How to Use Curves in Photoshop and Camera Raw

Curves are one of the most powerful tools in Photoshop. The number of ways that you can use them is astounding. But, they can also be rather complicated to learn and, for that reason, many people avoid them altogether. If you’ve been curious about Curves, you may want to have a look at the following video shows us some handy ways to utilize the awesome tool:

Using Curves in Camera Raw

There are few easy ways to use the Curve Tool once your image is opened in Camera Raw. One of the most obvious of those ways being to drag on the curved lines until you find suitable results. But this isn’t the most user intuitive way. There are sliders located on bottom of the Curve panel that you can either drag left or right to change their values to fine tune your tones.

Another great way, and O’Neil Hughes’ favorite way, is to use the Targeted Adjustment Tool, which can be found on the toolbar at the top of the screen. (Tip: It looks like a crosshair and bulls eye.)

photoshop tutorial

The Targeted Adjustment Tool is a great way to learn about the power of curves.

Once you have the Targeted Adjustment Tool selected and your Curves Panel open, all you have to do is click and drag either up or down on any area of your image where you want to apply an adjustment. For example, if an area is too bright, just take your cursor and place it on the area. Click and drag downwards and Photoshop will automatically bring down the highlights.

Using Curves in Photoshop

As Bryan O’Neil Hughes shows us, Curves work very similarly in Photoshop, but there are some differences. For starters, you can apply changes to the curves as a non-destructive Adjustment Layer. This is great because it doesn’t change your original file. Plus, it can be changed at any time, and you get an extra level of fine tuning power due to the ability to change the opacity of the Adjustment Layer.

photoshop presets

Photoshop has some presets that you can edit to make them more to your taste.

O’Neil Hughes also explains the Presets that are found in the Curves Panel. He suggests using them as way to familiarize yourself with Curves, because they can be fine tuned using the sliders, creating a customized looked. You can also apply different Blending Modes to the Curves Adjustment Layer for different effects.

“Curves is really powerful for color and tonal adjustments. And it doesn’t need to be scary.”

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