How to Brighten Eyes in Photoshop

How to Brighten Eyes in Photoshop

How to Brighten Eyes In Photoshop

Do you want to your portrait subject's eyes to look their very best?  I will show you step-by-step how to easily clean up and brighten the eye are in Photoshop for a clean and natural edit that looks amazing!

Photoshop Lens Flares

Step 1. Clean The Area Around The Eyes

Before I start editing the subject's eyes, I'm do a quick sweep with the Patch Tool to remove any stray hair that may has fallen near the eyes.

Brighten Eyes Photoshop

Step 2. Brighten the Whites of the Eyes

Once I have removed any unwanted hair around the subject's eyes, I select the Lasso tool, and then select only the white area of the 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.

Guide to Brighten Eyes in Photoshop

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 Preview Box to turn your Preview on 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 overprocessed.

Use Photoshop Preview Box When Brightening Eyes in Photoshop

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

Use Photoshop Brightness Contrast When brightening whites of the eyes

Step 3. Enhance 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 will enhance 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:

How to Brighten the Iris in Photoshop

Step 4. Edit 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%:

Brightening Eyes in Photoshop

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:

Editing Eyes in Photoshop

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

Before and After Brightening Eyes in Photoshop

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

Using Photoshop Actions to Brighten Eyes

These steps should get you on the right track to edit beautiful eyes in Photoshop, however if you want to save a ton of time and make your editing so much easier, make sure to check out the easy to use yet extremely powerful Pretty Retouch and Makeup Photoshop Actions Collection.

Retouch Photoshop Actions

The set includes absolutely everything you need for Portrait Retouch including an array of eye enhancing brushes and actions in addition to all-in-one, color correction and "Magic" actions  that enhance skin, teeth, hair, lips, cheeks and so much more!

Here are two video tutorials below so you can check them out yourself.

Retouch & Makeup Collection for Photoshop Video Tutorial

Retouch & Makeup Eyelash Applicator Video Tutorial

Would You Like More Help Editing Portraits?

If you missed our previous portrait editing tutorials check them out now!  They build on the basic but necessary and important things you need to know when editing portraits in Photoshop:

    Do you have any questions or comments about Brightening Eyes in Photoshop?  Leave us a comment below - we would LOVE to hear from you!  And PLEASE SHARE our tutorial using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!

    Portrait Photoshop Actions