Articles, Blog

Tone Curve Lightroom Color Grading

September 7, 2019

Many Lightroom users are afraid of using the
Tone Curve panel and I completely understand why because there’s a lot going on there. Today, this powerful tool will become one
of your best friends and you will learn how to color grade any photo using Lightroom. Hey everyone I’m Criss, welcome to the channel
and if you’re new here, I create photo and video editing tutorials and I’m trying to
explain things the best way I can. If you watched my previous tutorials you know
that I like color grading so much, I actually created some other tutorials on this subject
using Premiere, Photoshop, Lightroom and 3dlut creator. So I created a playlist, it includes all these
videos, it’s down in the description and also tell me in the comments what tool or what
app or what software are you using right now to to color grade your images? In this video I will use the Tone Curve tool
to color grade an image, to color grade an image and to create some nice contrast in
it, so let’s dive into Lightroom! Ok so I have this awesome image here, by the
way, nice model, nice pose, link to the photo in the description and the first step is to
open the Tone Curve panel. Also, just to make some more space I will
hit F6 and F7 to hide the panels at the bottom and left side of the screen. For this photo we will use this panel right
here which shows a histogram in the back and we will also use the channels: RGB, Red Green
and Blue. If you don’t see these color channels, it
means you’re not in the Point Curve editor and you see these sliders right here. So you need to click on this icon which says
Click to edit Point Curve and here you go, you can see the channels now. Let’s start by creating some contrast in
this photo and understand how this panel works. You have this straight line here and this
means that the photo is not affected at all by this tool. If you add a point and drag it up or down
you will still see this dotted line. When you move any point that you added above
the dotted line, that means you increase value and because we are on the RGB channel, it
means we are increasing the brightness in the photo. On the opposite, if we are dragging it under
the dotted line, it means we are decreasing the value.. In this case the value of the brightness,
so we are darkening the photo. To make it more simple than this.. Imagine 2 triangles. If you add and drag points in triangle 1,
you will increase values, and if you drag any point in triangle number 2 you will decrease
values. Here is a quick tip when you’re adding points
on this line in Lightroom. Sometimes it’s hard to click exactly on
this line and you end up modifying the value of that point and maybe you don’t want that. Just press down ALT or OPTION and then click
to add a point. This way the point is added without modifying
its value in the same time. When I want to add contrast, I usually stick
to an S curve because it looks like the letter S, but first I add 3 points. In the whites, midtones and darks and of course
I’m holding down ALT or OPTION when doing this. And here comes the second quick tip for you.. When you want to simply move a point and be
more precise you can hold down ALT or OPTION while dragging it and the point will move much slower so
you can choose the desired position for it, more easily. So I will take this point and raise it’s
value to increase the brightness of the photo. Because I added this point here in the midtones
the darks and shadows are protected and they will not be affected by this step. I created an isolation between the midtones
and highlights and when I brighten up the image this affects only some of the midtones,
whites and highlights. Next step is to darken the shadows area a
bit more, because this is the way to increase contrast in the image. You pull up the highlights and you dial down
the shadows. So I’m gonna grab this point and drag it
down, not too much, this is something personal, you can create soft contrast, medium or strong
contrast. It’s up to you. I will stop somewhere around this point. I also want to create that kind of faded blacks
and I have a very good area on this image to demonstrate this. Let me zoom in here and you can see this area
which is already very dark but I want to lift up the blacks. And I can do this by grabbing this point and
pushing it upwards. You can see how some of the pixels are losing
details here but in the same time if you look at the whole image, it really gives you that
moody vitage kind of feel, and this is something I’m usually into. It’s not necessary when color toning or
grading.. But I love it.. Like I said before in my other videos, it’s
more of a personal choice when pushing sliders or control points here in Lightroom. If you want to check a before and after you
can use the backslash key for this. I didn’t touched any color until this point
but as you can see the difference from the original is big. Here’s an important tip that I want to share
if you want to lift up the blacks.. Do not push this point higher than the following
point, here.. Because if you do this, your blacks will look
very weird, so you should imagine a horizontal line here, do not cross it when lifting blacks. I think we are good with the contrast for
now. Let’s start shifting some colors here. To be able to color grade with curves, you
need to understand how colors work. If you look at the RGB complementary colors,
you’ll find something like this. In Lightroom’s curves panel we have Red,
Green and Blue. So you need to learn the following:
The opposite of red is cyan. The opposite of green is magenta and the opposite
of blue is yellow. The same thing happens here. Let’s choose the red channel. When we create a point here and push it above
the dotted line it will insert red and if we drag it under the dotted line, it will
insert the opposite, in this case cyan. Let’s choose the green now, push it up to
insert green, drag it below the line to insert magenta. And the last one, the blue channel, push it
upwards to add blue, drag it down to add yellow. It’s very simple when you start to understand
it. And now, let’s start playing with all the
three channels. I will start with red. I create 3 points just like I did on the RGB
channel. I want to add some red in the shadows area
so I grab this point right here, and push it above the dotted line. And you can see that I added red in the shadows. I will also grab the midtones control point
and drag it down to insert just a bit of cyan there. All these point movements need to be very
subtle, they will make a big difference in the end. Don’t forget about the before and after
to check the results, hit the backslash key for that. And now let’s move to the Green channel,
again… adding 3 points on this line for a better control. You can add more than 3 points for a better
isolation of the areas that you want to affect. So I will take this point and drag it down
to add the opposite of the Green which is.. Magenta. Again… very small movement, we don’t want
to overdo things here. And finally, let’s move to the Blue channel,
add the same 3 points on this line, and this time I want to warm up the bright parts of
the image so I grab this point and drag it below the dotted line to add some yellow. Also I would like to add some blue color into
the shadows, so I select this control point and pull it up until I start to see some blue
tones in the image. I can use the faded shadows technique for
the blue channel as well, so I grab this point and push it up to about 9 or 10 percent. Let’s check the before and after using the
backslash key again. Look at this huge difference from the original. Of course I can’t stop here so I will go
to the effects tab here to add a soft vignette, I will choose a -10 value for this… And also I insert some grain, 50 for the ammount,
30 for the size and 50 for roughness. If you think the photo is too saturated you
can go up here to the basic settings and lower the saturation value with a few steps. It depends on what style you want to achieve. So this is an example of how you can color
grade a photo using the Tone Curve in Lightroom, in my oppinion it’s not too hard as soon
as you understand this tool and how colors work. If you want to become better at photo edititing,
make sure you don’t miss any of my tutorials by subscribing to the channel and pushing
the bell to receive all the notifications. Also, follow me on instagram @eyestocker if
you love travel and nature photos. I’m Criss thank you so much for watching
and feel free to share this video with your friends. See you next time!


  • Reply Romain Mouton January 15, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    Great one!

  • Reply Cristi Kerekes January 15, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    If you have any questions please comment below.
    Give me a follow on my Instagram here:

  • Reply Juraj Čička January 15, 2018 at 4:47 pm

    Wow. I am not absolute beginner with LR or color grading but I have to admit I learned a lot in this video.
    Your explanation of color grading with curves are straight forward and every beginner have to understand this techniq after watching your video.
    I had one AHA moment. Using Alt key with points in tone curve? Really? Nice. Thank for great practical information.

  • Reply 86BBUB January 15, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    This is probably the most straightforward explanation of color grading in LR that I have seen. Bravo !

  • Reply Gabriel V January 15, 2018 at 9:13 pm

    Finally! I understand how Curves works. Thank You Cris 🙂

  • Reply Artem January 15, 2018 at 11:17 pm

    Terrible result

  • Reply Eduardo Severo January 16, 2018 at 2:47 am

    Perfect video, certainly this will help me
    Thanks man

  • Reply ACC by Gabi Radoi January 16, 2018 at 9:44 am

    Nu pot fixa acele puncte care delimitaza RGB, nu functioneaza cu alt and click. LR 6.7

  • Reply Julius Opoku-apau February 3, 2018 at 3:54 am

    Thank you, that was so helpful! It finally makes sense

  • Reply Jamie Morton February 16, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    Great tutorial, thanks.

  • Reply maybe hungry March 30, 2018 at 8:01 pm


  • Reply Game of frames June 14, 2018 at 1:54 pm

    mid way through the video , i subscribed and turned on the notification , because the video was sooo informative and i loved it💯💯

  • Reply sagar singh July 3, 2018 at 8:42 am

    The best tutorial on curves..
    Thanks for being here for us…

  • Reply Peter Whitfield July 3, 2018 at 11:12 am

    I've watched a lot of videos on tone curves, from many other major accounts, and not one of them have explained the tone curve in a better, simpler, or more intuitive way. The addition of explaining the individual colour pannels was a major bonus – that was done equally well. Good job! I'm subscribing off the back of this

  • Reply Victor Alarcón July 8, 2018 at 8:28 pm

    Nice explanation, thanks! A begginer question here: would you recommend to use the tone curve panel rather than the basic panel to edit our photos? Both affect shadows, whites and so on but I can't tell the difference between both. Thanks for uploading this video, as a rookie I'm intrigued by all the tools in Lightroom and looking forward to achieve great results!

  • Reply francesco dl July 24, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    great explanation! might not agree 100% on the artistic choice sbehind the single channel application but then again, to each its own!

  • Reply ktfp84 July 30, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    man, this is the best lightroom color grade guide i've ever watch. Congrats, you are a great communicator

  • Reply Arnab Pal August 3, 2018 at 12:16 pm


  • Reply Jim Moyer August 4, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    Very useful; thanks!

  • Reply HUmziii August 18, 2018 at 2:44 pm


  • Reply True Twister September 25, 2018 at 6:53 am

    hello! i am using snapseed to edit my picture. would you do a video about that

  • Reply Trius October 8, 2018 at 10:46 am

    Sony colour science is crap. Really they should buy their algorithms from CaNikon. My sony camera puts too much yellow in green foliage and too much orange red. Can the tone curve fix this or will it just mess up other parts of the picture?

  • Reply Robert Serban October 21, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    your tutorials are very very good ! good job!

  • Reply Belinda Schindler November 7, 2018 at 10:32 am

    Now I can use curves while editing. Till now I stayed away. Thanks a bunch.

  • Reply qwertyplk January 26, 2019 at 3:19 am

    What is color grading?

  • Reply Dong Li March 1, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    please make more tutorials on color grade in Photoshop and Premiere ~

  • Reply Valensky April 16, 2019 at 7:36 am

    THANK YOU. SO. MUCH.. . . . ! ! ! !

  • Reply Hurpsy Classic Wear April 21, 2019 at 12:16 pm

    Thank U

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