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Photoshop Elements Tutorial: Top 10 Eye Fixes

by Erin Peloquin on February 2, 2012 · 8 comments

When using Photoshop Elements to edit portraits or family photos, just about everyone wants to know  how to make the eyes pop.  Here are my favorite tricks for PSE (but they work in full Photoshop as well).  Lots of them even have Lightroom equivalents.

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The most important tip for editing eyes is to be gentle.  Use low brush and layer opacities.   Your final photo should look natural – we don’t want to make it obvious that we’re editing.  There is nothing worse than ALIEN EYES!

Ready?  Here goes:

  1. Remove red veins in the eyes using the Spot Healing Brush tool.  Remember that if you have Elements 9 or Element 10, you can click and drag over bigger blemishes with the Spot Healing Brush tool.  With PSE 8 and earlier, you can only click over small spots.
  2. What eye tutorial could be complete without mentioning dark circles?   Remove those dark undereye circles by using the clone tool set to the Lighten blend mode.
  3. Add contrast to the eyes by duplicating the background layer or stamping visible (as I did below).  The change the blend mode to soft light.  Add a layer mask to hide this adjustment from everything but the eyes.
  4. Dodge the whites of the eyes to lighten them.  Reduce the opacity of the brush and dodge the iris to brighten it.  Use on catchlights too, to pop them.
  5. Burn the pupils (if necessary), the rim of the iris, the eye lashes and the lash line.  To create a dodge/burn layer for steps 1 and 2, add a new black layer.  Fill it with 50% gray and change the blend mode to soft light.  Paint in white for dodging, paint in black for burning.  Your brush opacity will be on the low side.  Additional information about this eye-enhancing technique is available here.
  6. Which brush tip should you choose for the above steps?  I use the stipple dense brush for brightening the whites, and a soft round for everything else.  Don’t forget that you can select the same brush ends for the Healing Brush and the Clone tool (I usually keep mine on soft round).
  7. Need serious help with the eyelashes?  Look for a free eyelash brush.  Obsidian Dawn has some on Deviant Art.  Just make sure to turn the opacity way down so that they look natural.
  8. Saturate the color of the iris, just a bit, using a Hue/Saturation layer and the layer mask.
  9. Use the Liquify tool set to Bloat to make the eyes look bigger and more open.
  10. Sharpen just the eyes.  The High Pass method is great for eyes, because it adds extra contrast.  Hide the sharpening from everything except the eyes with a layer mask.  And yes, you should still go back and resharpen the entire image before printing.

Remember, most photos won’t need all 10 steps here.  The quickest  method might be to start with an action like MCP’s Eye Doctor and then just do the fancier steps like liquifying and vein removal.

For my edit, I started with the spot healing brush tool on my skin, and then ran MCP’s Skin Cast Blast and Magic skin from the Magic Skin collection.  Next, I edited my eyes using these layers – the %s in the layer name are the opacities of the layers:

I used a super close up of my eyes for the examples in this image.  Note how I didn’t remove all the veins, or all the dark circles?  This is what I meant about being natural.  No one has perfect eyes or skin, and most photos aren’t going to be this close up.  These imperfections are only going to enhance your photo.


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