Curves + Luminosity = Better Tones

In the last blog entry I mentioned some cool things you can find in the Curves dialog that help you adjust the tonal range of your image. Today I’m going to show you how to wreck the color in an image in the name of improving tonal range.

The Curves dialog has four channel options – you can work on the RGB composite channel (the default), or you can work on the separate R, G or B channels. Problem is that although adjusting the R, G or B channels independently can help you improve the tonal range of the image – it can also totally mess with the color. For this reason, few users bother working with the individual channels. Makes good sense? No!

You see working with individual channels is a good fix. If the Red or Green channel lack contrast you can hype it up using a curves adjustment. You’ll mess up the color but, if you’re using an Adjustment Layer, you can simply change the blend mode of the adjustment layer to Luminosity and immediately the messed up color disappears and the adjustment is limited to luminosity only. Instant fix.

So, next time you need to apply a Curves adjustment, check the channels in the Channels palette. If you see a channel that lacks contrast – adjust it to add contrast to it. Then set the blend mode of the adjustment layer to Luminosity to remove the color problems you just created.


Helen Bradley

I am an expatriate Australian lifestyle writer, videographer and photographer. I write tutorials and produce videos on Photoshop, Lightroom and Illustrator as well as photography, office computer applications and DIY crafts. I have written for most of the big names in consumer tech including PC World, PC […]

Topic Filter: Commercial / Landscape / Portrait / Stock / What's Hot

Related Tutorials


Martin Lawrence

After many years as a keen amateur photographer, I decided to start a small landscape photography business called Lakescenes which I ran alongside my main job as an IT Manager. As business increased, I found myself working long, but rewarding, hours just to keep up […]

Read More

Rob Sheppard

Rob Sheppard is a naturalist, nature photographer and videographer who says his favorite location is the one he is in at any time. He is the author/photographer of over 40 books, as well as a well-known speaker and workshop leader, and a Fellow with the […]

Read More

Gary Hart

Gary Hart has photographed California’s natural beauty for over 30 years. Gary’s photos and writing have appeared in many publications, most recently Outdoor Photographer and Sierra Heritage magazines. You’ll also find his images in greeting cards, postcards, calendars, and many galleries and private collections throughout the world.

Read More

Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz

Originally from Poland, based in London UK, Jaroslav has background in Fine Arts, degree in Architecture, and wide array of experience. Being an Architect taught him how to be resourceful and to solve complex problems with simple, yet innovative solutions. Constant passion for graphic & […]

Read More

What's Hot

Long exposures of the night sky

Next time you’re in the countryside at night do yourself a favour: look up. If it’s clear and conditions are right you’ll see a seemingly infinite number of stars twinkling like diamonds on a sheet of black velvet. As a visual pleasure it’s hard to […]

Read More

Dealing with Contrast

Contrast is usually at its highest when a scene is backlit. In this image there wasn’t much that could be done to lighten the shadows. I exposed so that the highlights weren’t too badly burnt out and didn’t worry too much about the shadows. Contrast […]

Read More

Black and White Portraits : Weekend Assignment

Colour can be distracting. Stripped of colour an image is entirely about the subject (unless of course the entire point of the subject is its colour…). This is particularly true of portraiture. Black and white arguably conveys the inner soul of the subject more powerfully […]

Read More