Rescue A Dull Image A Dull Image With The Curves Tool

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Using GIMP, we’ll show you how to wield this nifty for easy image improvements

What you’ll need…

·         Editing software

·         Dull image

We used…

·         GIMP

You could try…

·         Serif Photoplus X5

·         Photoshop CS5

What you’ll learn…

How to use the Curves tool to add contrast to a flat, boring image

Description: Rescue a dull image a dull image with the Curves tool

After a quick curves adjustment, the contrast has been increased and the reds in the shot have been made more stricking

With modern digital cameras it seems harder than ever to take a bad shot. There are countless modes that make it easy to have the perfect settings for any situation. However, most images can usually benefit from a few small modifications.

The Curves tool can be used to tweak the tones of the image, correct the exposure and enhance the colours. Curves are easy to learn about and can be used for a number of simple improvements.

Upon opening the Curves tool with any image, you are given a range of options, all centred round a histogram behind the adjustment curves. From here you can rescue the darker areas of a shot, brighten up different tones and even fine-tune the various colour channels individually.

The left (bottom) of the line refers to the shadows, the right (top) is the highlights, and the middle represents the midtones. Manipulating the different parts of the lone will affect that corresponding tonal area.

There is no set way to use the Curves tool, as individual images will be affected differently with each adjustment. Follow along with these easy steps to see how using the Curves tool can rescue an image.

“Curves are easy to learn about and can be used for a number of simple improvements”

Adjusting the curve

Add contrast to your shot

1.    Duplicate the layer

Duplicating the original photo allows you to make nondestructive edits. You can therefore return to the original image later on, or adjust the effect of the edits further down the line. To duplicate the layer, simply go to Layer>Duplicate Layer.

Description: Duplicate the layer

Duplicate the layer

2.    Open Curves

Using Curves tool gives us the simplest and most effective way of transforming the photograph into a more appealing shot. The tool can be found in the Colors menu, which will open a separate window where the tweaks can be made.

Description: Open Curves

Open Curves

3.    Histogram adjustments

Much like using the Levels tool, you can use the Curves tool to bring in the tonal range of the image. Each end of the line on the graph should be positioned at the edges of the histogram. Simply drag and drop the edges to align with the graph behind.

Description: Histogram adjustments

Histogram adjustments

4.    The simple S curve

By clicking on the line you can adjust its position. The most common type of curve modification is a simple ‘S’ shape. This isn’t ideal for all photographs, but it darkens the shadows and brightens the highlights to give the image more contrast and punch.

Description: The simple S curve

The simple S curve

5. Fine-tune colours

If you want to make more precise edits, you can select one of three colour ranges from the drop-down menu. Choosing the red, for example, allows you brighten or darken the reds in the image, so you can easily enhance a prominent colour.

Description: Fine-tune colours

Fine-tune colours

3 of the best…

iPad apps that allow curves adjustments

Photoshop Touch


This app has a huge range of editing options for touch devices, including an easy Curves tool.

Description: Photoshop Touch

Photoshop Touch

PhotoForge 2


Adjust the main curve graph as well as the three colour tones with this simple editing app.

Description: PhotoForge 2

PhotoForge 2



An overlaid curves graph allows you to carry out easy photo adjustments and see the effect immediately on your image.

Description: Photogene



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