XXL Curves
Unleash The Power Of Curves in Photoshop Elements

XXL Curves is an added adjustments that's included with Elements XXL.

As a Photoshop Elements user you're likely familiar with the levels adjustment which is the most powerful adjustment in the program. There's also an adjustment, color curves, built into Elements and it's clunky to use and not particularly effective.

With the installation of the plug-in, you get access to the pure curves adjustment which is, to some degree, similar to levels but much, much more powerful.

With levels you can change the white point, the black point, and the mid tone contrast. Powerful and useful yet limited in some situations.

With curves you now have unlimited control throughout the entire tonal range to modify contrast and color correction, among other things

At first curves may seem baffling but if you stick with it then you will never want to be without the curves adjustment.  It's a totally different and immensely powerful dialogue.

XXL Curves DialogueXXL Curves Dialogue

The XXL Curves Dialogue

This curves dialog box is a picture representing what's happening to the pixels in your image and it's always a diagonal line when you open .

Looking at the graph ...

  • The pixels on the left side represents the shadow area of your image.
  • The pixels on the right side represents the highlight area of your image.
  • The pixels in the middle represents the mid-tones of your image.

The unique thing about the Curves dialogue is that the straight line can be moved in any  number of interesting and unusual ways.   You can push the graph line to change the pixel values which changes the contrast of the image. Bending the line steeper increases the contrast; bending the line shallower decreases the contrast.

In this example the shape of red line will increase the contrast in the image. 

This happens when the diagonal line has a point added (by left clicking on the line) on the shadows end (the left end) and then pulling the point down - and - another point is added near the top right and that point is pushed up.

What these two changes do is darken the shadows and brighten the highlights with the mid-tones untouched.  This is known as an "S" curve.

The blue line will decrease the contrast of the image.

An Example

Ice CrystalIce Crystal Original

Here's an example of what you can do with the enhanced curves adjustment.

This is a shot of an ice crack in the surface of the water in a canal.  It's one of those things that often looks much better when you're looking at it than it does when it comes out of your camera.

This image is suffering from low contrast - the perfect image to be fixed with a curves adjustment.   It really does need some darker darks and some lighter lights.

The Adjustment

Here's the screen shot of the curves dialogue after the adjustment.

The histogram for the original ice droplet image is visible in the XXL curves dialogue.  As you can see, the histogram is very narrow with very little shadows and very little highlights - which is obvious when you look at the picture.

Terry placed a point on the diagonal curve right above the left end of the histogram and pulled that point down to darken the overall image.

He placed another point on the diagonal line on the far right above the rightmost end of the histogram and that point was pushed up to brighten the image. 

The two adjustments created a really nice "S" curve and the result is a great improvement in contrast.

And this is how the Ice Crystal looks after the adjustment ...

Ice Crystal AdjustedIce Crystal Adjusted

XXL Curves is a very powerful adjustment.  This quick discussion barely scratches the surface of what you can do with Curves.

There's a lot more to learn and you can find more information on the Photoshop Curves page.

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