposure level of the portion of the image you clicked on.
You can can create a waypoint on your line by holding down the ctr key and clicking on a portion of the image. We will deal with these waypoints a bit later.You can move a waypoint by holding your mouse down and moving it, and you can get rid of it by grabbing it with your mouse down and pulling it off just like a cloths peg from a line.Now make a waypoint, and pull it into the areas I have labeled L or D. Again, you can do this by holding your mouse button down on the waypoint and dragging it. If you drag it into the L area, you will see that the corresponding areas in your image will get lighter (Be sure the preview button is checked). Similarly try dragging it into the D portion to make it darker.

Photoshop Tutorial-Curves

The S Curve

The most common use of curves is the S curve. This is a curve which increases contrast which provides the pop to an image. It makes your darks a bit darker and lights a bit lighter, and does it in a graduated way that looks natural. You can make this curve without waypoints but lets add some. Click on your line where it intersects the grid in the lower left and upper right.Pull the lower left down a bit and the upper right up a bit. Check your preview and adjust to suit. That’s it, that’s all there is to it. Click on Image

Curves can be used for many other things including Setting the White and Black Point but the S Curve will give you a great way to give your photos a boost.

Index to Photoshop Tutorials.

This tutorial is a part of the Photoshop Workflow Series

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  1. There is a menu on the right side about 3 inches wide that covers all the diagrams. I’d like to use the tut, but can’t because of that long menu. Maybe it’s my Mac.

    Comment by Anne Bellenger — November 28, 2008 @ 5:24 pm

  2. Hi Anne:

    I don’t know what might cause that. It seems good in PC (Google Chrome, Firefox and IE). I’ll have to look into the problem.

    Anyway here is a regular htm link you can use.

    Cheers, Harold

    Comment by Harold — November 28, 2008 @ 5:52 pm

  3. Harold-
    Your tutorials are perfect for the more serious-but-amateur user – enough to cover the essentials but not so much as to fry the brain. You have quite a knack of getting to the point and explaining it. Thanks so much for the continued education.

    Comment by Len Blumin — November 30, 2008 @ 1:34 pm

  4. Thanks Len:

    I find its a learning process for me in doing the research to put one together.

    Thanks a lot for your comments.

    Cheers, Harold

    Comment by Harold — December 1, 2008 @ 9:05 am

  5. Wah!! awesome

    Comment by Text Effect — December 9, 2008 @ 2:44 am

  6. Thanks so much.

    You have a great list of text tutorials!! Well done. Harold

    Comment by Harold — December 9, 2008 @ 8:33 am

  7. […] you worked through the Photoshop Tutorial – Understanding Curves, you will have a good basic knowledge of how this function works, and this is what we will […]

    Pingback by Photoshop Tutorial - Processing a Backlit Image | Nature Notes from Harold Stiver — December 14, 2008 @ 7:01 am

  8. If you have Anne’s problem with the box on the right obscuring the text and diagrams, increase your monitor’s resolution from 800×600 to 1024×768, using the SETTINGS menu in Control Panel (PC–don’t know how a Mac user would do it, but there must be an analogous procedure).

    Comment by John Walters — April 22, 2009 @ 10:01 pm

  9. Excellent John, thank you.


    Comment by Harold — April 22, 2009 @ 10:37 pm

  10. hello, this is my first visit at ur blog. nice to noe u mate.
    i would like to thanks to you for this helpful photoshop tutorial.
    i will subscribe to ur blog rss feed. im newbie in photoshop.


    p/s: im from malaysia, did u noe where it is located? lol

    Comment by baloot — May 21, 2009 @ 6:51 am

  11. Thanks for the message.

    I do know where Malaysia is, I visited there a few years ago, a wonderful place.


    Comment by Harold — May 21, 2009 @ 6:14 pm

  12. nice tutorial, thanks!

    Comment by retoucher77 — June 4, 2009 @ 9:02 am

  13. Thanks for the kind words.

    Your website looks very interesting.

    Cheers, Harold

    Comment by Harold — June 4, 2009 @ 9:44 pm

  14. […] Understanding Curves […]

    Pingback by 15 causes of poor images and how to fix them | Nature Notes — June 18, 2009 @ 7:03 am

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