Apr 07, 2014

How To Color, Brighten and Sharpen Eyes in Photoshop

Make eyes look amazing in Photoshop

If you have ever seen amazing eyes in a photo there is a good chance that it has been edited in Photoshop. Enhancing a person’s eyes in Photoshop is a quick way to make an image really stand out.

In today’s episode we show you how to color, brighten and Sharpen eyes in photoshop. You will also learn how to properly Dodge and Burn an eye to make it stand out.

Coloring the Eye

There are many ways to Color a person’s eye in Photoshop. This method uses the natural color of the eye as a base for new Color. Start out by creating a New Layer and sampling the color from the inner part of the eye. Next open your color palette and increase both Lightness and Saturation. This will give you a more vibrant version of the same Hue. Then paint over the inner part of the eye, covering where the original Color was. Do this a couple of times, sampling Colors from around the eye.

After all of the Colors are painted, change your layer blending mode to “Soft Light” or “Overlay” to allow the color to blend into the eyes. Then make sure to use “Gaussian Blur” to Soften the edges of where you painted.

The eyes should be quite a bit more vibrant but still look natural.

Dodge and Burning the Eye

In this episode we use Curves Adjustment Layers to brighten the center part of the pupil and Darken the outer edges of the pupil. This change will give the eyes more Depth and Light.


The final step is to Sharpen the eyes. You may already be sharpening your whole image, but just sharpening key areas (like the eyes) is a great way to Draw more attention to those areas.

Roll over to see original image.

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  • user image

    Nice tutorial Aaron. Would of been a chance to sell more of your Amazing Eyes action if you used it but I know why you didn’t, cause it would be easy to copy it. But it’s the best eye action I have ever used.

    • user image

      @bettelyoun:disqus Thank you! We will try to make more actions in the future!

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    Stephanie Greer

    Hey Aaron, would you do a tutorial showing how to get that bronzy look to skin tones you often see in fashion magazines and in the movie “300”? I’ve been practicing but can’t seem to get it quite right. Thanks 🙂

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    Juan Lamus

    Hey Aaron any advice on how to light a dark skin complex subject? Ill be shooting outdoor evening ambient. Thank you

    • user image

      Hi Juan Lamus!

      Here are some links that I feel might help you out!

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    Michael Kampmann

    Cool tutorial …
    Could you show us how to cut out glass from a background … like an empty wineglass ? Thank you 🙂

    • user image

      Wouldn’t you just use the blend if sliders? Look up Andrei Oprinca channel on YouTube he shows something similiar to what you want

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    Jennifer Minor

    You spoke of making a stamp visible layer and I understood shift+ option+ but not the next word. could you please clarify

  • user image

    Would love to see a video on some tips for photography used in package design. How do they get such perfect looking fruit – the perfect highlights, super saturated, glossy-looking fruit? Like on this orange juice package. The fruit almost looks like a cross between a rendering and photo.

    Thanks. Love what you guys do.

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    Carlos Chinesta Sevilla

    Very cool tutorial and very easy. Specially the small detail when you desaturate the stamp and then high pass for the sharpening, i have never desaturate beforre applying the filrter.

    Here is my last picture that i took of my cat in home. Really looks cute and the sharpening works perfectly fine.

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    Greg Coltman

    what about if you convert the layer with the high pass filter to a smart object, you can then see the effect of the radius real time and go back and change it with real time effect.

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    Simon Abrams

    Another great tutorial. Speaking of which, I have a tutorial suggestion: how to fix dry or chapped lips. Sometimes your subject looks great, but maybe they need a little help in the Chapstick department… I think that would be very useful. Anyway, thanks for everything you guys do!

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    Ron Miller

    I love this! I tried with this. Thank you a lot for showing this. (:
    Edit: The color is all washed out when I posted it. ):

  • user image

    Love your tutorials!!!!! But I am very new to all this and am trying to follow but am sometimes overwhelmed by how fast you teach and not enough time to take notes…… would you edit a not so pro- picture? My photos aren’t as great as your photos, but with editing can be much better. You should edit an amatuers photo……

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    Susan Warren

    Please speak slower, especially when telling which sequence of keys to select. Please.

    • user image

      Even better, we’re going to start adding visuals on screen to help out with keyboard shortcuts!

      • user image
        Susan Warren

        That would be great! Thanks very much. Quick question: What is the best way to whiten the eyes?

    • user image

      Please don’t slow down. That is one of the things I like about the videos. It isn’t this long drawn out explanation. If it moves to fast, do what I sometimes do. Pause the video, think about what’s said. Or simply replay a section.

      • user image

        Yes, the speed is OK most of the time, and one could pause, but sometimes the speech is so fast that an important word gets lost. For example, near the end, around 9:30 you make a _____ visible layer. You say it several times, but you say it so quick each time that I can’t understand the word. Other than that minor issue, it is a fabulous video. Thanks so much!

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          L.D. Matte

          Aaron is saying – STAMP VISIBLE LAYER – Shift option command E on a Mac or CTRL ALT SHIFT E on a PC…. I’ll Phlearn You Later…LD for AN!

  • Jorge

    Hi Aaron , i have become a big fan of your tutorials, thanks very much .. I would like you to consider doing one based on a photographers work i really think is cool .. her name is ljholloway. I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks again.

  • user image

    hi Aaron, thanks for this loads and loads of AWESOME tutorials. ive always been lazy with photoshop but ive been greatly encouraged . watch out for me (smiles

  • user image

    How to change the background of an image to a solid color without the color looking harsh around the subject

  • user image

    Your videos are AWESOME!!!
    I would love to see some videos teaching how to (post-production) Photoshop architectural BIM images to look highly professional, i.e. building interiors, exteriors.
    I use alot of Revit and Sketchup, so importing from these into PS would be a good start. Then possibly ramping up the images to look either non-photorealistic but professional, and to look highly photorealistic. Thanks!

  • user image

    Nice tutorial, as ususal!!! I was not using the high pass filter correctly! thanks 🙂

  • user image

    Hahaha – “pretend that didn’t happen…” Aaron, you are the best! Great tutorial!!

  • user image

    Just starting out in Photoshop, this was a great tutorial. Really made the eyes pop. Thanks! Going though some more of them today.

  • user image

    so… what do you do when you have to catch lights (lighting sources) in the eyes. where do put/start the edit? note: it a portrait. Beauty dish above, soft box below. two catch light. one at the top of the eye, and the other at the bottom.

  • user image

    Please let us know which keys you use (by using text on your videos).
    The Best tutorial I ever had. Thanks Aaron.

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    Javier Pazos

    Hi, love your tutorials and your way to teach, it´s so fun!
    There´s a way to remove wrinkles from the cloths? and for backdrops made of fabric?
    I´m attaching an example image to what I mean.


    Photoshop Tutorials: How To Color, Brighten and Sharpen Eyes in Photoshop

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    Jill Garrett

    This is AWESOME!!! I have been trying to get the eyes to show up a little bit more. The attachment is my first try. Thank you so much!!!

    Photoshop Tutorials: How To Color, Brighten and Sharpen Eyes in Photoshop

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    Wayne Courson

    You are a magician! Great eye tutorial.
    As an aside… A year ago, I took your advice and purchased a Wacom pad. I hated it for nearly three weeks because I was so used to using my mouse, I did most things without thinking such as right clicking. Now, I have no idea what I did without the Wacom pad – I even use it for reading my email. Thank you for that advice! I have learned so much about Photoshop from you it is amazing.


  • user image

    I’ve enjoyed watching your videos, your easy to follow. I’m a newbie photographer and very new to Photoshop which can be very intimidating. Thanks for taking the time to do these videos and share them!

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      Roby Klaus

      Hello Kristine, go to Filter/Sharpen/Shake Reduction and play with the sliders until you like the result.

      Photoshop Tutorials: How To Color, Brighten and Sharpen Eyes in Photoshop

  • user image

    Your videos are really great! Thank you for sharing them. Do you have a technique for dealing with the whites of the eyes?

  • daniliar

    Hi, Aaron!

    Very helpful tutorial! Now, a thing I really wanted to ask: How can I enter a photo contest. I mean, what do I have to do? what do I need? and how do I know when a new contest begins?

    Thank you!

  • user image

    I was following your tutorial on photo shopping the eyes; colour/brightness/sharpen.It was not hard to follow, however I think you speak too fast. You are very good at what you do and I hope I can master this technique with your tutorials.

  • user image

    Just followed your Eye Sharpening tutorial, but when you get to your second method, where you describe Shift-Ctrl-N for new layer then Shift-Ctrl-E; as soon as I do Shift-ctrl-e, all my layers group and leave just the background layer?
    So I cant follow the colouring with the High pass sharpening method.
    What am I doing wrong?

  • user image

    I followed your great tutorial on colouring and sharpening eyes, but on second sharpen method it went wrong, I did shift-strl-n for new layer fine then shift-ctrl-e just merged all layers into one background layer (see before and after screenshots attached) So what did I do wrong?

    Photoshop Tutorials: How To Color, Brighten and Sharpen Eyes in Photoshop