In the second part of our series on photo retouching we examine some of the techniques you can use to make your subject’s eyes stand out.
Portraits are all about the eyes. They’re the first thing you look at, providing an instant connection with the subject. Enhance them with these six photo retouching tips for making eyes sparkle.
6 unmissable photo retouching tips for eyes
01 Boost whites and contrast
Boost contrast to help eyes jump out of the image. Click on the Add Adjustment Layer icon in the Layers Panel and choose Curves. Draw a large S-shaped curve with two points to boost contrast. The skin will look awful but don’t worry, we’re only interested in the eyes.
Hit Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the Curves Layer Mask, then paint with a soft-edged white brush to reveal the Curves layer over the eye. If the effect is too intense, lower the layer Opacity.
You can also try adding a Vibrance Adjustment Layer to boost colours in the same way.
02 Add a catch light
Catch lights are the tiny bright reflections in a person’s eye that can really make a portrait shine. If the lighting conditions are perfect then you will get great catch lights in camera. If not, then Photoshop can help you out.
To enhance a dull catch light, set the Dodge tool to Highlights and paint over the area. If there are no catch lights, you can paint some in.
Create a new layer, then try painting with white or creating a shape with the marquee selection tools. Alternatively, try using one of our catch light brushes supplied in the ‘PPS_Eyes brush set’.
03 Change eye colour
If you want to change eye colours to match them to the rest of the scene or an outfit, there’s a really easy technique you can learn. Click on the Adjustment Layer icon in the Layers Panel and choose Hue/Saturation.
Move the Hue slider to change the colours to something you’d prefer, then hit Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the Adjustment Layer’s mask. Next, paint over the eyes with the Brush tool set to white to reveal the colour change in the iris.
04 Remove red eye
Red eye is caused by on-camera flash light entering a person’s eye, then reflecting off the retina. It’s most common when using a flash in a dark room, as the subject’s pupils are more likely to be wide open.
Fortunately, it’s very easy to correct in Photoshop. Simply select the Red Eye tool from the Tools Panel – it’s grouped in with the Healing and Patch tools – and click once on the offending area.
05 Bigger eyes
Big eyes are great for grabbing the viewer’s attention. To make eyes larger, and therefore more appealing, start by drawing a loose selection around the eye and lashes with the Lasso tool. Press Shift+F6 to feather the selection by about five pixels.
Hit Cmd/Ctrl+J to copy the selection to a new layer, then press Cmd/Ctrl+T to enter Transform Mode. Finally hold Shift+Alt and drag one of the corners to make the eye slightly larger.
06 Selective sharpening
Finally, we need to sharpen the eyes. If you’re using a pre-CS5 version of Photoshop then duplicate the layer, apply Unsharp Mask (Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask), then mask the sharpen layer. For CS5 users, the Sharpen tool is now a great choice for selective sharpening.
The tool is available in earlier versions, but there it gives messy results and should be avoided like the plague. Thankfully it’s been vastly improved in CS5. Simply set the strength to about 20% and paint over the eyes and lashes for instant selective sharpening.
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