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Make Eyes Pop in Portraits with This Fast Photoshop Technique

Bring life back to "dead eyes" in five quick steps
Photo of eyes that pop

If you didn’t get the eyes as sharp as you’d like them in a portrait or if they look somewhat dull or even dead, there are several methods to add “life” to eyes during post-processing. One of the best and quickest methods to make eyes pop in Photoshop is explained in the below tutorial by software expert Glyn Dewis.

The video at the bottom of this post from Dewis is a follow-up to another tutorial from him that we shared recently explaining how to get razor sharp eyes in Photoshop. The twist to the new technique explained below is that it’s quite a bit faster to perform in Photoshop.

“A few videos back I showed a technique in Photoshop where you can really bring eyes to life using noise and the radial blur filter,” Dewis notes. “Not that I have an obsession with eyes but here’s another technique I want to share with you that uses just one layer to brighten, colorize and add contrast.”

Here’s a brief summary of his method but you should watch the video tutorial at the bottom to see the full demo. We’ve included time-stamps where you can find each step explained in the video.


Step #1: Selecting Eyes (0:38)

Zoom in on the eyes and grab the elliptical marquee tool. Form a circle with the tool and put it over an eye. Repeat for the second eye. Press Q on your keyboard to go into Quick Mask mode and highlight the eyes.

Step #2: Brighten the Eyes (2:56)

Choose the Selective Color adjustment layer on the right of the screen. Change the blend mode from Normal to Color Dodge.

Step #3: Changing Eye Color (4:06)

Go to Properties for the Selective Color adjustment layer and select Neutrals from the dropdown menu. Adjust the cyan, magenta, yellow, and black sliders to taste.


Step #4: Add Contrast to the Eyes (5:45)

To adjust contrast in the eyes, change the Neutrals to Blacks. Then use the Black slider to adjust contrast. Dragging it to the left deceases contrast; dragging to the right increases contrast.

Step #5: Relative and Absolute (6:03)

The Relative option in Properties produces a more subtle adjustment while the Absolute option is a bit punchier. Try both and determine which look you prefer.

Step #6: Sharpen the Eyes (7:04)

Add a new blank layer for just the sharpening. Choose the Sharpen tool and change the strengthen to 20. Circle each eye three times with the Sharpen tool.


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