Photoshop tutorial: How to brighten eyes in Photoshop

Make dull eyes shine with this simple Photoshop tutorial showing how to make eyes brighter in 8 simple steps.


It's a well-known saying that eyes are the window to the soul. They also play a huge role in photography, drawing the viewer into the image. In this tutorial, photographer Tigz Rice demonstrates a quick-and-easy eye brightening technique for making your images pop, using channels in Photoshop.

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Channels are a type of layer where Photoshop stores colour information for an image. In standard RGB mode, there are three channels (Red Green and Blue), which inform Photoshop how much of each colour to apply and where via greyscale map.

These channels can also be used to pick out certain areas of an image for retouching, such as applying brightening to the lighter areas of the eyeball, whilst protecting the deeper, richer tones of the pupil and iris.

Working from a shot captured under carefully arranged lighting with a professional model, the effect shown here by Tigz is rather subtle – but this technique works just as well when more dramatic results are necessary. Just don't push it too far as your subject with look like they're possessed.

Model: Aurora Galore.

STEP 1

Open your chosen image in Photoshop and select the 'Background' layer in the Layers panel to make it active.

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STEP 2

Click to the Channels panel – which will be on the tab next to the Layers panel in the standard Photoshop interface layout, otherwise go to Window > Channels. Here you will find three layers named Red, Green and Blue.

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Have a look at each of these channels and pick the one with the most contrast within the eyes. The green channel will work for most images, although in this particular example, the red channel has the best contrast.

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STEP 3

Hold Cmd/Ctrl and click on your chosen channel to select everything in that channel. You should now have marching ants around selected areas of your image, roughly picking out the white parts of the eye and any reflections from light sources.

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Other parts of your image will be selected as well, but don’t worry about this for now.


STEP 4

In the Adjustments panel, click on the Curves Adjustment Layer icon. The marching ants should now disappear and your Layers panel should look like this.

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STEP 5

Click back to the Layers panel (or hit F7). In the Properties panel, click on the centre of the diagonal line and drag upwards by about half a square to create a new curve point.

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The diagonal line should change into a curve and look something like this. This should brighten the eye up dramatically.

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STEP 6

If needed, you can create extra curve points in exactly the same way for even more control over how the eye is brightened. Here, I’ve added one at the lower end of the tone curve to create a little more depth in the chocolate-brown iris.

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STEP 7

Once you're happy with how the eyes look, let's put this in a group so we can constrain it to the area of the eyes (and also go back later to make further edits if needed). With the 'Curves 1' layer highlighted, hold down Shift and click on the Add New Group icon to create a new group with the Curves layer automatically inside.

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Rename this group 'Eye Brightening' for handy reference.


STEP 8

Next, with the group highlighted, hold down Alt and click on the Add Layer Mask icon to create a negative (black) layer mask over the group. This will now hide all the brightening work you applied to the image.

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STEP 9

With the layer mask selected, use the Brush tool (B) to paint over the eyes with white ink. Any areas painted over will allow the new brightened curves layer to pop through, while hiding any effects applied to other areas of your image.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials