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It’s all in the eyes! A Photoshop Elements Tutorial from an Extreme Amateur

May 21, 2010

I feel like a complete nut posting a tutorial.  I know next to nothing about photo editing, but I’ve had a couple of people ask me how I make eyes pop in pictures.  So, I thought I’d try my hand at this tutorial thing.  Can’t hurt.

I have the oldie goldie Photoshop Elements 5.0.  I don’t believe it’s such a dinosaur that this won’t translate. 

Sometimes in photos, the eyes can look a little flat.  You look at the photo are disappointed, because you know your baby’s eyes aren’t flat.  They sparkle.  They twinkle.  They laugh.  Why aren’t they sparkling and twinkling? Where’s the laugh? 

Sometimes, they just need a little coaxing.  And they’ll twinkle, sparkle and sometimes even dazzle!

Here’s what I do.  I know there are 951,563 ways to do everything in PSE, but this is the way I do it.

The first thing you need to do is open your image in Photoshop(I like to state the obvious).

Then, choose the Magnetic Lasso Tool.  It is wonderful, it’ll cling to whatever you’re trying to select.  The first arrow is pointing to it.  This is assuming you’ve chosen the lasso tool already.  Make sure you’re using the Magnetic one! Important.  Also, be sure and select the “Add to Selection” thingy(I’m all about the tech lingo).  This will make it possible to select both eyes at the same time.  If you don’t select this, when you select one eye and start on the next, you’ll lose the selection you just made. I hope that made sense.  If it didn’t, choose it anyway.  Have a little trust.

Now, hold the button on your mouse down and use the magnetic lasso to trace the pupil.  I hope you can see the little dotted line around Sam’s pupils.

After you’ve roped the pupils, select the drop down Enhance menu.  Choose Unsharp Mask.

After you choose it, you’ll see something like this.  These choices don’t have to be hard and fast, but they work well for me.  Sometimes, I’ll raise the amount a little.  But, this is a good jumping off point.

Amount 85%

Radius 4.0 pixels

Threshold 0

Click OK.   In some cases, you can stop right there. 

But, if you want to keep tweaking, make a duplicate layer of the eyes.  They are already selected, so just press CTRL -J.  This will bring up a layer with nothing but eyes.

With the new layer selected(highlighted) move to the filter drop down menu.  Choose Other and High Pass.



When you choose High Pass, this little box will show up.  I set the radius at around 10.0 pixels.  They are going to look really weird at this point.  But, trust me, they’re going to sparkle.  They look like invaders from another planet right this second.  But, don’t you kind of wonder about them sometimes anyway?  I mean, if we’re being honest.


This next step is very important.  Change your blending mode to soft light.  Sorry I don’t have an arrow.  But, it’s just above the layers.  If you’ve done nothing with it, it says “Normal.”  Change it to “Soft Light.”

After you’ve changed that blending mode, you’ll see the final result.  Sometimes, it’s just really over done, and you have to dial the opacity of that layer back a little.  Play with it until it looks right to you.  I think I ended up setting the opacity at 25% on this photo.

And now, all that’s left to do is flatten the image.  Do that by right clicking on the layers. And choosing to flatten.  Easy!


Not sure what he was looking at that was so amazing.  But, he’s five, could have been anything.

After.  Nothing anywhere near as dramatic as the alien eyes, but there’s a little sparkle, and perhaps some twinkle.

Here’s another that I did using the same method.

Excuse the sleepy, grumpy expression and out of focus eye.  I thought you’d really be able to see how this worked on this mug shot!


The above picture is a little overdone, for the sake of example. I would probably run the opacity back a little.

I don’t think this one really shows up that well. So, here’s another.


Are you sick of him yet?

After. Excuse the piece of something yellow stuck to his forehead.  I didn’t catch it until now and am too lazy to fix it!

I hope you could make heads or tails of this! 

If I’m missing something wonderful, by all means, let me know.  

Take care!

7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 21, 2010 7:28 am

    O this looks good! I tend to like overdone eyes. You know – not the alien type -but just a tad overdone!!!! I also like my photos a tad overexposed – gasp!!! Your pictures look great – thanks for the tutorial!

  2. May 21, 2010 8:37 am

    great tutorial! I need to figure out how to translate that to GIMP, though! Photoshop and lightroom won’t run on my Linux computer 😦

  3. May 21, 2010 1:19 pm

    Great job…you are well on the road to being tutorial queen!!

    And…how could we EVER be sick of little Sam!! I think that is an impossibility!!

  4. May 21, 2010 4:32 pm

    Really cool tutorial. I have a new interest in photography (but I really enjoy it!) and I had no idea that such a thing was possible. Unfortunately, I have GIMP also, but you’ve inspired me to browse around and see if it can do something similar. Thanks!

  5. May 22, 2010 12:11 am

    I have GIMP, too, but I’m going to cruise around in the next couple of days and see if I can do something similar. Since I just have a point and shoot camera at the moment I’m looking for ways to improve my photos. GREAT tutorial!

  6. May 27, 2010 3:09 pm

    Can’t wait to try your tutorial! I’ve never used this technique before and I love finding new ways to make eyes pop!

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