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Curves > 1 - Introduction

Photoshop Elements has Color Curves.

Levels versus Color Curves

Curves, in Photoshop, is more powerful than Levels, in Photoshop.

With Photoshop's Levels, you can adjust only three points.

With Photoshop's Curves, you can adjust fourteen points on the curve, as well as the black and white points.

In Photoshop Elements, Levels and Color Curves both adjust three points.

Yet, Photoshop Elements' Levels is more powerful than Color Curves.

With Levels:

• When you create a Levels adjustment layer, the editing is separate from the Background copy and background layers.

This is called non-destructive editing.

The original pixels are unchanged.

The editing is mathematical instructions in the Levels adjustment layer.

• You can return to the Levels adjustment layer to refine the adjustments.

• You can create a mask, to limit the Levels adjustment to part of the image.

• You can use the gray eyedropper to adjust the color.

Color Curves is a graphical depiction of Shadows/Highlights.

It's not a version of Photoshop's Curves.


Go to Enhance > Adjust Lighting > Shadows/Highlights.

If you're a beginner, the styles and before-and-after windows, are useful.

Color Curves is, however, only a gussied up version of Shadows/Highlights.

Photoshop Elements' Levels is better.

If you want Curves, you have to use Photoshop.

Or, try Elements+.

Open Color Curves

At the top of your screen, go to Enhance > Adjust Color > Adjust Color Curves.

The Curves window opens.


Here's the curves graph from the Color Curves window.


The graph isn't a histogram.

But, it shares something with histograms—brightness levels.

Remember, there are 256 of them, from 0 to 255.

In a histogram, the x-axis, the horizontal axis, is the brightness levels.

In the curves graph, both axes on the curves graph are brightness levels.






Brightness Levels

The brightness levels on the:

• X-axis are those of your non-edited photograph.

• Y-axis are those of the edited photograph.

Y-axis: Brightness Levels of the Edited Photograph q
  X-axis: Brightness Levels of the Non-edited Photograph

Photoshop Elements takes the actual brightness levels of your photograph—and maps them to the straight-line curve you see in the curves graph.

This straight-line curve is 1:1.

It's angle is 45°.

The brightness levels of your non-edited photograph—and what will be your edited photograph—are the same.

As you edit—you move the curve.

As you do so, Photoshop Elements maps the editing to the y-axis.

You may encounter the terms input and output.

The x-axis is the input axis.

The y-axis is the output axis.

Output q

So, how do you edit with the curves graph?