What is Curve Adjustment Layer? How to Use it in Photoshop?

What is Curve Adjustment Layer in Photoshop?

The Curve Command is used to adjust the tones of an Image like Levels but with more advanced features. Levels are easier to use and understand than curves and it is OK to use Levels at first but if you want to be a Pro in Image Editing then you should consider mastering the Curves Adjustment Layer rather than directly applying the effect on the Image itself.

Curves Adjustment Layer in Photoshop

What is the Use of Curves Command in Photoshop?

Curve is used to correct the exposure of an image and also to colorize it.

 Curves can be applied to all channels simultaneously or to individual Channels in Photoshop.

In Levels you can only adjust Highlights, Shadows and Midtones but with Curves you can make tonal changes to all 255 Luminosity Levels.

Watch the below Free Photoshop Video Tutorial to Understand Curves and its Functionality and Learn How to Use Curves Adjustment Layer. In this Aaron Nace (Founder Phlearn) will tell you everything you need to know about Curves…  

Comparison Between Levels and Curves

Yes, Levels is a great tool that’s useful for setting Black and White points in an image, as well as adjusting mid-tone Brightness. You can also use it to reduce dynamic range by changing the Black and White output Levels. But not only can you do all these same things in Curves, you can do them with more subtlety, control, and ease.


For Black and White points the controls are much the same as in Levels: set black and white points by using the Eyedropper Tools and clicking within the image, or move the black and white point sliders in the Curves window. (Pro tip: if you hold Alt / Option as you move the Black and White point sliders, Photoshop will show you clipped highlights and shadows). To change output levels (useful if your shadows are too dark or your highlights too bright), drag the corresponding black or white control point in the Curves window up or down.

So far this is the same functionality as Levels, but where Curves really shines is in its ability to control mid-tone brightness. With Levels you can only adjust all mid-tones at once, either by making them brighter or darker. But with Curves you can adjust every tonal range individually simply by placing control points on the curve. For example, after you set your Black and White points for an image you decide to brighten the mid-tones by dragging up on the Curve. But you don’t want your shadows or your Highlights to get too bright, so you can simply place control points in each of these regions on the curve and drag them back down. And that ability to control every tonal range is why Curves wins the battle against Levels every time.

When you want to add contrast to a specific area of an image it’s helpful to know what tonal range(s) that area occupies. Say you’ve got a sweet cloudscape that could use a little punch. Normally you’d add a curves adjustment layer and start by dragging the highlights up and the Shadows down. That doesn’t work in this case though since all the clouds live in the highlights range and adding an s-curve simply blows out the image.

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