Paint Shop Curves
To Improve Contrast

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Contrast adjustments using Paint Shop Curves can make an incredible change in an image such as this one.

This may well be one of the most useful and powerful adjustments in Paint Shop Pro.  Changing the curve can change the color, contrast and brightness of an image.

At first it may seem to be a bit of a fiddly adjustment but once you understand how it works it will become one of your favorite adjustments.

To see where this tutorial is going hover your mouse over the image - the change is so shocking that you may want to hang on to something so you don't fall off of your chair ...

(Mouse Over to see before and after images)


Now that's a dramatic change, isn't it?  

This tutorial will show you how to achieve results like this (incidentally, this technique works exactly the same in both Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro).  This is one of the most useful ways to modify an image in your digital darkroom and it is well worth the time to understand how to use it.

Eliminating Color Cast

The first step in this Paint Shop Curves tutorial is to eliminate the color cast.

When you have an image like this you will obviously have to scan it into your computer.  When you are scanning make sure you scan it as an RGB image rather than black and white (you can find information about scanning an old photo here). 

The reason will become clear soon enough.

I don't know how you feel about the sepia color cast but I really don't like it.  For some reason it seems to make it very difficult to clean up any problems in the image - like scratches and dirt marks and folds and stuff.

The answer is to convert the image into black and white using the Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer.

Have you ever wondered how to set the Red, Green and Blue in the Channel Mixer to create the best results?

This is how to make that important decisions ...

Go to Image > Split To Channel > Split to RGB and suddenly you will have four images on the screen - the Composite RGB, the Red Channel, the Green Channel and the Blue Channel.

To make it easier to see the channels click on Windows > Tab Horizontally.  Now you have a great view of the RGB plus the three channels.

This is what you will see on your screen ...

curves rgb
All Channels
Top Left = Blue Top Right = Red Bottom Left = Green Bottom Right = RGB

Now your job is to inspect each one of the channels in an effort to determine which one(s) you need to choose for your Channel Mixer.

With this image

Red Channel - flat with little contrast
Green Channel - somewhat better than red
Blue Channel - best contrast but a bit dark.

For the Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer I started with the following:

Red Channel - 0%
Green Channel - 30%
Blue Channel - 70%

After some messing about I ended up with the following numbers:

Red Channel - 10%
Green Channel - 15%
Blue Channel - 75%

curves-channel mixer

With this result ...

curves channel mixer results

Now this is a lot easier to work with, isn't it?

Curves Adjustment Layers

Now for the fun part of the Paint Shop Curves technique (as if the Channel Mixer wasn't fun) - adjusting the contrast with a Curves Adjustment Layer.

Create a new Curves Adjustment Layer - and put some points on the line like this ...

curves dialogue

Some quick information about this dialogue:
  • the line is always at a 45 degree angle when you open the dialogue
  • everything below the line is the dark area
  • everything above the line is the light area
  • you can place points anywhere on the line and move them up or down
  • the steeper the line the greater the contrast
  • the shadow area of your image is about 1/3 of the way up the line from the bottom left
  • the mid-tone area roughly starts where the shadow area is ends and goes another 1/3 of the way up the line
  • the highlight area starts roughly where the mid-tones end and goes to the top right of the line
I placed two points on the line at the first intersection in the shadow and highlight area and then

  • moved the highlight area up about 1/2 of the square
  • moved the shadow area down about 1/2 of the square
This increased the contrast, darkened the shadows and lightened the highlights - like this ...

psp curves dialogue

And this is the result of this adjustment ...

curves after adjustment

Don't you find it absolutely amazing that those small adjustments made such a large difference in this image?  I know I do - I am in awe of curves - and how the heck do they do that with zeros and ones???

Paint Shop Curves are great!

Curves On A Selection

See the little boy (I think its a little boy) in the white outfit on the left side of the picture?  His clothes are almost blown out highlights ... so lets fix it ...

Make a selection around the clothing (on the background) and promote the selection to a new layer like this ...

curves selection

Highlight the promoted layer and give it a new name so you can keep track of things and then - create a new Paint Shop Curves Adjustment Layer.  This layer will only affect the selected area.

Put a point on the line in the highlight area and drag that point down into the dark area but only a little bit.  You can actually use your down arrow key to move the point.

curves selection adjustment

You can see how very little change is needed to make a significant change in the image.

When you have a bit of texture click OK, deselect and zoom out for a better look.  Turn the Paint Shop curves layer off and on a couple of times to make sure you are satisfied with the results.

curves selection adjusted

Now - ain't that an amazing change from the original?

The Paint Shop curves adjustments do an absolutely amazing job!

Now there are some other problems that need addressing in this image but that is a tutorial for another time.  The most obvious problem is that the left side of the image is much brighter than the right side.  There is also a stain and some nasty blotches that need mending.

Those items are the subject of another tutorial so let's end with that.

Find yourself an old image and give this a try - it is really rewarding to take an image like the original one in this tutorial and a lot of fun as well - and after all - having fun with your images is important isn't it?

Page Links

Eliminating Color Cast

Curves Adjustment Layer

Curves On A Selection

Paint Shop Curves

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo lets you adjust both the brightness and the contrast in your photos. 

Contrast is the difference between the photo’s lightest and darkest pixels. 

By applying the commands to a selection or an entire image, you can do the following:

  • manually adjust the brightness and contrast
  • give your photo a crisp, focused look
  • adjust the individual brightness values in your image
  • correct the exposure
  • increase the overall contrast when the histogram does not cover the entire lightness spectrum

 old thumb

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