In this tutorial, you will learn how to whiten eyes in Photoshop. You will learn how to make selections, masks, and apply selective adjustments to whiten eyes.
These are all essential retouching techniques to enhance eyes in Photoshop that you must know.
Step 01: Remove Red Veins from Eyes
Before you learn how to whiten eyes in Photoshop, you need to remove blemishes and distractions from the white of the eye. For example, the veins that are found alongside the eye.
We will focus on those red veins first.
Start by creating a new layer above the photo that you are working with, and name it “Heal.” It’s a good habit to always name your layers so that you always know what they contain.
Then select the Spot Healing Brush Tool. In the Options Bar make sure that you have Sample All Layers checked.
Although the Spot Healing Brush Tool does a fantastic job removing distracting elements, the default settings are not always ideal. You can get better results by using the Modes found in the Options Bar.
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 their background?
In this case, the red veins are darker than white of the eye, so you want to “lighten” them. If the blemish was brighter, then you would want to “darken” it.
From the Options bar Mode drop-down, select Lighten.
This option makes it so that you only target the darker pixels and not the bright ones. Which helps you keep the detail and texture found in the photo giving you a much better result.
If you want to know more about these modes work, then check out my Tutorial on the Spot Healing Brush Tool.
After you selected the Lighten Mode, you can simply paint over the eares that have red veins and watch them disappear!
Step 02: Select The Eyes
Now that you’ve removed all the distractions from the white of the eye, you can focus on making the selection around the white of the eye.
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.
To isolate the white of the eye so, that we can work with it we will use a selection that will eventually become a Layer Mask.
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.
Keep in mind that as you’re holding down the mouse button to make the selection, you can also hold the Spacebar to move the selection around as you’re making it.
Release the Spacebar and mouse button once you have matched the top curvature. We will work with the bottom curvature in the next step.
Since we only focused on the top half of the eye in the previous step, we now need to work on the bottom part.
Hold Alt Shift (Mac: Option) to intersect the selection. You will notice an X over your cursor once you hold down these keys.
Then make a selection that matches the bottom curvature of the eye.
Once you release, notice that the second selection intersected the first selection, and it made an excellent selection around the eye. This 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) and which will show a minus icon on your cursor. Then click and drag around the iris to subtract it from the selection.
Remember that you can use the Spacebar to move the selection as you create it.
You don’t have to be very precise, get it close enough.
Now that you have the white of the eyes selected, you can create an adjustment layer that will control the how white the eyes look.
Step 03: Create a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and Apply a Mask
We’re going to use a Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer to whiten the eyes.
With the selection around the white of the eye active, click on the New Adjustment Layer icon and select Hue/Saturation.
Notice that the selection disappeared and it becomes the layer mask on the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer.
This that any adjustments made with this Adjustment Layer will only affect the white of the eyes. If you decrease the saturation and then increase it, you will see that the adjustment only changed the white of the eyes.
I’m going to make a drastic adjustment to help me illustrate the next point. You don’t have to make the extreme change.
When you click on the Layer Mask thumbnail, you will see that 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. Which means that you can decide to change the adjustment 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, notice how it blurs the edge of the mask. Fine-tune this slider accordingly until the edge of your masks matches the photo that you are working with.
Use Blend If to Better Target the White of The Eyes
To make sure that we are only targeting the white of the eyes, you can use the Blend If options to target the brighter pixels in your photo.
Double-click to the side of the layer to 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.
If you are not familiar with Blend If, then check out my 7-Minute Guide on Blend If.
Click-and-drag the “Underlying Layer” slider to bring out the darker pixels, such as the eyelashes and the other areas of the eye.
The transitions will be very sharp and not very realistic.
Hold Alt (Mac: Option) and click on the handle to split it in half. If you separate the handles, it will create a smoother transition between the visible and invisible pixels, thus removing the sharp edge.
This is why it is not necessary to be precise when you create the selections because the blend if and the Feather slider will help you refine it.
Step 04: Whiten Eyes In Photoshop
Now it’s time to whiten the eyes and make them brighter.
When retouching, you always want to make subtle adjustments. But to make changes and adjustments easy to see, we will push things to the extreme, 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. Also, increase the lightness to make the eyes brighter.
Now that you know how to whiten eyes in Photoshop, go work on your images!
Links Mentioned in This Photoshop Tutorial
- How To Use “Blend If” In Photoshop Like a PRO: The Definitive 7-Minute Guide
- How To Use The SPOT HEALING BRUSH TOOL With CONTENT-AWARE in Photoshop – ADVANCED Method