One of the most basic things you can do to a photo with a person in it to make it look better is to brighten the eyes of that person. The closer and more visible the eyes are, the more important this task becomes. Bright eyes translate to health and vibrancy. This brightness can make the photo really come alive.
Another aspect of photo touching, though not nearly as important, is the alteration of the eye color of a subject. If the person in the photo has one eye color and, for some reason, you would like another, rest assured that this correction can be made. It goes hand in hand with the previous one.
While there is no shortage of methods for achieving these two goals, I’ll demonstrate just one for you today. It’s a remarkably straightforward process and one you should definitely have in your toolkit.
In today’s post, I’ll be using Adobe Photoshop to both brighten and change the color of a model’s eyes. I’ll be using the Curves adjustment for both of these things. I’ll also be taking advantage of the mask that this adjustment layer creates.
The Demo Photo
In this photo, you’ll notice that the model already has fairly bright eyes. That’s not a concern because it’s the process I’d like you to focus on, not so much the photo I’m using. After all, what I demonstrate today is applicable across all type of photographs.
Applying the Curves Adjustment
The photo is already launched into Photoshop. The first thing I’ll do is to head over to the Adjustments panel and click on the Curves adjustment icon.
When I do that, the Properties panel will open up. A new layer will also appear in the Layers panel. This is the Curves adjustment layer.
Adding Some Brightness
Okay, here’s where things get interesting. Right now, I have a new adjustment layer that’s visible (the white mask makes everything visible). If I make any change to the curve in the Properties panel, that change will immediately show across the entire photo. With this in mind, I’ll click on the line in the Properties panel and drag it upward and to the left. This doesn’t need to be perfect because it’s adjustable later on.
As you can see from above, the eye is now nice and bright, but so is everything else.
Inverting the Mask
Since I don’t want the entire photo brightened, I’ll need to invert the mask so none of it is brightened. Then, I’ll use the Brush Tool to reveal the area of the eyes I’d like exposed. First though, I’ll invert the mask.
To invert a mask in the Properties panel, I’ll click the small Mask icon.
Once in the new panel, I’ll click the Invert button down at the bottom.
I need to mention a few things here. For these buttons to be active, you’ll need to make sure the mask in the Layers panel is active. If it isn’t, just click on it. Also, once the button is clicked, you’ll notice the photo seemingly revert to the original look. That’s not actually the case. Any brightening you did previously is merely being hidden by the mask. Finally, you’ll notice the mask turn from white to black in the Layers panel. This is what’s supposed to happen.
Brushing in the Brightness
At this point, I’d like to begin revealing some of the brightness I previously applied. To do this, I’ll head over to the left toolbar and click on the Brush Tool.
Once that tool is active, I’ll make sure its color is white and I’ll change the opacity value in the options bar up top to 25%. The reason for this is because I’d like any changes I make to be subtle. Creating really bright eyes right off the bat can look terrible. The goal is to make things look better naturally. I’ll also resize the brush by clicking the [ and ] keys on my keyboard. And last but not least, I’ll be sure the brush has a soft edge.
Okay, I brushed the center of the eyes and I think they look pretty good. Let’s have a look.
Now, let’s see what I actually painted into the mask. To show the mask as an overlay on top of the photograph in the workspace, I’ll hold down the Alt key on my keyboard and click on the mask in the Layers panel. When I do that, the mask will appear very large. This is helpful if you’re working on things that are very intricate.
Editing the Look
There are a number of methods for editing the look of the eyes at this point. If I wanted to, I could go back into the Properties panel and drag the curve around some more. What I did earlier was create a template. That template keeps the edited area restricted. Now, I can change the look of the edited area. So again, dragging the curve in the Properties panel around will accomplish that.
Next, I could use the Brush Tool with some black or gray applied to it to alter the mask itself. That will change the look.
Finally, I could slide the Opacity slider in the Layers panel back and forth to reduce or intensify the opacity of the adjustment layer. That’s very effective as well.
Changing the Color of the Eyes
For this section, I’ll simply point you in the direction of where you’ll need to be to alter the color of any eyes you work on in Photoshop.
In the Properties panel, if you click on the drop-down that says RGB, you’ll see a few more values. The first is Red, the second is Green and the third is Blue. If you click on one of these values, you’ll see a new curve line that can be dragged in any direction. As you drag, you’ll easily see the effect you’re having on the revealed area of the mask. In this case, it’s the eyes.
In the above screenshot, I decided to add some green to the model’s eyes via the Red curve adjustment. Your mileage will vary with this type of edit based on the original color of the eyes as well as how strong your adjustment is. Mine is very light, so the green isn’t overwhelming. Let’s take a look at the final photo.
I’d say that looks pretty good. The change isn’t overwhelming and it looks very natural.
I hope I clearly explained how to brighten or darken someone’s eyes inside of Adobe Photoshop. I also hope I clearly explained how to change the colors of someone’s eyes as well. If you have any questions about this post, please leave them in the comments section down below. Thanks for reading!