Getting Crazy with Colour Adjustment Curves

There are so many damn ways to enhance colour within an image using Photoshop that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. And depending on the result you are after any number of several small functions can alter the colour in your finished product. So you ask, which one is best?

Well this isn’t the best, or the most common, but here is a slightly different method that I’ve used from time to time to generate a slightly different kind of look to the finished photo – Similar to the old C’s Garage Corolla that is pictured above. It creates more of a summer-ish image, with semi-vintage tones. This Technique works well with your standard RGB colours, so if you have summer shots that could do with a little life give this a crack!

Lets fire up Photoshop and have a look at what colour correction with adjustment curves is all about.

Where the hell do I find this curves adjustment thinger Matt?
Pick an image, go through your usual sharpening, composing and other steps and once you are ready; Click on the “Create new fill or adjustment layer” as pictured at the bottom of the “Layers” tab above – It looks like a contrast button with a circle half filled with black & white.

So how does this shit work?
Let’s do the Red channel – First click on the drop down menu in the middle (it will currently say “RGB”) and select the Red channel as pictured. Now drag two points in the adjustment graph similar to the values I have. Heck, just copy the values for the time being (axis values are seen under the graph as “Output and Input”)

As you can see in your image with the red graph, the lower the value (under the diagonal line) makes the lower tones within the colour Red darker. Conversely the higher your point above the diagonal line and the lighter tones become more apparent. Generally the lower tones (bottom point) within Red have noticeably  lower values.

Moving on to the Green channel – This one requires small and subtle values as the changes can really wash out a photo if you are not careful. As you can see in the graph my points are very close to the diagonal line meaning the tones are very close to what the original image was.

Now for the Blue channel – This is cool for a final curve adjustment, making the lower point higher increases the blue. Making the upper point lower increases a yellow hue across the image.

Shit, that’s cool. How do I reduce that effect though?
Easy, as you can see in your Layers tab you have 3 Curve layers. The strength of this effect can be altered by reducing that layers opacity. Just like you would reduce a fill or gradient you can do exactly the same with colour adjustment curves.

The differences are small
But once the image is viewed in its entirety it really does make a huge difference to the overall “feel” of the shot. I suggest experimenting a lot with adjustment curves as you can make some really cool looking shots look even cooler. As always, it’s important to not use an effect so much that it detracts from the image. Use it sparingly and to enhance an image and your shots will look great.

Remember this works really well with images that predominantly feature your primary colours.

Ok that’s pretty much all for now, if you guys have any questions shoot me a comment below and I’ll try and answer them as best I can. I know this technique will be similar to video dudes and I know you guys have colour swatches you can pick from, so make sure you try mixing it up with some of your footage too.


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