How to Naturally Whiten Eyes in Photoshop and Capture One

How to Naturally Whiten Eyes in Photoshop and Capture One

When we hear about eye whitening our thoughts immediately turn to disturbing cases of retouching gone bad where subjects look more like dolls than humans. While YouTube is littered with videos on the subject, a good chunk of them take a brute force approach to the problem. They either crank up the luminosity or reduce the saturation; both of which will produce unnatural and sometimes frightening results. The key to restoring the whiteness of the Sclera is to treat the problem as a local color cast and work to offset just that cast and nothing else. In these two videos I'll show you how to quickly do just that using either Photoshop or Phase One's Capture One Pro 8. Keep in mind that my primary focus in these videos is on color as you generally shouldn't adjust the luminosity of the Sclera, at least not on a local level. The danger of brightening the white of the eye is that they will feel unnaturally bright relatively to the rest of the image - it is after all dark because of the direction or intensity of the original light source. What I occasionally do but haven't demonstrated here is to locally dodge and burn the sclera to remove any light or dark patches if they exist. Once again, be careful with this so that you retain the natural shadow and highlight structure of the Sclera and try to avoid globally brightening the eye in the process. 

Before and after the removal of the color cast within the Sclera

Using Photoshop

With just a little bit of masking and a few slider adjustments, the problem can easily be dealt with in Photoshop using the Select Color adjustment layer along with the help of the info panel. 

Using Capture One Pro 8

If you prefer to deal with issues such as these at the raw level, the below video will show you a similar approach to what I demonstrated above, but done entirely through Capture One's local adjustment layers. 

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7 Comments

Spy Black's picture

Nice tutorial. I highly doubt the blue makeup was reflecting to that inner rim on the eye, as there is no makeup on the eye in the areas around it. That's just shading, and how the camera has recorded it.

I don't remember an art director tell me to NOT lighten the crap out of the eyes and get rid of all the veins. :-) I usually lighten the entire eye and socket area, which is more natural looking.

Michael Woloszynowicz's picture

It is the makeup. No other looks in the series had this issue.

Lee Christiansen's picture

As always, a very useful tutorial and many thanks for your input.

That said... I would kill to have clients walk in with eyes starting as clean as your model's eyes. I seem to get blotchy, heavily veined eyes with random dark patches.

Despite guidelines that I give to get a good night's sleep and no alcohol before a shoot, I'm guessing either my clients have stressed lives, or they're not looking after themselves.

I've wondered how well those eye whitening eyedrops might work - but here is no way I'm supplying them!

John Flury's picture

Thank you Michael! As usual, you show us not the quick fix, but the way to do it professionally, with subtlety and taste.

Archag Tchorbadjian's picture

Great tip.

Hugh Saffar's picture

The most fastest, easiest and efficient techniques, always by Michael :)

Jan Iveta's picture

Very useful technique. I wouldn't have never thought to use the gradient tool as mask softening tool, nice one! :)