Do You Know How To Use Your Curves?

I’ve been using Photoshop for almost 20 years already. If there’s one tool that impressed me the most back then, it was the magic wand. My first graphic effects that was published in the cover of our school magazine was a change of hair color using Hue Saturation adjustment. Of course it wouldn’t have been possible without the magic wand selection of the hair.

Those days of bevel and shadow effects have been long gone in the trends and now working with Photoshop professionally, there’s one tool I cannot live without, it’s the curves adjustment. My typical retouching would eat up 70% of my adjustment layers. I use it for skin tone correction, contouring, contrast and a lot more.

Skin tone correction using Adjustment Curves

Skin tone correction using Adjustment Curves

Here’s how I use it for tone correction. I normally follow a CMY ratio as guide. Note that this is just a starting point in balancing the different color channels. After application of the ratio, you can adjust according to your taste. According to the ratio, Cyan should be one-half of Magenta and Yellow should be just above Magenta.

Example: C 16, M 37, Y 34  should come out after adjustment as C 16, M 32, Y 34. Figures can work within the range.

Here’s the steps:

1. Select a part of the skin that is evenly lighted and is not so much affected by makeup color. In that spot, click on it using a color sampler tool.

2. The data will show in the info window which will appear upon clicking. Change the values of the RGB data to CMYK by clicking pin number in the info window.

3. Add an adjustment curve layer and adjust the Red, Green and Blue channels independently to achieve the ratio between channels.

4. Adjust the channels further based on your taste.

When applying this technique, you’ll be able to maintain a good skin tone throughout a series of images. Note that every ethnicity such as chinese or malay skin may have different ratio to make it work. You can create your own ratio based on how you foresee it and make it your standard toning.

You can check in the internet as to different suggested ratio for different skin tone. Some of them works and some doesn’t. The idea is to become consistent and create a tone that would relate to the next image along the gallery. In the end it all boils down to taste.

Those planning to join the Sinulog Photo Contest, now is the best time to register. Fee is up at P1,500 this year. Make sure to read all the rules of the contest to avoid disqualification. Good luck to us all and enjoy the festivities. Keep on shooting everyone!

Text and photos by Albert Pedrosa

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