Photoshop Curves is one of the most powerful tools for tonal adjustments, whether you want to brighten, darken, add contrast, or shift colors. Yet it’s so complex, many users avoid it. In the tutorial below, photographer Joshua Cripps demonstrates a remarkably simple way to create great color effects using this most enigmatic of adjustment tools:
In this tutorial, Cripps uses just a couple of simple steps to isolate his colors and selectively bring out the hues he’d like to emphasize. Using just two curves adjustment layers, setting them with the targeted adjustment tool, and then masking off any unintended effects with Apply Image, Cripps was able to quickly add the color pop to what began as a somewhat ordinary photo.
Before Curves Adjustments
TARGETED ADJUSTMENT TOOL
And even if you’re somewhat familiar with the Curves tool, you may not have known about the shortcuts Cripps shows us with the Targeted Adjustment Tool (the one that looks like a hand). Simply click and then drag it up to increase an adjustment or down to decrease it.
Another little gem for folks newer to Photoshop was his usage of the Image > Apply Image command to create a mask that duplicated the light and dark areas of his image. One could go years of working with masks and not know this simple time-saving trick.
After Curves Adjustments
Many photographers would never think about creating more tonal separation between colors to heighten an image’s drama, but Cripps uses it to great effect here. His end result has a gentle “pop” to it that just wasn’t there at the beginning.
Try to edit your photo with photo editor