In this tutorial, you will learn how to change eye color with Photoshop correctly, but most importantly realistically. This technique works on all eye colors, and before you ask, yes including brown eyes. This tutorial’s difficulty level is; beginner. During this tutorial, you will learn to use techniques that will further your knowledge in Photoshop.
At the end of this, you will not only know how to change eye color with Photoshop but you will also learn how to use;
Various Adjustments Layers
Before starting to edit your own image, firstly make a decision of what color you want to change your eye color to. For example; If you want to go from green to blue. It’s highly recommended that you find some reference images before you start. Simply google image search “blue eyes” or “natural blue eyes” and make note of what real blue eyes look like. It’s very easy to go off course and this is when your image can become unrealistic in appearance.
If you don’t have a suitable image at hand but wish to follow the tutorial, you can download up to 10 high-quality stock images FREE with an Adobe Stock trial. To start open the photo that you wish to edit. Zoom appropriately into the eyes in your image by holding down the short key ⌘ Command and either + or – on a Mac, or Ctrl and either + or – on a PC. You can also hold down ⌥ Option on a Mac, or Alt on a PC and simply scroll with your mouse. Select the elliptical marquee tool and make a rough circle over the Iris of the eye (the colored section of the eye). Holding down the space bar before letting go of the marquee tool allows you to move the selection around to reposition if needed. This is especially useful when using the elliptical marquee tool as it’s hard to know where to start your circle selection. Don’t worry too much about being perfect right now.
Free High-Quality Image Resources
Make a rough selection
If you don’t have a suitable image at hand but wish to follow the tutorial, you can download up to 10 high-quality stock images FREE with an Adobe Stock trial.Get 10 Free Adobe Stock Images
To start open the photo that you wish to edit. Zoom appropriately into the eyes in your image by holding down the short key ⌘ Command and either + or – on a Mac, or Ctrl and either + or – on a PC. You can also hold down ⌥ Option on a Mac, or Alt on a PC and simply scroll with your mouse.
Select the elliptical marquee tool and make a rough circle over the Iris of the eye (the colored section of the eye). Holding down the space bar before letting go of the marquee tool allows you to move the selection around to reposition if needed. This is especially useful when using the elliptical marquee tool as it’s hard to know where to start your circle selection. Don’t worry too much about being perfect right now.
If you can’t find the elliptical marquee tool, you may need to right-click on the rectangular marquee tool to allow the drop-down menu to appear, from where you can select the elliptical marquee tool. Once you have made your selection, it will look like this, again don’t worry about the selection being perfect, we will fine-tune everything at the end. Whilst a selection is active don’t click anywhere on the image or Photoshop workspace other than physical icons and buttons as this will make the selection deselect and you will have to redo the selection.
Create a group
Whilst the round selection around the iris of the eye is active, create a new group by clicking the group icon (Folder icon bottom right corner).
Once the group has been created, by default it will be named Group-1, rename it to prevent any confusion later down the line. You can do this by double-clicking the name of the group.
Create a layer/vector mask
The round selection around the iris of the eye will still be active. Press the layer/vector mask icon (a rectangular shape with a circle in the center, bottom right corner). This will create a vector mask of the selection onto the group.
(When creating layer masks on groups they are actually called vector masks), but you will more commonly know the icon as the layer mask icon). Kind of the same thing, in essence, the only difference is a layer mask affects only the layer it’s on, where a vector mask affects the group, meaning all layers inside the group. However, they are controlled and appear the same as each other.
Edits to the iris on adjustment layers
This is the stage where the color the eye changes. All of our edits are going to be made on adjustment layers that will be arranged into the group we created that has the layer/vector mask that will only affect the eyes in your image. Using adjustment layers is the best way to create edits on your photographs as it allows easy changes at any point, keeps the workspace tidy and prevents losing track of what has been done so far to your project.
Brightness / Saturation Adjustment Layer
Whilst the group is selected, click on the adjustment layer icon (circle icon, bottom right corner) and select ‘Brightness/Contrast’.
This will open the brightness/contrast panel as seen below, you will now want to increase the brightness depending on what image you are using. If you are editing brown eyes like in this tutorial, then you will want to increase the brightness a good amount. If you’re editing green or blue eyes then you might need to decrease the brightness or completely skip this step, it all depends on the quality of your photograph.
Curves Adjustment Layer
Again we will create another adjustment layer so click on the adjustment layer icon and select ‘Curves’.
This will open the curves panel as seen below, by default it will open to the RGB curve, (as your image is made up of red, green, and blue colors, therefore edits on the RGB curve affect the whole image). Depending on what your final desired color outcome is, will affect in which direction you drag the curve graph. Just have a play around until you get something you are happy with.
As mentioned above your image is made up of red, green, and blue colors that make up your entire image, however, you can edit just one of these modes if you wish rather than all RGB. You can do this by clicking the dropdown menu shown below and choosing the color mode you wish to edit. This is especially useful if you have a bit too much of an undesired color in your eyes, for example, a tint of red in your green and want to edit that out, you would select the red mode and drag the curve down ever so slightly which would reduce the color red in the eyes.
The result of changing the curves so that the shade of green is darker and richer.
Gaussian Blur on the vector mask
It’s finally time to start to clean up the edits of our eye as our selection was only a rough one. Click once on the group’s vector mask so that it’s active (next to the name of your group to the left you will see a rectangular black box, this is what you click on once).
At the top of your screen, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.
This will open the gaussian blur control panel as seen below. Depending on your image will determine what amount of blur you will want to add. Not too much, not too little, just enough to give smooth out the selection.
The result of adding the Gaussian blur has given a softer edge to the iris around the eye.
Clean up the vector mask
Grab your paintbrush tool by clicking the brush icon to the left of your screen or using the shortcut; B. Once your brush has been selected, right-click on your image and reduce the hardness down to 0% and choose an appropriately sized brush.
Next, once your brush is selected, at the top of the screen; lower the opacity of the brush, by dragging the opacity down to somewhere around 50% as seen below.
Finally set your foreground color to black. You can do this manually by selecting black in the color panel or by pressing the shortcut; D which resets your foreground and background colors to black and white and then use the shortcut; X to switch the two around.
Begin slowly to start brushing around the areas you want to remove the edits from. (Think of this as an eraser where you are slowly scrubbing away what you don’t want). Don’t worry if you remove too much, if this happens, just change the foreground color to white by pressing the shortcuts: D to reset the colors and then: X to switch white to the foreground color. Just brush the edits back, it’s as simple as that, switch between black to remove and white to add. Don’t forget to use your brush to remove the edits from the pupil (the dark black part in the center of the eye). Once you have taken your time at this stage, you will have something like this below.
Adding detail to make a more realistic look
You could essentially call it a day at this point but. If you look at references of natural unedited eyes, you can tell that eyes aren’t usually one color, but have a secondary color around the pupil or around the edge of the iris. Little details like this, make a big difference to your image. The devil is in the details.
Adding detail with hue/saturation
We are going to add some of this secondary color detailing into our eye, by using hue/saturation. Click once on your group so that it’s the active layer and go down and create a new adjustment layer and select hue/saturation. For this image, we are going to add some warm orangey-brown. Just slide the hue and saturation until you are happy with the result.
Edit the layer mask that is on the hue/saturation adjustment detail layer
We only want this secondary color to show slightly from the center of the eye, so click on the latest hue/saturation adjustment layer, so that it’s active. You will see next to the adjustment layer’s name is a white rectangular box. This is the same layer mask as the black rectangular box earlier, the only difference is when the box is white; it means it’s empty and showing everything. Set your foreground color to black by using the shortcuts; D and X. Grab your brush again and this time, brush away the secondary color from wherever you don’t want the detailing.
Adding the second eye
At this point, we have been doing all our edits onto just one eye. You could just repeat these steps to do the other eye, and there will definitely be times when you will need to do this for greater control of editing. However, there is a very quick way to get the same result. Click on your group so that it’s active. Grab your brush, set white to the foreground color, and brush away the second eye. Once you have fully removed the area around the eye. Change your color to black, click on the hue/saturation adjustment layer for the secondary color details and also remove the area of unwanted coloring if you added the secondary color detailing. You will have the adjustment layers now affecting the second eye.
Congratulations, you’re done!
Well done, you made it to the end of the tutorial. More importantly, you know how to change eye color with Photoshop, great job! Why don’t you check out our other Photoshop tutorials?
This tutorial has an in-depth video that can be viewed as well as followed by the traditional tutorial below.
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