Brightening and Changing the Color of the Eyes (Iris)

I use to start my retouching by focusing on removing major blemishes, however, my workflow has since changed and I know fix-up the eyes first. Typically, I do the whites first and then remove any red veins. After that I begin brightening the iris. This is something I do on almost every close up portrait and the amount time spent compared to the payoffs are huge.  This step also provides me the perfect opportunity to make selective color adjustments to the eyes without any extra steps. This fast (5 easy step) tutorial should provide all the information you need to achieve all the effects for eye (iris) brightness and color.

Here’s the image I’ll be working on. It’s a shot of my muddy from after our one month mo grow to raise money for cancer research last Movember:


Step 1

Click on the Quick Mask icon on the bottom of the left hand panel and choose a brush with a size smaller than the width of the iris. Set the brush hardness to 30% set your foreground color to black (press D) and paint in both of the irises. If you go outside the eyes press X to change your foreground color and simply paint the mask away. When you’re finished click the Quick Mask icon again. If you’re not sure what the Quick Mask Icon is check out the picture below.


Step 2

Click the Selective Color box in the adjustments panel to create a new layer and select the layer mask it created. Invert that mask to black (Ctrl+I). If you’re not happy with your original mask you can adjust it here at any time. To brighten the eyes change the blend mode of the Selective Color layer to Linear Dodge.

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Step 3

To add a bit more depth to eye select the layer mask on Selective Color layer, choose a small brush at about 30% opacity and hardness and paint around the edges of both irises with black as your foreground color.

Step 4

Now if we click on the Selective Color box on the layer we created it’ll bring up the a Properties Panel. Here if you select Neutrals from the Colors drop down menu you can adjust the color of the eyes. You can also add depth by clicking Blacks and playing with the black slider in the dialogue box. Subtle or dramatic? That’s up to you.

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Step 5

Now the image above is way over the top so yo finish up we want to lower the opacity of the Selective Color layer. How much will really depend on how dark your eyes were to begin with and how bright you want to end up at. For this picture I went with 35% but this can change drastically from picture to picture.

All done, though we still have some work to do as we need to add and adjust catch lights, whiten and clean up the whites of the eyes and brighten the eyes sockets. But that’s another tutorial or two.

The Before and After:

Hope you found this tutorial useful. If you did please share.

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