The curves layer is definitely one of my favorite layers. So much so that I like to use it twice while editing a photo. First, I use it to sharpen and brighten a photo. But my latest obsession has been to use the curves layer to create a matte effect for my photos!
It’s a very subtle difference in the long run. But the image below on the left is very crisp and clear, which is wonderful. But I have come to prefer the image on the right because it has an added softness to it! (Although I exaggerated the effect so you could see it more clearly.) And that softness is this quick and simple curves layer for a matte effect!
First let’s review the curves layer fundamentals:
The photo below is what your curves layer will look like! Put simply, the top right of the line represents the white point, which you can use to adjust the whites in the photo, and the bottom left is the black point, which you can use to adjust the blacks in the photo. That leaves the mid tones right there all through out the middle.
Apply the Curves layer:
To apply the curves layer, you could always go up to…
Layer -> Adjustment Layer -> Curves
Or you could short cut and click on the half black and half white circle at the bottom of the Layers and then click curves! (Shown below!)
How to add a matte effect with the curves layer:
1. Add a point to each cross section.
This stabilizes the midtones so that they remain unaffected.
2. Drag the dark point up.
This allows the darkest points to show a matte effect. The higher you drag the point, the more dramatic the matte effect will be.
I find that a little bit goes a long way. I usually just add a little bit of a matte effect, so my screen looks like the image below.
And here I made a more sever change just as an example. As you can see, the higher you drag the dark point up, the more of a matte effect you get.
I prefer the super subtle tone, but it’s all up to personal preference!