Introduction: Beginning Photoshop - Adding "Life" to Eyes

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Adding "life" to the eyes of a model is a very popular technique that portrait, fashion, lifestyle and wedding photographers use.  Most of the time the catchlights do the job for you, but every once in a while you might want an extra boost, so to speak. 

You will need:
  • Photoshop (or similar editing program)

**Note: as with many other photoshop techniques, this look may differ from eye to eye, and usually the eyes with more contrast and detail in them will have the best result.  Unfortunately, I was unable to recruit such eyes for the images in this tutorial, so bear with me here.

Step 1: Shape

The first step will give you your basic shape.  You'll need to make a new layer by hitting Shift+Cmd+N (if using a PC, Shift+Ctrl+N).  With the new layer selected, use the Elipse Tool to create a solid white circle that's a little smaller than the iris of the eye. 

*Note that I have "Fill Pixels" selected in the top menu bar, if you don't have this selected, there will be a border around the shape that will completely change how this process works.

Step 2: Shape - Continued

Then you need to select the Marquee Tool from the toolbar menu and make a selection of the top half of the circle.  Once this is selected, hit delete.  This will cut the circle in half getting us one step closer to the shape we want, which is a crescent.

Step 3: Shape - Continued

Now that we have our half circle, we can shape it into a crescent.  In the Marquee Tool, select the Eliptical Marquee and make an oval that cuts partially into the half circle and meeting in the corners.  You want this to be a little deep, but if you'd like to make it shallower to make a thicker crescent, you can just make the oval a little less round.

Once the selection has been made, just with the Rectangular Marquee, hit delete.

Step 4: Gaussian Blur

Now that we have our crescent shape, we need to blur it to get rid of the hard edges.  In the top menu bar, go to filter > blur > gaussian blur.  Once you click on it, a small window will pop up and you can customize how blurred you want it.  The higher the radius, the more blurred it will be.

For this particular use, usually 3.0 - 4.0 should do just fine.  Click OK.

Step 5: Blending

Now that we've got our blended crescent shape, (which doesn't look too bad I might add, depending on the look you're going for, you might want to keep it like this), we can finish blending it for a more subtle look. 

In the Layers Pallete, select the "Soft Light" blend mode.  This should blend the highlight into the eye more, and from there you can change the opacity of the layer to your desired look.

Step 6: Fine Tuning the Details

Almost done!

Now that we've got the highlight in the eyes the way we want it, the next step is to adjust the finer details to make the eye pop more.  In this particular example, I used the Burn Tool on a low opacity, (10%), to darken the eyelashes and the ring around the iris.  This will bring out the shape and contrast in the final image.

Step 7: The Final Result

Finish up by sharpening the final image. 

Generally Smart Sharpen, (filter > sharpen > smart sharpen),  is the best tool to use for portraits, but sometimes in fashion photography, another layer of sharpening, (I use Unsharp Mask for this technique, filter > sharpen > unsharp mask), is used to bring out contrast.

In the end, you get an eye that POPS! instead of blending into the background.

To learn more about adding details into eyes, check out my other instructable.  :)