Today, I would like to show you a quick and easy way to change eye color in Adobe Photoshop using Adjustments layers. This method doesn’t apply to eyes only, you can use it to change color of any element in your photo but eye color change is the most common practice so I will use it as an example. The main reason I would use an Adjustment layer for this technique is because it is non-destructive editing practice, as I have mentioned in Adjustment Layers article, so you can always go back to that layer and change its effect. Another reason I use it is because we deal with masks, which allows for easy selection, isolation and correction. Before I get too far into all the benefits of this technique, let’s just dive right into practice so you can see everything for yourself.
Note: I am using Adobe Photoshop CS6 on PC, but these steps can be performed on older versions of Photoshop and on Mac platform. If you don’t own Photoshop yet, you can get Adobe Photoshop CS6 here.
To begin, we need to create Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer. There are two ways you can do this. The fastest way is to click on Hue/Saturation icon on Adjustments panel. If you don’t have this panel open, go to Window > Adjustments on the top Navigation panel to make it visible. The second option is to click on a black and white circle icon at the bottom of Layers panel and select Hue/Saturation. Either way you choose to do it a new Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer will be created. Notice that a mask will be automatically linked to this layer which will play a key role in this tutorial. As soon as you create this new layer, you will also see a Properties panel appear with various scales, such as Hue, Saturation, Lightness and other. These are the controls we will be using to change color, but before we start fiddling with these scales we need to make sure only eyes will change color and not the entire image.
In order to have only eyes being affected by our color change, we will use mask’s unique properties. Notice that the mask linked to our new Adjustment layer is completely white. This means that the entire image will be changed when you adjust hue/saturation scales. Masks can only have two colors, white and black. While white color on mask represents areas sensitive to change, black color represents areas that will not be affected by any of your adjustments. Therefore, to make sure only eyes are affected by color change we need to paint them white on the mask and have everything else on the photo black. To do this, make sure the mask is selected in your layers panel (it’s the white rectangle on Hue/Saturation layer). Then select Paint Bucket tool from tools panel. Make sure that your foreground color is set to black and click anywhere on your photo. The image itself will not change but the white mask rectangle on adjustment layer should turn black. At this point all this means is that none of your changes to this Adjustment layer will be reflected on your photo.
Now we need to select eyes only. To do this, choose Paint Brush tool from tools panel and make sure your foreground color is white. If you had default white foreground and black background color setup, you can just hit [X] to switch their position. Once that’s all done, make sure your brush dimensions are appropriate for eye size and just paint over eyes. You will not see any change on your photo but you should see white circles appear in your black mask. Don’t worry about precision, if your painted area is too large you can just switch the brush color to black and paint over areas you don’t want to change color. Once this is all complete, we can start playing with colors.
Let’s go back to the Properties panel. If it’s missing, you can activate it by going to Window > Properties on the top Navigation bar. In this particular example all you have to do is to scroll Hue scale until the eyes change to the color you are looking for. If the color is too vivid or not vivid enough you can adjust Saturation scale. Finally if the eyes are darker or brighter than desired, you can shift Lightness scale. As you change these scales, you should see eyes change color in real time. The two rainbow stripes on the bottom of Properties panel represent original colors (top stripe) and to which color they have been changed (bottom stripe). So if original eye color was green and you are looking for blue eyes, the green shades on the top stripe should have bluish range directly below, on the bottom stripe. However, it is much easier to focus on the eyes on the photo and go by whatever looks best.
This is all you need to do to change eye color in Photoshop. As you perform more editing and have numerous additional layers, you can always go back to this Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer and do more eye color changes.