Elements does have curves. Enhance>Adjust Color>Adjust Color Curves. Now, it's pretty paltry compared to PS curves, but it is there. If you have windows, you should check out the free easy filter curves:
Whether you use windows or a mac, you can also add a curves adjustment layer from many of the add-on sites. However, in recent versions of PSE you will be limited to adjusting only the combined RGB channel, just as you are with the PSE built-in version. The only advantage is using a graph instead of sliders so you have more tweaky adjustments.
Yes, I know about Color Curves, but it is weak compared to the real thing.
Also, I do have Curves plug ins, but I have not been able to find one that allows me to create an adjustment layer. Do you know of any? Or, if the curves plug in can be used to behave as an adjustment layer, in much the same way the other built-in adjustment layers act?
Grant's tools, Richard Lynch's tools, Elements+, for starters. But as I say, you will be subject to the limitations adobe put into the underlying code of PSE starting in PSE 4. Although the easyfilter plug-in doesn't create an adjustment layer, I think it gives you more flexibility than any of these do.
Perhaps you might have a better way to use it than I do.
I've used some of these plug ins for curves.
I usually create a new layer from merging the visible layers into the new layer. Then I apply the curves plug in.
The problem here is now that layer locks me in to the adjustments I have done before, even if they are all layer adjustments, because I will apply the curves to the new layer, and then dup that layer for further adjustments, such as healing, cloning, clean up, etc.
Is this how you would approach it? Or, do you have another way that is more flexible?
I found a sort of answer to what I was looking for.
I have a copy of Advanced Photoshop Elements 7 by Philip Andrews and just happened to read that on the companion Web site for the book (photoshopelements.net) he has some PSD files that were created in Photoshop and the adjustment layers in them can be dropped into an elements file to take advantage of those settings (although you can't really tweak them). I just downloaded them and will see how they perform. I guess if one has access to a friend's copy of Photoshop, he or she can create a number of curves adjustment layers, name and save them for use in Elements. Not perfect, but something at least.
No, what you're doing is what you have to do if you do it that way. But even a curves adjustment layer doesn't allow to go back and tweak it: you have to throw it out and create a new one (although I realize that's still more flexible than the plug-in, in that respect). It's less flexible in that you don't have as many ways to adjust to begin with, not in a curves adjustment layer in PSE.
Yes, it is limited, but with a little bit of playing I am finding them useful. In the curves PSD from his Web site there are a about 6 layers of layer adjustments that you can drop into Elements. For example, you can drop a Medium Contrast adj layer in. Then, if that is not enough (and if Strong Contrast was stronger than you wanted), you could drop another one in, play with opacity as well as blend modes. Of course, not the flexibility you want, but if you don't want some of the advantages of an adjustment layer, this is one way to get some of it.
I wish we had a more robust set of adjustment layers in Elements, so this will have to make do, and when not enough, I guess I will have to merge a new layer from the existing and work from there.
You could try using a black/white gradient set to luminosity blend mode. This is the idea although the gradient that the author builds in this tutorial doesn't do anything for my images.
Yes,color curves are not very good. I have tried to download Smart Curve plugins,but my PSE 13 64bit will not accept. I finally download Helicon filter the curves section is good.
There has already been a number of good answers to the question of curves and curves adjustment layers in this discussion. I'd like to sumarize them:
- there are many free add-ons to do that. I'd recommend Elements+ (very cheap and tons of other useful scripts at the same time).
- Color curves integrated in Elements: It's another way; it's really the best way to understand what curves do - it does not teach the math behind the digital feature, it educates your eyes to the visual effect of curves. It's a pity no one finds it hidden in the color enhancements, which is pure nonsense (it does not work on channels). It's not an ajustment curve layer.
- Using the black and white gradient map adjustment layer in luminosity mode: my own way, even if I have the required add-ons. Same exact effect with a different command interface. It's an adjustment layer. A single adjustment layer can convert to black and white or sepia in the same step. Available in 16-bits as a filter.
One known author has also made the remark that today, curves are no longer used on most pictures, like years ago. Purists stongly disagreed. They were wrong: I practically no longer use them. I do work in the ACR module (jpeg as well as raw), and I can have the same, or even better edits or enhancements by using the sliders in the basic tab. Like the gradient map solution, the adjustments use curves behind the scene, but the interface is different, with a direct visual feedback like the 'color curves' in Elements. The ACR module is 100% 16-bits and wide color gamut. That does not mean that using curves in the academic way is wrong, but in my opinion, it would be an error to reinstate the curves adjustment layer in Elements. A questionable tool to educate newcomers to editing; with the drawback of making them use tutorials written for the full Photoshop.