Three Ways to Whiten Teeth Using Photoshop

One of the most common retouching tasks you'll be faced with is whitening teeth. Like many things in Photoshop, the key is applying the correct technique in moderation to obtain a realistic result. This helpful tutorial will show you three such ways to do just that.

Coming to you from PiXimperfect, this video will show the benefits and drawbacks of three methods of whitening teeth in Photoshop. As Dinda mentions, there's a difference between whitening and brightening. Probably the most common mistake I see with retouching teeth is simply brightening them (or over-brightening in tandem with whitening), which makes for very artificial results that really pop in the wrong way. The trick is focusing more on reducing the amount of yellow in the teeth while maintaining roughly the same luminance levels. I personally prefer the last method Dinda demonstrates, as it allows you to not only zero in on exactly the range of hues you want to adjust (and tweak them later if you so desire), but it obviates the need to brush them in super precisely. Any of the three methods should work well, though; just pick whichever you prefer and be sure to use it in moderation!

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15 Comments

MJ Kreyzer's picture

My favorite method: Duplicate layer, switch blend to 'Color', drop opacity to 50%, pop open the Layer Style window and deselect the red channel (most of the time). Alt-click the Mask icon and paint in teeth and eyes. Luminance stays the same but unflattering discoloration is eliminated.

Oh yeah, then grab the Dodge tool, target highlights, set exposure to 100% then brush over teeth until they emit a warm, Chernobyl-esque luster.

Alex Cooke's picture

Hmmm, I was with you until the second paragraph...

MJ Kreyzer's picture

That second paragraph is only applicable if you're going for the "I hired my 14-year-old niece to shoot our family photos" look.

Why use Photoshop? Just use Lightroom. The teeth whitening brush preset works great. Zoom in, brush and adjust the amount and you're done.

Alex Cooke's picture

Because all the brush does is bump exposure and reduce saturation or all colors, which isn't always a convincing solution, depending on the lighting and color of the teeth.

The brush does much more than that if you want it to. The teeth whitening preset used the way I described works great, but if someone wanted to go further they could simply adjust other settings of the brush. Sometimes simple is all you need.

Glen Grant's picture

I'm with you on this Brad, I find LR provides a fast, clean and easier approach to whitening. But a PS refined user may see it otherwise.
I have 3 or 4 settings used, same for eyes. - LR for me saves me a lot.

Personally, when doing a full portrait retouch including skin and hair work etc it's better to use Photoshop as opposed to LR to achieve the best results. Therefore there's no need to disrupt the retouching process by changing to another program just for whitening the teeth.

Back in the film only days they were able to achieve wonders, and yet LR is far more capable and faster than the tools they had back then. I think a lot of photographers today look past LR to the complexity in Photoshop in order to sell courses, justify their expense and to add prestige.

I think a lot of photographers over think their work and send it into post when perhaps they should be satisfied with what they have in camera. Have we become obsessed or overly concerned about perfection?
I use LR a lot and for weddings it's about 90% of my post-production with Photoshop only being used for an image that may need some form of manipulation where it's tools are more suited.

"Have we become obsessed or overly concerned about perfection?"

More like unrealistic CGI looking photos.

Paulo Macedo's picture

Why use Photoshop or Lightroom? What about brushing them teeth? lol

William Howell's picture

No that's not always the case, the camera sometimes does not accurately photograph the teeth.

Alex Cooke's picture

William is right. If someone has thin enamel; the flash can penetrate that and show the underlying dentin more than the naked eye would see.

Paulo Macedo's picture

I know Alex, it was just a bit of mockery! xD