Photoshop tutorial: Photo retouch techniques: brighten tired eyes

Using channels to retouch photos can save you time and give great results with every image, as retouching expert Tigz Rice explains.


No matter how often we try and get a good eight hours sleep a night, it’s not always possible – especially when you’re a model (or photographer) getting up at the crack of dawn to catch the sunrise for a shoot. If you’ve ever tried to use the Dodge tool in Photoshop to brighten those tired eyes before, you’ll know that often the whites of the eye become a strange yellow or grey colour, often making the eyes appear worse than before you started. In this tutorial we will be using Channels, which will allow us to achieve a more natural brightening that works every time.

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Channels are where Photoshop stores colour information on an image. In RGB mode, there are three channels (red green and blue) which are effectively black and white maps of your image that inform Photoshop how much of each colour to apply and where.

Although the steps here are geared towards eye brightening, mastering channels will help you in all forms of retouching, no matter what image you are working with.

Time to complete

10 minutes


Photoshop CS5

Step 1


Select an image for retouching and open it in Photoshop. In the Layers panel, create a new group and rename it ‘Eyes’.

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Step 2


Select the Background layer. In the Layers panel, click on Channels, where you will find the Red, Green and Blue channel information (as well as overall RGB). Each of the channels shows a greyscale version of the image with the levels of red, green and blue respectively.

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Have a look at each of these channels and select the one with the best greyscale balance and hide the others (by Shift-clicking on the channel then clicking on it). The Green channel will balance most images, and this is the one that I will be using for this tutorial.

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Step 3


Go to Image > Calculations, Change the blending mode to Screen. While my channels are Green, change the Result to Selection and press OK.

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Step 4


You should now have ‘marching ants’ selections around areas of your image. Go to the Layers panel, select the Eyes folder and add a Curves adjustment layer. These marching ants should now disappear and your Layers panel should look like the image shown above.

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Step 5


Click on the centre of the curves diagram and set both the Input and Output numbers to 50%. You should still have a diagonal straight line from bottom left to top right of the box – we’re just fixing a point to adjust in a little while.

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Step 6


With the Output box active, hold down Shift + Down arrow key to lighten the whole image in 10% increments. Focusing on the eyes, adjust the output until it is as you desire.

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Step 7


Back in your Layers panel, select the Eyes group and add a negative layer mask by going to Layer >  Layer Mask > Hide All or holding down the Alt key and clicking on the shortcut button at the bottom of the panel. Your image should return to its original colours.

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Step 8


With the Layer mask selected, use the Brush tool (B) to retouch the eyes. The white brush will make areas of the retouched layer with the Curves Adjustment pop through and brighten the eyes.

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About the Artist: Tigz Rice


Based in London, Tigz is a freelance photographer and retoucher specialising in burlesque photography. As well as running her own studio, Tigz Rice Studios, where clients include London Burlesque Week and the lingerie collective at London Fashion Week, Tigz also works as a Photoshop and Lightroom tutor for Giant Training.

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