A Basic Overview of Editing Eyes in Photoshop: Subtle Adjustments for a Clean Edit


In this tutorial, we will look at how to make adjustments to clean up and brighten the eye area for a subtle edit. 

Tidy Up The Area Around The Eyes

Before I start editing the subject's eyes, I'm doing a quick sweep with the Patch Tool to remove some of the hairs that are falling near her eyes:

Brighten Whites of Eyes

Once I have removed any unwanted portions around the subject's eyes, I am going to select the Lasso tool, and then select only the white area of her eyes. You will need to press down on the Shift key to make two separate selections on the eyes, otherwise your Lasso will be deselected when you move to the next eye.

Right click and select Feather at a very small radius, usually between 2-5 pixels is plenty. We want to feather the selection so there are no harsh lines between our adjustments and the original image. 

Since the white balance of the image is making the whites a very warm white, I am going to remove some of the warmth from the whites of her eyes by reducing the vibrance and the saturation. Click the check to turn your Preview on and off so that you can see your progress with the Vibrance and Saturation. You do not want any white values to be completely desaturated - you want them to retain just a hint of color, otherwise they will look too over-processed:

You can also use Brightness/Contrast as an extra boost to the whites of the eyes:

Enhancing the Iris

This is my favorite part of editing eyes, but it can also be the easiest aspect to overdo, so be sure to start off subtle and build up!

Use the Lasso Tool again to select the center of the eye - the iris - then right click to feather at a small pixel radius (I feathered 2 pixels here).

In order to brighten her eyes without creating too dramatic an effect, I am opening my Levels panel, then bringing the sliders just within the bounds of the histogram - basically, I am just scooting all three sliders towards the center ever so slightly. This enhances the overall contrast of the selected area by adjusting the highlights, midtones and shadows. Again, you can turn your Preview on and off to check your progress:

Editing the Brow Area

The brow area is an often overlooked but crucial element of editing eyes. Adding just a bit of definition to the brows will make the subject's eyes stand out even more. 

In this example, the subject's brows have lightened a bit due to the light coming into the right side of the frame. I am going to darken them just a tiny bit using the Burn tool in the Highlights range, with a low Exposure of 17%:

Speaking of, you can also use the Burn Tool to darken lashes. Here, I am Burning the midtones on her lashes, just to make them a bit darker. It's pretty much Photoshop mascara:

Here is the before and after of the adjustments I just made:

Points to remember when editing eyes:

  • Subtle is better and less is more
  • Remove unwanted portions (stray hairs, dust, blemishes, etc.) from eye and brow area
  • Desaturate and brighten whites of eyes
  • Use Levels to enhance iris
  • Always feather at a low pixel radius
  • Burn in portions of brows and lashes if light is making them washed out

Check out our PURE Color Workflow Collection which includes perfect "Eye Sparkle" Photoshop Actions to help you create beautiful eyes that POP!

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