advanced photoshop

Levels versus Curves – What’s your preference?

Posted in:
General, by Rebecca Greig

What’s the difference between these two colour tools and how can you make the best use of them?

Levels versus Curves – What's your preference?

Levels allows you to correct the overall tonal balance of an image, broken down into shadows, midtones and highlights, while Curves allows you to adjust the individual points in an image’s tonal range.

Many Photoshop users favour one or the other for adjusting images, but the truth is that they should both have a place in your image-editing workflow.

Both of them offer you the option to save presets so the you can apply the same adjustments to multiple images or image assets, and both allow you to drill down into colour channels to make individual adjustments.

Where they differ is that generally, Levels is used to make tonal adjustments to the image as a whole, and while Curves can do this too, it also allows you to make the adjustments to individual tones and colours within the image without altering other parts of it.

Advantages of Levels

  • Brighten or darken an entire image
  • Boost contrast across an image
  • Brighten or darken individual colour channels
  • Adjust colours across an image
  • Adjust tonal range across an entire image

Advantages of Curves

  • Adjust individual points within tonal range
  • Adjust colours and tones
  • Add contrast to midtones
  • Change the values of black and white
  • Adjust highlights, midtones and shadows individually across colour channels

What do you use? Levels? Curves? Both?