How To Whiten Eyes In Photoshop – Essential Retouching Techniques


In this tutorial, you will learn how to whiten eyes in Photoshop. You will work with selections, masks, and selective adjustments to whiten your eyes.

These are all essential must-know retouching tools and techniques to enhance eyes in Photoshop.

Before we start whitening eyes, we need to remove blemishes and distractions from the white of the eye. For example, the veins are found alongside the eye.

Steps in this tutorial:

Step 01: Create a New a New Layer

To work non-destructively, first create a new layer. Click on the New Layer Icon in the Layers panel. Then double-click on the layer name and rename it “Heal.

It’s a good habit to always name your layers so that you always know what they contain.

Make a New Layer

Step 02: Use the Spot Healing Brush Tool to Remove Distractions

Select the Spot Healing Brush Tool from the Toolbar.

Spot Healing Brush Tool

In the Options Bar make sure that you have Sample All Layers checked.

Sample All Layers

This option will allow you to sample from the original image, and paint in the new layer which contains no pixels.

Lighten or Darken Modes

Although the Spot Healing Brush Tool does a fantastic job removing distracting elements, the default settings are not always ideal. In some cases, you can get better results by using the Modes found in the Options Bar.

Spot Healing Brush Tool Modes

Most of the time you will have to decide between Darken or Lighten.

The best method for deciding which of the two modes to use is to look at the blemish or distraction that you are trying to remove, and ask yourself: Is the distraction darker or brighter than the background?

In this case, the red veins are darker than the white of the eye, so the distraction in darker. If something is darker, then you want to “lighten” it to remove it. If the blemish were brighter, then you would want to “darken” it.

From the Mode drop-down, select Lighten.

Lighten Mode

This option allows you to only target the darker pixels, leaving the brighter ones intact. This helps you maintain the original detail and texture giving you much better results.

If you want to know more about these modes work, then check out my Tutorial on the Spot Healing Brush Tool.

Paint Over Distractions

To make things easier to understand, we will work only with one eye. In your image, you will have to repeat the following steps a second time for the second eye.

After you selected the Lighten Mode, you can paint over the areas that have red veins and watch them disappear!

Paint With Spot Healing Brush Tool

Step 03: Select The White of The Eyes

Once you’ve removed all the distractions from the white of the eye, you can focus on making the selection that will isolate the eye.

Start by selecting the Elliptical Marquee Tool. Then click-and-drag alongside the top arch of the eye. Try to match the top curvature, but don’t worry if you can’t get a precise selection. Do the best that you can.

Select Top Part of Eye

Keep in mind that as you’re holding down the mouse button to make the selection, you can also hold the Spacebar to reposition the selection.

Release the Spacebar and mouse button once you have matched the top curvature. We will work with the bottom curvature next.

Hold Alt Shift (Mac: Option Shift) to intersect the selection. You will notice an X over your cursor once you hold down these keys.

Intersect Eye Selection

Then make a selection that matches the bottom curvature of the eye.

Once you release the mouse button, notice that the second selection intersected the first selection, and it made an excellent selection around the eye.

Final Eye Selection

Then fine-tune the selection if you need to.

This selection technique might seem a little complicated, but with practice, it should become effortless.

The next step is to remove the iris from the selection. Hold Alt (Mac: Option) which will show a minus icon on your cursor. Then drag around the iris to subtract it from the selection.

Remove Iris From Selection

Remember that you can use the Spacebar to move the selection as you create it.

Step 04: Create a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and Apply a Mask

Now that you have a selection around the white of the eyes, you can create an Adjustment Layer that will apply the whitening effect to the eyes.

With the selection around the white of the eye active, click on the New Adjustment Layer icon and select Hue/Saturation.

Make Hue Saturation Adjustment Layer

Notice that the selection disappeared and it becomes the Layer Mask on the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Any adjustments made with this Adjustment Layer will only affect the white of the eyes.

Step 05: Refine The Layer Mask With Density and Feather

The next step is to refine the mask and soften the edges. If the edges of your mask are too sharp, then the adjustments will be noticeable and not realistic.

To better see how the mask affects your image make an extreme adjustment. For example, increase the Lightness to +100 to make the white of the eyes completely white. Obviously, this is not a realistic effect, but it clearly shows you the edges of the mask.

Make an Extreme Adjustment

Click on the Layer Mask thumbnail to activate it. The white outline around the thumbnail tells you that the Layer Mask is active.

Select The Layer Mask

In the Properties Panel, you have two sliders. The Density slider and the Feather slider. These sliders allow you to adjust the mask non-destructively. This means that you can change the adjustment applied to the mask at a later time.

The Density slider controls the opacity of the mask. And the Feather slider controls the sharpness of the edge of the mask.

When you drag the Feather slider to the right, you will see how it blurs the edge of the mask.

Feather Mask

Fine-tune the Feather Slider until the edge of your masks matches the photo that you are working with.

Blurry Mask

Step 06: Use Blend If to Better Target the White of The Eyes

To make sure that you are only targeting the white of the eyes, use the Blend If options to target the brighter pixels in your photo.

From the Layers Panel, right-click on the layer and select “Blending Options.” This will bring up the Layer Style dialog box.

Under Blend If you can use the sliders to selectively show and hide pixels based on their luminosity.

Blend If Dialog

If you are not familiar with Blend If, then check out my 7-Minute Guide on Blend If.

Drag the black point in the “Underlying Layer” section to the right, to bring out the darker pixels from the layers below. That way the whitening effect is not applied to the eyelashes and other dark areas of the eye.

By default, the transitions are very sharp and not very realistic. To smooth the transitions between visible and invisible pixels break apart the black handle.

Hold Alt (Mac: Option) and click on the handle to split it in half. If you separate the two handles, it will create a smoother transition between the visible and invisible pixels, thus removing the sharp edge.

Blend If Adjustment

This is why it is not necessary to be precise when you create the selections because Blend If and the Feather slider will help you refine it.

Blend If Result

Step 07: Whiten Eyes In Photoshop

Now it’s time to brighten and whiten the eyes.

When retouching, you always want to make subtle adjustments. In this example, I will push adjustments further than I normally would, to make them more noticeable in the tutorial. But remember that when you’re working on retouching eyes, subtle adjustments are best.

Select the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and reduce the saturation to remove some of the red in the eye. You can also increase the Lightness to make the eyes brighter.

Hue Saturation Adjustment To Whiten Eyes

This is my final result!

Whitening Eyes in Photoshop Final Image

Your Turn!

And there you have it! That’s how to whiten eyes in Photoshop! Check out our Photoshop Retouching section for more tutorials like this!

If you create something using this tutorial you can share your results on Instagram with the hashtag #ptcvids!

Links Mentioned in The Video Tutorial

Final Image

Drag The Slider To See Before & After

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Molly Johnston

I am watching in San Francisco. Thanks for doing these tutorials. They are very helpful.

Ghanshyam Harsh

Very beautifully explained.

Thank you

Erich Snijder

Another fine tutorial.
You want to know where your viewers come from so i’m from Holland.