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The Eyes Have It! A Photoshop Tutorial

I know I have probably said this before, but it bears repeating!  I LOVE scrapping! I love putting together pages and capturing the memories so that we can enjoy them for a life time! I love starting a layout from scratch and watching as it comes to life with a click of a mouse, and I Love reliving the days of  raising my babies! Each time I look at a photo of one of my children, I REMEMBER..and because of that,  I want to make sure that the photos I take are the best photos possible. Sometimes, however, they need a little fixing up.

I showed you in some previous tutorials how to fix an underexposed photo,  how to get rid of a color cast and now, I thought I would show you how to make those eyes sparkle! Everyone has heard of the saying that the eyes are the window to the soul? well, the eyes are the major part of a photo that we, as photographers, focus on when we take the picture, so when they are light and bright, it really makes our photo shine! So today, I thought I would show you how to make the eyes of your photo subject really stand out and pop in your scrapbook photos!

To begin, open your photo that you want to work with.  I am using a picture of my DD Allison that I took this summer when she turned thirteen. Duplicate the layer by selecting the image in the layers panel and clicking CTRL + J.  Click on the new copied layer,  go to the blending mode box on the top of your layers panel and change the blending mode to SCREEN.

When you change the blending mode, your picture will look very light and overexposed. We will fix that by adding a layer mask to this layer. Do this by clicking on the Layers Mask Icon at the bottom of the layers panel.  The Layers Mask Icon is the one that looks like the square with the circle in the middle. If you are working in Photoshop Elements however, you will need to add a layer mask using the method I have showed you before in this tutorial.

When the mask gets applied to your Screen Mode layer, it will show up as a white rectangle next to your photo thumbnail.  Since we are only wanting to use the new Screen mode layer on the eyes and not on the rest of the picture, we want to HIDE the screen mode layer and only reveal it on the parts of the photo that we want it to show on. Since we know that, in Photoshop, the color black hides and the color white reveals, we will need to INVERT the white mask to make it black.   Photoshop has a quick keyboard shortcut to invert the mask for you. Select the Layer mask in your layer’s palette and then click CTRL+ I to Invert the mask. Your mask will now appear black and your photo will return to its original form.

Next, we will need to set the foreground paint color to white. Go to the tool palette on the left side of your screen and look to the bottom of the tools. At the bottom, you will see two square boxes. The top box is your foreground color and the bottom is your background color.  Right above that is a  tiny double-arrow. This arrow allows you to toggle between the foreground and background colors. If your two larger images are black and white, than all you need to do is make sure that the white is in the foreground space by clicking on the double arrow, OR by hitting X on your keyboard.  If, however, your colors are NOT black and white, you will need to reset them. You can do this by clicking on the tiny black and white boxes next to the double arrows. These are your default colors and they can be reset at anytime just by clicking on those tiny icons. As an alternative, you can click D on your keyboard and it will change your foreground and background back to their default colors.

Now you will need to go to your tool palette, on the left hand side of your workstation, and select your brush icon or hit B on your keyboard to bring up the last Brush tool you used.

Set your brush hardness to 50% and your brush size need to be slightly smaller than the eye you are working with. You can change these settings at the top of your workstation by selecting the expanded menu arrow next to the brush size. ( 94 in the photo below)

You can also fine tune your Brush size by hitting the right and left bracket keys while hovering over the eye. The right bracket key will enlarge your brush size and the left bracket key will reduce your brush size.

Since we are working with a mask, we need to make sure that we have it selected over in the layers panel. Click on the black mask and now you are ready to PAINT on your photo.  On a side note, masks are one of my VERY FAVORITE tools in Photoshop because even though you are working ON the photo itself (or so it appears)  it actually does not change the photo at all. We will be painting ON the photo, but since we have our mask selected, we are actually only effecting the mask and not the actual photo itself. This is great because if we mess up..and believe me, you WILL mess up, then you can just reverse the colors (make BLACK your foreground color) and paint OVER your mistakes. Then, you can hit X on your keyboard, and your foreground will change to white and you can continue painting your screen layer on the eyes again.

Once you have your layer mask selected, you will now begin painting over the first eye. Make sure that you only paint the iris of the eye, the pupil and the whites. At this point, the eyes will look way too white, but we will fix that shortly.

Remember: If you accidentally paint on the skin, hit X on the keyboard, paint over your mistake and then hit X again to get back to your white paint.  Brush the other eye.

NOTE: I also use this same method to whiten the teeth if I see that they are a bit to yellow.

When you are finished, you are left with a photo that has two VERY bright eyes and your model will look pretty weird.

Of course, we can not keep it this way, so we will need to adjust the opacity of the masked layer. Click on the small arrow next to the Opacity box in your layers palette. When the drop down slider appears, you can slide it to the left to lower the opacity to taste. I am lowering mine to about 25%, but you will need to lower yours so that it looks normal. I will leave that up to you!

Once you have adjusted the opacity to where you want it, you can merge the layers together to create one working file by highlighting them both in the layers palette, right clicking on the highlighted layers and choosing Merge Layers in the drop down menu.

Here is the before:

and here is the after:

You can see I didn’t lighten is up much..I just gave it enough to help the eyes sparkle. PLEASE don’t go all crazy and make your model look like an alien and then tell people I TOLD you to do it that way..I am telling you now…A LITTLE GOES A LONG WAY!!

Part of great photography, is of course, the catchlights.  If you have never heard of catchlights before, they are the little bits of white reflection in the eyes that appear when we are in lighting, whether it be outside in the sunlight like this photo, or in a studio with studio lights.  There are all different types of catchlights, and some are better than others. I, for instance, have a small pin catchlight caused by a reflector I used when shooting my DD. It is not the best catchlight, as I would have liked a larger one, but I had my nine year old daughter playing assistant and well, she wasn’t really that interested in getting it right!

Because I have a small catchlight, I want to go in and digitally enhance it so that  it shows up a little better. You can do this by using the DODGE tool in your tools palette OR by using the keyboard shortcut O.

The dodge tool works a little different than the screen mode layer method we just used.  Where the Screen mode and a layer mask did not actually change the original photo, using the dodge and burn tool actually work on the actual pixels of the original photo, so, in order to have more control over the outcome of the dodge tool, you will need to make a copy of your photo to work with.  Hit CTRL+ J to make a copy on a new layer. Select your dodge tool and, at the top of your workstation, change the Range to Midtones and your exposure to around 30%. It is important to remember that you need to start light with the dodge tool. You can always pass over it several times, but the Dodge tool does not have mask to erase your mistakes, so if you DO mess up, make sure that you go up to EDIT>UNDO, or go to your History panel and pick the last step you had right.

Make a few strokes with your with your dodge tool over the catchlight.  You will begin to notice the catchlight gets lighter with each pass.  Do NOT go overboard. One or two times will do.

At this time, I also like to work on the pupil of the eye and the eyelashes. When you are dodging, you may get a little dodge on the black pupil, so I always go over it with my burn tool.  The  Burn tool is found in the same location as the Dodge tool and it’s icon looks like a hand. I set my brush opacity to around 15% for this particular brush and I will go over the eyelashes and liner area of the eye as well as the outside area of the iris and the pupil,  in order to really give the eye some contrast and make it pop.  When you are done, you can lower the opacity of the new layer until you get the results you are looking for.

 Here is the before photo:

and here is my after photo:

As you can see..a little change here and there is all you need to make the eyes come alive!

I hope you all enjoyed the tutorial today!  Remember that you are always welcome to leave tutorial suggestions for me in the comment section! I want to make sure that you are all learning something that YOU want to know, so if you have a suggestion, please feel free to leave me a comment!

Thanks for stopping by today and I will see you next week!

Happy Scrapping!


comments +

  1. […] original : HERE bears-repeating, capturing-the-memories, life-time, love, love-putting, love-starting, […]

  2. Peggy says:

    Great tutorial, Mye! Thanks so much!

  3. France says:

    Cool! thanks so much!!

  4. ronnadv says:

    This will be helpful even though I only have PSE. I love the free tutorials–they are short and sweet, easy to follow, and my photos are looking more professional all the time! Thanks!
    What is your suggestion for storing the tutorials for later access? I would rather not print them all out. What is your suggestion?

    • Scott says:

      Ronnadv… if you highlight all the text and pictures of the tutorial and then right click on the highlighted part, select copy.. then open a program like Mircosoft Word…. then right click on the blank word documnet and select paste…. then you can save the tutorial on your computer and you dont need to print it unless you want. That way you have the tutorail for future reference. To highlight what you want use you mouse left click and hold down the left nouse button and move your mouse to select all the text and pictures you want.

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I'm Mye De Leon

I'm a mom with a desire to give the best for her family and turned a lettering hobby into a multi6-figure business. These days, I eat strategy for breakfast and turn other businesses into successful empires.

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I'm Mye


My business is to help your business generate more revenue so you can be who you want to be.

I'm Mye


My business is to help your business generate more revenue so you can be who you want to be.