How To Change The Color of Eyes In Photoshop

by Dec 24, 2019Free Tutorials, Resources

Editing portraits in simple ways is one of the things for which Photoshop is famous. One of these simple adjustments that can be made to portraits is altering the color of the subject’s eyes.

Whilst this process tends to yield better results when used to make minor adjustments to the eye color, you can try making more significant adjustments to see how it turns out! What’s great about this method is how quick and non-destructive it is, and the high level to which it produces a realistic effect.

This tutorial should work well with most versions of Photoshop, and with most computers, but it’s important to note that if you would like to start working with the program to an even more professional level, then you should consider the factors mentioned in this article that we produced, regarding which computers are best for photo editing.

Side note: we also have an article that explains everything you need to know about red eyes. and how to fix it Photoshop and when taking the picture.

1: Open the Image that you what to change the Eye Color by Choosing File > Open

With Photoshop open, obviously the first thing you’ll want to do is open an image that shows the subject’s eyes clearly. This could be of an animal or a human. For instance, in this tutorial, we used this photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels and (for the other example shown in the banner) a photo by Subin from Pexels. 

To open your image, head along the top of the screen to File > Open and choose the relevant image from your files.

file open photoshop

2: Add a New Curves Adjustment Layer by Choosing Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves, and Make a Temporary Drastic Adjustment

We’ll next want to sort out our layer masks. These are an important feature of Photoshop as, when combined with adjustment layers, they allow us to make adjustments to only certain parts of an image, which we determine.

So, to make this process easier, we’ll begin by making a temporary drastic adjustment just so that we can see more clearly which areas we’ll need to make visible with the layer mask. 

Let’s add a new curves adjustment layer by clicking on the Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Window (as shown below). From the menu that then appears, choose Curves.

New curves adjustment layer photoshop
New curves adjustment layer photoshop

Alternatively, you could head along the top of the screen to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves.

New curves adjustment layer photoshop

Now that we have our adjustment layer, we can go ahead and make a far too drastic adjustment. Let’s drag the curve all the way to the top left, or, really, wherever you want as long as it makes a major adjustment.

curves adjustment layer drastic change photoshop

To clarify again, this won’t affect our final outcome, so the more drastic it is the better, as this step is purely for the purposes of easing our visibility later on in the process.

3: Click on the Rectangle on the Adjustment Layer in the Layers Window and Press Ctrl + I to Invert the Layer Mask

On an adjustment layer, the default layer mask is indicated next to its name in the Layers Window by a white rectangle. Click on this to highlight it, and press Ctrl + I [Win] / Cmd + I [Mac] to invert it. 

This should make the rectangle now appear black, indicating that the mask is now making the effect of the adjustment layer temporarily invisible.

curves adjustment layer with layer mask in photoshop

4: Click on the Mask to Make it Active and Paint White Over the Eyes

When working with layer masks, black makes areas invisible, and white makes areas visible. So, as we want whatever adjustment we make to only show up on the eyes, we’ll want the layer mask to be black everywhere other than the eyes, which we’ll want to paint white. 

So, from the toolbar down the left side of your screen, choose the Brush Tool, as shown below.

brush tool selected in photoshop

This should open up a menu along the top, where you should set the Hardness to 100%, set the Opacity to 100%, choose a round brush, and set the Color to white.

brush tool option in photoshop

You can change the size of the brush using the square brackets –  [ and ] – to make it smaller or bigger, respectively. 

Now simply paint over the eyes using a white brush, switching to a black brush to make any areas invisible again if you’ve accidentally painted over an area that doesn’t cover the eyes.

eye over exposed in photoshop

5: Double-Click on the Mask in the Layers Window to Open it in the Properties / Mask Panel and Adjust the Feather Slider to Soften the Edges of the Mask

You should notice that, at this point, we have a mask that makes the adjustments visible on only the eyes but contains rather harsh edges. This would result in us having an unrealistic effect when we go to change the color of the eyes. 

We can blur or soften the edges of our mask by double-clicking on the layer mask of our adjustment layer (shown by the rectangle in the Layers Window). This will open the Properties Window. Here, adjust the feather slider to soften the edges of the mask until you’re satisfied.

soften edges of layer mask on eye in photoshop

6: Click the Reset Button (the Curved Arrow) in the Curves Window to Undo the Drastic Adjustment

With our layer mask sorted, we can now reset the curve to undo the drastic adjustments that we made to the image. So, let’s click on the Adjustments Icon on the Adjustment Layer in the Layers Window (as shown below).

Adjustment layer icon in layer panel photoshop

This will open up the Curves Window, in which you’ll want to click the curved arrow icon at the bottom of the panel to reset the curve, restoring the image’s unedited state.

reset Adjustment layer photoshop

7: Click the RGB Dropdown at the Top of the Curves Panel and Subtly Adjust the Values of each of the Color Channels to Change the Eye Color

One of the best ways to change colors in a realistic way within Photoshop is to use the Color Channels in the Curves Window. What’s great about them is that they allow us to only adjust the primary colors, maintaining the integrity of the original color and allowing for a realistic affect. 

These can be selected from the Curves Window, which should be already open from the previous step. So, in the window, choose the RGB dropdown from the top of the panel, and select any of the colors that appear. In our case, we chose Green first.

curves Adjustment layer photoshop

Then just play around making subtle adjustments to each of the color channels to see how it affects the color of the eyes. To change the color channel that you’re working on, head to the RGB dropdown again and select a different color from the list.

blue eye color photograph

Keep doing this until you’re happy with the result!

 

And there you have it! You should now know how to change the color of a subject’s eyes in Photoshop, and how to do so in a realistic way to achieve the best possible outcome.

BONUS

Want to find out more about how to produce this effect? Then check out this video that details how to change the eye color using Hue / Saturation Adjustment Layers.

Betchphoto
About the Author Betchphoto

Martin is an amateur photographer and digital marketer who has more than 15 years of experience with Adobe Photoshop. Check his about page here