In this tutorial, we’re going to learn how to quickly change eye color in Adobe Photoshop.
You will learn a non-destructive technique using groups, Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layers, and Levels Adjustment Layers to complete the eye color effect.
Select the Eyes
Start by creating a selection of the iris using the Elliptical Marquee tool. Hold the spacebar as you create the selection to reposition it.
Reshape the top curve part of the selection that settles on the eyelids by holding Alt (Windows) or Option (macOS). Your cursor will have a minus icon next to it.
Hold the Alt Shift (Windows) or Option Shift (macOS), and your cursor will have an X icon next to it instead.
Do this while creating an oblong shape that only covers the pupil while intersecting with the active selection to cut the top part.
Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer to Control Eye Color
With the selection active, go to the Layers panel and click on the New Adjustment Layer icon > Hue/Saturation.
To add the other eye to the Layer Mask, repeat the process of creating a pupil selection.
Then, with the Background color set to white(#ffffff), press Ctrl Backspace (Windows) or Command Backspace (macOS) to fill it with the Background color.
Press Ctrl D (Windows) or Command D (macOS) to deselect.
From here, you can start using the Hue/Saturation to change the color of the eyes by adjusting the Hue and Saturation sliders.
Use Levels Adjustment to Control Brightness
The Lightness slider does not offer the best result on lightening or darkening the color of the eyes.
Instead, we will use a separate adjustment layer to adjust the brightness of the eye.
Create a New Group.
Click-and-drag the Layer Mask from the Hue/Saturation layer into the Group, so this single Layer Mask controls multiple adjustment layers.
Then, click-and-drag the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer into the Group as well.
Click on the New Adjustment Layer icon > Levels and add it to the group.
Use the Levels to modify the brightness and contrast by individually adjusting the Shadow, Midtone, Highlight, and Output Level sliders to achieve the desired effect.
Refine the Mask
With the Layer Mask in the group, it means that you can easily control multiple adjustment layers at once.
To demonstrate, zoom into the image, and you may notice how the new pupil colors affect the upper lashes.
Use the Brush tool and set the Foreground color to black (#000000). Use it to paint over the affected eyelashes to hide them from the Layer Mask subtly.
To retrieve areas back into the Layer Mask, press the X key on your keyboard to switch the Foreground color and the Background color.
Then, with the white set as the Foreground color, start painting in areas you want to bring back to the mask.
Make sure the edges along the iris are not sharp for a more natural look. Fromthe Properties panel you can adjust the Feather slider to blur the edges.
Use the Colorize Feature
By checking the Colorize box, you can colorize the entire layer instead of shifting along with the Hue slider that works with the eyes’ natural color.
With Colorize, it turns the entire pupil into a specific color, and you can change the color by adjusting the Hue slider and the Saturation slider to set the intensity.
Once again, to achieve better control of the luminosity, use the Levels adjustment layer.
Enhance Eye Brightness
If you are working with light-eyed subjects, you may need to darken the pupils to achieve the desired color. However, this also results in washed-out details and dull highlights.
To fix this, press Ctrl (Windows) or Command (macOS) as you click on the Group’s Layer Mask thumbnail to load it again as a selection.
Select the original image layer and press Ctrl J (Windows) or Command J (macOS) to duplicate it onto a new layer.
Click-and-drag the new layer into the Group.
Desaturate the layer by pressing Ctrl Shift U (Windows) or Command Shift U (macOS).
Then, change the Blending Mode of the layer to Vivid Light and decrease the Opacity.
If you decrease the Opacity and the highlights of the eye lose its intensity, check out the Levels adjustment layer and make sure that the Output Level slider’s Highlight point isn’t set to the gray area.
That’s the trick on how to change eye color in Photoshop in a couple of steps and can dramatically improve your next portrait project!