Don’t you just hate it when you have a great image with a beautiful smile but the teeth are just a shade too yellow? I often get asked “how to whiten teeth in photos?” Most teeth have a natural yellow tint to them, and when combined with special lighting and a custom white balance even the best teeth can look a bit unflattering. Thankfully there is a quick solution to this problem and today I am going to show you how to whiten and brighten teeth in Photoshop in just a few quick and simple steps.
Below is a video showing and describing all of the steps I list in this tutorial.
Open the image in Photoshop. Now let’s make a selection of all of the teeth we want to whiten. To do this, select a Lasso Tool in the left Tool Menu and go around the desired area to make a selection. If you are more comfortable making selections with other tools, such as Magic Wand, feel free to do so. Depending on the size of your image, it might help to have a bit of Feathering applied to your selection. In my example I’ve used 18px feathering. This will make the selection blend in a bit more with the subject once we start making adjustments.
With that selection still active, click on ‘Create a new layer’ button in the bottom-right corner, then click on ‘Create a new group’ button next to it, and then click on ‘Add vector mask’ button in that same bottom-right corner. This will create a folder with a layer mask. So now every Adjustment layer that you create within this folder will only apply to the selected area (in this case – teeth only). Additionally, if at some point you decide that you need to make a correction, addition or subtraction from the selected area, all you’ll have to do is edit the group mask.
Create a Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer. In the properties, select Colorize box. Bring the Hue selector all the way to the left (it looks good at 16 in my case). Lower saturation to where you think it looks good (20 is good in my example) and bring up the lightness (+17 was fine for me). It might not look completely natural at this point, but don’t worry, we are about to make some additional quick improvements.
Create a new Curves Adjustment layer. Drag the curve from the center to the left half way. Don’t worry if the teeth look way too white at this point. Teeth a typically not just one shade, they have a sort of dynamic range in them and this is a way to correct one of the margins. Double-click on that Curved Adjustment layer and you should see Blending Options window. Check Underlying Layer bar all the way at the bottom of that window. Press [Alt] on PC or [Option] on Mac, then click and drag the white arrow to the left. This arrow should split into two. Now drag the left half close to pure black and drag the right half a bit away from pure white. Play with two halves until you like the result. That should take care of one margin.
Now let’s take care of the other margin by repeating Step 4. Create a new Curves Adjustment layer and drag the curve to the left. Double-click on the layer and check Blending Options window. Only this time press [Alt] on PC or [Option] on Mac, then click and drag the black arrow to the right close to pure white. Then drag the remaining black half closer to the bright side. Try playing with it until the entire tooth surface area is uniformly bright. That it!
With these easy 5 steps you should be able to make any teeth look whiter and brighter. Remember that if some of the layers look overwhelming you can always lower their opacity. You can also easily change the affected area by correcting the group Vector Mask layer. Hopefully this will lead to more beautiful smiles in your photography collection.