In this tutorial, I want to show you how to use a Photoshop curves adjustment layer to target and adjust individual tones (shadows, midtones, highlights) in your image. I almost always use this method when I’m doing a clean edit. It allows for such control over the final image! I use this method primarily to add some contrast to the photo.
I think this makes the most sense watching it, so you can watch the video first, and I will give you a few notes after the video!
Here are the basics from the video… All you need to do is open your image, create a new curves adjustment layer (you can read Curves Part 1 if you are not familiar with the basics of curves), and select the ‘hand’ icon…
Selecting the ‘hand’ will make your cursor into an eyedropper when you are hovering over your image. Click an area on your photo that you want to target, either to manipulate or to anchor the tones. This will place a corresponding point on the curve, which will then allow you to do one of the following:
- Use the point as an anchor point – as you are manipulating other tones, you may want to anchor some tones in place so they are not changed by your adjustments
- Pull the point on the curve up, making those tones brighter
- Pull the point on the curve down, making those tones darker
Use multiple points to adjust the tones to your liking. Remember: The steeper an area of a curve, the more contrast you will introduce in that tonal range. The flatter the area of a curve, the less contrast there will be in that tonal range.
In this example, here is the After from simply adjusting the tones with curves (rollover in a computer browser to see the before and after comparison)…
I hope this makes sense! Thank you so much for stopping by!