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Color Techniques For Retouching

Lesson 10 of 30

Curves Adjustment Layers

Lisa Carney

Color Techniques For Retouching

Lisa Carney

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Lesson Info

10. Curves Adjustment Layers


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Class Introduction Duration:02:35
2 Describing Color Duration:04:21
3 Color Settings Duration:05:53
5 Blend Modes Duration:06:46
6 Gradient & Layer Style Duration:10:34
8 Levels Adjustment Layers Duration:29:58
9 Auto Color Correction Duration:04:13
10 Curves Adjustment Layers Duration:10:56
11 When to Use Solar Curves Duration:13:45
15 Photo Filter Adjustment Layers Duration:08:43
17 Color Look Up Duration:07:30
18 Gradient Map Duration:09:07
19 Selective Color Duration:07:09
20 Review of Adjustment Layers Duration:06:28
21 Using Smart Objects Duration:10:52
22 Color Techniques Workflow Duration:20:11
23 Match Color Image Adjustments Duration:06:36
24 Change Hair Color Duration:19:04
25 Color Gradient: Libraries Duration:04:45
26 Adobe Capture: Color Duration:09:04
27 Even Skin Tone: Hue Duration:06:10
28 Color Adjustment: Curves Duration:05:27
29 Image Adjust Color Match Duration:11:31
30 Color Match: Curves Duration:15:04

Lesson Info

Curves Adjustment Layers

So we're gonna move on to the Valley of Curves, as I like to call it. I love curves. And put on your learning hat 'cause we're gonna learn some stuff here about curves. Curves are phenomenal and fantastic and the pain in the heinie to start. Let's call it what it is. It's a nightmare to start for most people. It is so well worth the travel, so stick with me. We're gonna do this. I'm gonna open this file. Once again, I really wanna discuss profile mismatching. All right, as I have many clients and I have many jobs, we have many different profiles. If you're a photographer at home, you probably only have one. If you work at a design studio and you're working with a lot elements, you're gonna have a plethora of items. So, I want you to be very familiar with this button. Right now, I would like to stay in my embedded color space 'cause it does not matter with what we're doing here. But, if you had to and it did matter and you had to be in sRGB, this would be the thing to do right now. Woul...

d be to convert your document colors, okay? So I just wanna make sure you guys feel really comfortable with that. I'll give you a little illustration. At least 50% of my work is for ABC. I've been doing it for 18 years and they recently, because of social media, changed their profile process and now we work in sRGB because so much is going out on the web and social media advertising that we now have switched. But, you can imagine 18 years of doing it one way, color match, and now I have to remember switching. And you know how shows continue for season after season after season, lord willing, and I have files that I have to open up that were done in color match that now we have to do in sRGB. So, just letting you know real world issues 'cause I think it's pertinent, all right. ♪ Curves, glorious curves. ♪ All right, and I won't sing too often, but it's a little fun now and again. All right, I'm gonna talk to you about curves. I'm gonna open up a couple files here, so we can explain a little bit about curves. Now, I did a little demo a minute ago where I showed you red to cyan, green to magenta, blue to yellow, all right. So, with curves in particular, since we're gonna do curves for color, that interplay is paramount for you to understand. So, the idea is when you add white to the red channel or add red, you're gonna get cyan. Excuse me, you're gonna get red. When you go dark, you're gonna get cyan. Green to magenta, blue to yellow. So, this is just your average, normal image and I have it in channels. I don't know if you guys have ever though about this, but when you're doing color corrections, you're actually affecting the channels. You're actually changing the tone or value in the channels. So, you may not see it because you're in a levels adjustment or you're in a curve adjustment, but what you're actually doing is changing the tone of the channel. So, I'm just trying to illustrate here, if you look at that red channel diagram on the bottom, where it gets dark, the picture goes cyan. Where it goes white, the picture goes red. The green channel, where it's white, the picture goes green. Where it is dark, the picture goes magenta. The blue channel, where it goes white, you get blue. Where it goes dark, you get yellow. And I know I'm saying this a lot, but it's really important to understand what the computer is actually doing, what the program's actually doing. Anytime you add red, green, or blue, your file gets lighter. Anytime you go away from red, green, or blue, your file's gonna get darker. So, when we talk about color correcting with curves, adding red, lights. Adding cyan, darkens, okay? I'm gonna close that and we're gonna look at some more stuff here, it's fun. Gonna reiterate till your heads explode with flowers and unicorns that RGB converts, basically, to CMYK, light to dark. So, it's the exact same thing you just saw on the Hawaii picture, only now, it's illustrated on lovely Sarah. Same exact thing. Red to cyan, and do you guys notice this down here? Red to cyan, green to magenta, blue to yellow. All right, now, do you remember we talked about the solid color at the beginning of the adjustment layer conversation? Well, what I suggest you consider doing, I know it's a little lumpy, but make yourself some boxes. And when you make yourself some boxes, you can... I'm just gonna close that, sorry. I'm just gonna rearrange my windows here for a second. Let's put this over here, all right. I'm not gonna worry about it. All right, make yourself some boxes and when you do your boxes, do your adjustments just like you see here. So, I've got a curve that adds red and then we're gonna walk through this. So this curve, let's take a look at this curve and how curves work. ♪ I love glorious curves ♪ You wanna hang in to this process. It can be a little pain in the butt. When you start a curve, in fact, let's do that. Let's just start from scratch here. All right, I'm gonna delete everything, so we have a nice, clean window. I will often, when I start an adjustment layer, start with a selection. I've got nothing, I just made a selection. Hands are off the computer. Go back to the computer. Go to your adjustment layer and start it. Why I do that is it will automatically give you a mask, so you can see the effect that you're doing in contrast to what the picture's actually doing. All right, so let's start here. When you open a curve dialog box, here's what you've got. You've got RGB, which is the composite, which will do the value. So that first window, this is gonna do value. So that's gonna be lighter or darker. Lighter or darker. Okay, so that's value, or tone. You click into this little menu up here and then you get the reds and on the reds you can say, "Okay, reds up". Picture gets lighter. Reds down, picture gets darker, cyan. Up is light, down is dark, okay? Only I'm doing it in the color channel. Red, green, pardon me. Adding green, picture gets lighter, going to the sun. Down, darker, adding magenta. Blue, lighter, adding blue. Darker, adding yellow, okay? Now, let's go back to the main points here. This beautiful little bar. The highlights values are up here on the top. Down here on the bottom, shadow detail. Three quarter tones, right here. Do you see I'm clicking and dragging on the bar? Mid tones, right here in the center. Clicking and dragging on the bar. Highlights, quarter tones, up here, okay? Now, why curves are so challenging for many folks. I have added hot quarter tones here. I've darkened the three quarter tones here. Look how red her skin got, why? Because when you go light, you're actually pulling up red, green, or blue. Unfortunately, with curves, I'm in the main value window, but it's gonna affect the colors and at this point, let's be honest. This is where most people say, "Holy Jesus" and they walk out the door. I'm gonna ask you to stick with me. We stay in here and we figure out a way of making this easy and pleasant and fun. And it's worth its weight in gold and here is why. I'm gonna reset the window and how you reset the window, again, is you click on that little arrow, backwards arrow, and you can reset the window. I can click, with my cursor, over on the image and I can select, let's say the forehead tone, and I can click and stop and put a point. I can go to the shadow detail, lets say the three quarter tones. Click and stop and add a point. And now I've set some points and I can say, "Hey, I want these values to go a little darker "and I want these highlight values to go a little hotter." You can't do this in levels. You can't select a actual point on the picture and, say, hold it or move it. You can't do this with hue saturation. You can only do this with curves. You can actually pick a point that you, visually, can see. You can do it numerically, but I don't think in numbers numerically. I know a printer who does. I know a colorblind retoucher. Kid you not, colorblind retoucher and he does it all by numbers, see? Anybody can do a job. So, this is the same for values like red, green, and blue, so I could say, "Okay, ooh she looks a little red "in her highlights." Where are those highlights? Do you guys notice I went to the red section? Click, I'm on the red. Her shadows, yeah, her shadows are red too, but you know what? I want 'em to stay warm. I like the warm shadows. So, I just wanna raise the red in the highlights. Or, I wanna decrease the reds in the highlights, your choice. And do you see how specialized that is? And again, here is why you have that mask, so you can actually see the difference. And let me go ahead and zoom in on here. So, I've added cyan, or darkened the highlights. Oh, what if the value was okay the way it was and I didn't want to change the value of this? Okay, well, I know I darkened the red. Hmm, well, I could go to blues and I could say, "Hey, let's lighten the blues a little bit "to counteract what I've just done." So, you can counteract with color, oh, if that's what you choose to do. 'Cause all you have to remember, my friends, up lightens, down darkens, no matter which window you're in, okay? Up lightens, down darkens. So, you could choose to add, ooh, maybe that's a little too cool. Or, maybe you want it cooler. It's whatever you wanna do, you can do in here. You just have to pick your values. So, I'm hoping you kinda, basically, understand a little bit about how the curve window works. I wanna show you some tricks. I'm gonna delete that. Delete the mask and start over. All right. So, let's say you'd like to do everything in curves, but that color change and the value change is really freaking you out. Here is an option, you're gonna wanna right this down. All right, I'm gonna start a curve and I'm gonna say curve for TONE or luminosity. I'm gonna spell it wrong, so I'm just gonna say LUM 'cause I can never spell. My mother says it's a sign of genius. I'm sure she's right, I'm hoping she's right. All right, so there's a curve for tone, or luminosity, and I'm gonna pick luminosity as the blending mode. You guys with me? All right, now, here's what that'll allow me to do. That will allow me to change the value or the tone, without changing the color. I'm gonna repeat that 'cause that is really important and it's beautiful. Tip of the day, I swear to God. You'll figure this out, it's awesome. I'm going to put that layer mode back on normal. I've added contrast, it's a basic contrast move. Darken the three quarter tones, lighten the quarter tones. Basic as pie. Uh oh, my color went crazy. All you have to do is put it on luminosity and now, all it's gonna do is affect the tone, wahoo! There's someone in internet land saying wahoo. I can feel it right now. Now, I still need to do the color. All right, let's do a new one. Do a curve, option eight, we love that option eight. I said we love that option eight. I was about to type option eight. Curve for color. Now, here's the thing. I want the curve to affect the color, but not the tone 'cause we've got the tone separated. So, I wanna add some red. Oh mustard, it's affecting the tone, color. Image mode, layer mode, pardon me, color. Now, I can just affect the color. Please don't make her that red. That's like a sunburn ad. Sorry Sarah, won't make you red like that, I promise. All right, so what do we have? We have two curves. We have a curve here on the bottom for tone and now we can go to the curve for color and just affect the color. So, I can take out some red. I can add some warmth. Ooh, yellow, yellow, yellow, no. Blue, take out magenta, add green. Go wherever you want to go. I make no presumptions of what color people should be. People have all kinds of taste about what value they want and whatnot, so I make no judgements. And we're gonna talk about matching colors to actually a specific look later on. But, do you see how I'm not affecting the value. I'm, literally, just affecting the color. So, how is that? That is a two curve method. Now, Bob had asked earlier about, "Well, where do you put your curves "and how do you stack these and how do you stock the files?" So, what I like to do, I'm sorry Sarah, I can't have you be cyany green. I gotta fix that, I can't even look at it. No, must fix it, all right. So, I'm just gonna leave it neutral for a second. So, what I'm gonna suggest for color correction and curves is that you try to keep them on top at all times, all color corrections. I like to put them in a folder, so I'm gonna shift click on both names and drag 'em into the folder icon. Create a folder icon, I like to label those CC for color correction and I tend to leave 'em on top. Now, we have another workshop on beauty retouching and we talk about all sorts of ways of clarifying skin and doing whatnot and all the color sits on the top and it'll sit in the folder called color correcting or CC. You guys understand a little bit about tone? And the nice thing about this is you can come back to this two weeks later. They may like the color, but they may not like the density. Or, maybe it's blocking up and you need to make a change and you wanna take out density from the blacks and lighten the density or bring down the highlight density or bring up the highlight density. Whatever you're looking to do. Now, what's the difference between this and levels? Really, nothing, in terms of the end result. You can get to the exact same spot with both of those corrections. It's just a question of what is your body like? What is your brain like and what do you like to use? And that, quite literally, is it. It's what do you like? You can get there. I like that I can lock a color down. So, let's go back to tone for second and reset this. I'm gonna reset my curve. And, let's say, as I said before, the shadows, I like them. I just put a dot and there and I kept 'em. And, let's say the 50% gray area, I like that too. And don't touch it, absolutely don't touch it. I want 'em to stay where they are. I can just affect the highlight value and add some contrast that way. And I can go home, I could have some coffee and come back two weeks later and go, "That was just crazy. "Those blacks are way too dark. "I need to fix those." And I can come back and change that. Totally flexible. It's got a mask on it and I can lock an area. You cannot do that on a levels move, okay? So, maybe why use levels at all? I have to say most of my work is done in curves. Almost all of it, okay? So, hopefully, there's no more questions about that part of curves. I'm gonna show you another thing about curves which I find interesting. You can add a curve, just a regular curve. I've done nothing to it. And do you remember how the last move we just did, we did a luminosity and a color? Well now, I have a curve, I've done nothing to the curve. I, literally, have just made a curve adjustment layer. Not moved it, not touched it. If I put it on multiply, it makes the image very much like if you took two transparencies and laid 'em on of each other, it's the equal density of the image that's already there. That was on multiply. This is soft light, which is gonna add contrast. I, literally, have not done anything to this curve you guys. It's just the curve blank. And why or how might you use this? We often use this to add volume to a face or form without having to mess with any of the color. And then you put a black mask on it. I just inverted, command I, invert the mask, command I. And now, I can take a paintbrush. How about a more subtle, beautiful, gentle paintbrush. And I can just, I'm not gonna do this beautifully. I'm just gonna do it quick. I can paint in highlight value. And do you notice it kind of worked in a weird way like it did when it was on luminosity, didn't it? The color didn't change. So, this just got really complicated. Hang in there with me. So, I did a curve, initially, on luminosity and it did nothing, it was blank. And then I was able to affect the tone. The color did not shift. I just affected the tone. I've just now done a blank curve with no adjustment. Literally, a blank curve and I put it on the mode called screen and I'm able to affect value without changing the color. Crazy right? This is where I wanna take a moment to pause and say there are a million roads to Rome. You can get to Rome any way you like. I am just showing you different methods. How your brain works is how your brain works and whatever works for you, cool. I think if you're new to color correcting, this dual color correction way, if you can stick with curves and just put it on luminosity and color for a general contrast correction and color, it's a brilliant way to work. If you know you need to just add some lightness to an image and you wanna paint it in, a blank curve, I'm gonna say it again, a blank curve. And what I mean by that is I just made a curve. I've done nothing to it. Overlay will add contrast. Soft light will add a little less contrast. Screen will just lighten it. No color shifting, no color shifting. This is really important. So, if you're not a wiz at coloring, color can be really hard. I will tell you, and I kid you not, when I first started retouching, and it was back even before Macs were that popular. There were things like Quantels and Shima Seiki machines that we use. I'd spend 45 minutes making one curve. 45 minutes of really locking down points and also, I just wasn't that good at it. It took me a while. And I think what I wanna stress here is I understand. This thing is unwieldy as holy heck. You pull up and then you pull down and then it gets cuckoo bear crazy and then wait, what is that? And what's solarizing? And I know that you all can feel very out of control really quickly, but here's what I'd suggest. Open it up, do a move, and this is crucial, take your hands off the computer for a second and stand there and look at it and go, "Okay, what have I done?" Don't panic, don't be like, "Oh my God, "it looks like hell, ah!" Go, "All right, let's think about this for a second." Take your hands of the computer and look and if you give yourself that minute of peace, you will see, "Oh, look at these quarter tones, oh okay." Calm down, bring 'em back down, everything's fine. And I find that folks just don't have the patience for this. So, look for some patience, get into your curvy, happy spot and you'll be happy you did, all right?

Class Description

There are countless options for manipulating, changing and correcting color your photographs. Clear up the confusion by joining professional finisher, Lisa Carney in her exclusive class focusing just on color. In this course, Lisa will identify and clarify different adjustment layers, walk through a professional’s workflow for color correction, and dive into working with curves.

You’ll learn:

  • How to work with gradient fills and gradient maps
  • Working with Hue and Saturation
  • Setting up a Color workflow system
  • Using Gradient Maps for Color Correction
  • How to use curves for matching color and tone

Handle color like a pro by learning from one of the best retouchers in Hollywood. Join Lisa for this extensive and in-depth look on working with color in Photoshop®.

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2017



Another awesome course by Lisa Carney, packed full of information This course is really a comprehensive look at colors ... I learned so much, and even stuff I thought I knew pretty well, I found some pretty eye opening new information. I find Lisa Carney to be a wonderful teacher. When she has an important point to make she'll say her point, pause and then repeat what she just said, just to lock it into your memory. Fantastic. Side note: I signed up for the CreativeLive creative pass as soon as I realized how great all of Lisa Carney's classes are. I'd started to buy them one by one and quickly realized they are all wonderful. You can watch this class from beginning to end and get great information ... but to get the most bang for the buck you'll want to pause, hit rewind, get a cup of coffee, open Photoshop and try out her tips while you watch. There are sections I rewound and watched about 5 times, to be sure I understood all the subtle points. Lisa Carney is pretty amazing - she works really hard to thoroughly explain the process she uses to solve problems, and she never glosses over anything important. To cover a particular point, she'll start with a finished file with all the layers - and instead of simply explaining each layer like a mortal would do, she'll literally delete all the adjustment layers and start from scratch to show the process. This is incredibly empowering since it gives you an understanding of just how easy the process can be once you get the hang of it


This is an EXCELLENT class for Photoshop users! Lisa is very professional, knowledgeable and, also, a delight to watch and listen to! Not only that she explains the concepts but she also shares her own experience and her practical ways of using those concepts! Great, great class! Thank you, Lisa and CreativeLive!

a Creativelive Student

This course has an abundance of useful information along with professional tips based on actual field experience. This course is definitely one I will come back to from time to time to reiterate the information. For this reason the way it is organised is perfect to find information about a specific technique or adjustment layer. It is well composed with some humour and advanced information. Loved it and highly recommend it for people who want to deal with the little details and get things exactly the way they want. Not suitable for lazy or sloppy people who just want to get the job good enough for sharing but don't care about getting it perfect for print.