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Boost eyes in Photoshop with these 3 simple steps

Boost eyes with Photoshop: start image

Most photographers will agree that the eyes are the principal part of any portrait, so it pays to make a few subtle improvements to give them extra sparkle. Here, we’ll concentrate on the essentials of eye enhancement, but if you want to take it further you can do a lot more with Photoshop CS6 (and prior versions) – change the colour, add a catchlight, apply makeup, even make them larger.

It can be useful to think of an eye as a set of four elements: pupil, iris, whites and lashes. Each element requires a different set of tools. We want to boost the tones inside the iris, darken the pupil and iris rim, lighten the whites and sharpen the lashes. Subtlety is key here, so don’t be afraid to lower the layer Opacity of any effect to tone it down.

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01. Boost contrast

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Open ‘eyes_before.jpg’ then click the Create Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel and choose Curves. Make an S-shaped curve like the one shown to boost contrast, then press Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the Layer Mask. Next, grab the Brush tool and paint with white over the eyes.

02. Dodge and burn

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Hold down Alt and click the Create New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel. In the New Layer box, name the layer ‘Dodge Burn’, choose Mode: Overlay and check the ‘Fill with Overlay-Neutral color’ box. Grab the Dodge tool, set Range: Midtones, Exposure 20%, and then paint over the iris.

03. Sharpen the lashes

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Switch to the Burn tool, set Range: Midtones, Exposure 20%, then paint to darken the pupil, the edge of the iris and the lashes. Next, create a new layer and grab the Sharpen tool. Check ‘Sample All Layers’ in the Options bar and set the Strength to 20, then paint over the lashes to selectively sharpen them. That's it! And we hope these tips come in handy for future projects.

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