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The Fast Way to Remove Dark Circles Under Eyes in Photoshop

A Guest post by Phil Steele

Almost any portrait subject over the age of 25 can use some under-eye cleanup, but many photographers struggle to make this common retouch look natural. I know I struggled with it, until I found this handy shortcut.

Most of us start out using the Clone Stamp tool as our all-purpose retouching sledgehammer. It’s great for removing blemishes, so we just keep going and going and try to fix everything with it. But using the Clone Stamp tool to retouch bags or dark circles under eyes can require patience and artistic skill that many of us lack.

Not to worry. There’s an easy “instant fix” solution.

1. Open the photo that you need to retouch in Photoshop.

2. Select the Patch Tool, which lives on the same Toolbar square as the Healing Brush. You can right-click on that square to select the Patch Tool from the fly-out menu.   

steele_patch_tool.jpg

3. Using the patch tool, draw a closed loop around the area under the eye that you want to retouch. Be careful not to chop off the eyelashes.

steele_draw_patch.jpg

4. Now that the loop is selected and surrounded by a dashed line, click inside it, and with the mouse button held down, drag that loop down onto the cheek of your subject. Drag it to an area of smooth, clean skin with good texture. This will be your sample area.

steele_drag_patch.jpg

5. After dragging to a clean sample area, release the mouse button. Bang! Instantly the texture of the sampled area will be remapped onto the target area under the eye, smoothing out any bags and correcting the color of dark circles!

steele_release_patch.jpg

Somehow the wizards at Photoshop have programmed this thing to blend the texture of the sample area and the color of the target area in a way that looks totally natural (most of the time). Occasionally, you’ll find a face where it doesn’t work so well, but 90% of the time, this fix is all I need.

6. Deselect it by pressing Command-D (PC: Control-D) and check the results.

7. If there is a visible edge along the border of the patch, you can zoom in and do a little cleanup. Now is the time for the Clone Stamp tool. Adjust the opacity to about 30%, take a sample (Alt:Click) from clean skin near the edge of the patch, and then lightly clone along the borderline to smooth away any visible edge.

steele_clone_tool.jpg

steele_clone_cursor.jpg

With practice, you’ll get skilled at drawing and sampling with the Patch tool so that edge touch-up is rarely necessary.

Then you’ll enjoy this as a fast, easy, one-step solution to most of your under-eye portrait problems!

philsteele.jpgAbout the Author : Phil Steele is the founder of SteeleTraining.com where you’ll find free photo tutorials and training on a variety of topics ranging from basic photography tips to advanced off-camera flash techniques.

The photo used in this tutorial came from his popular course, “How to Shoot Professional-Looking Headshots and Portraits on a Budget with Small Flashes.”

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  • http://www.kimberlygauthier.com Kimberly

    Thank you for sharing this. I had to bag a photo, because I couldn’t “clone” the dark circles away from my subjects eyes (and she wasn’t even the focus on the photo).

    K

  • http://www.lightshootedit.com scott

    Both of these methods are somewhat incomplete. After you make the patch you MUST pull back the opacity! You can then do it again if you would like with a slightly different area as the clone source. Also, you will get a much better result if you learn to use the dodge and burn tools to fix the area as much as possible BEFORE you attempt this brute-force method.

    -www.lightshootedit.com

  • C.C.

    Actually, a low opacity using the clone tool – cloning from that same highlight on the cheekbone is just as quick and you don’t have to worry about edge clean up or the look of different skin texture. And I always think edits should be done on a new layer. And it is a bit untrue about the age of 25 and over. I retouch a lot of images with children and cannot understand why a great many of them have dark circles under their eyes. So I think all ages can do with a bit of retouching around the eyes.

  • http://www.JoePellicone.com Joe Pellicone

    This is a excellent tool, I use it all the time. To make your final photo more natural, consider using the FADE command immediately after you use the patch tool. You can fade what you did with the patch tool to let a limited amount of the wrinkles show and make the person look more realistic.

    Its like taking 10 years off someone instead of giving them complete plastic surgery

  • jason

    To be fair, the title of the tutorial is “The Fast Way to Remove Dark Circles Under Eyes in Photoshop” but I agree that you need to reduce the opacity of the patch so that the original dark circles aren’t completely gone.

  • http://www.steeletraining.com Phil Steele

    Scott, thanks for the additional tips, which can help in difficult cases. What amazes me is how often patch alone does the job with no adjustments to opacity or anything else. The final photo above, for example, shows the result of simply using patch, with no adjustments to opacity and no cloning (even though I mention cloning, this photo actually didn’t need any). It’s a remarkably clean repair for a one-step technique! (By the way, I checked out your blog – great stuff).

  • Wayne

    Fantastic.. Thanks for sharing!!

  • http://jasoncollinphotography.com Jason Collin Photography

    I will give this technique a try next time, thanks for the good screenshots.

    Like c.c. I use the clone stamp thusly: set it to LIGHTEN set opacity to 40% then sample the area just below the dark area…then make a quick horizontal brush stroke, two if necessary

  • http://www.digitalwoe.com/ Lynda

    I’ve been wanting to figure out how to use the patch tool, but haven’t had time to go look up tutorials. Thanks for bringing the tutorial to me!

  • http://mrsingie.com Christie

    I just tried this on a picture of my daughter (1) who has dark circles and it worked perfectly! No extra steps needed. Thank you!!

  • http://stellarshots-photography.blogspot.com Shannon

    Up until this point, I’ve usually sampled color from the cheeks of the subject and painted under the eyes in a new layer. Then I blurred the layer a bit, lowered the opacity, and touched it up with the clone tool until it looked natural…

    This is great! It’s much better at preserving the taxture of the skin. Makes me want to go take some portraits of my sleep-deprived self for a little practice. ;-)

  • Diane

    Phil thanks for the timely tutorial!

  • http://triciaboutelle.blogspot.com Tricia

    This tutorial is fantastic! Thank you so much.

  • http://karenstuebingsdailyshoot.wordpress.com/ Karen Stuebing

    Yes, I discovered the patch tool accidentally trying new things out in Photoshop. I agree you need to fade it a little to get a more natural look. It also works on wrinkles but again you need to reduce the opacity because no one has a completely smooth face with no lines.

    It is really great for removing power lines from skies too. I run into them all the time shooting beautiful scenics that are spoiled by the power lines. The trick is to clone them out on the edges of the frame and then you can select big areas and use the patch tool.

    If you skip that step, it will leave black areas at the end as you replace the lines.

    I used to spend a lot of time cloning power lines until I discovered this.

  • http://www.liberiangeek.net Liberian Geek

    Phil, thanks for this tutorial. I have done the same in GIMP and was looking for this in Photoshop

  • http://www.askoxford.com/ Harvey Crosby

    I hate to poop on the party as this is a neat trick – but really, the fix above looks awful It’s blurred, unnaturally joined to the lower eyelid – and above all clearly has large cheek-like pores where normally people don’t have any visible pores.

  • http://bragawhitefamily.blogspot.com/ Angela White

    What a wonderful tip! Thank you for sharing it =)

  • http://www.travelingtribe.net Jack Fussell

    I usually use the clone tool…on a separate layer and then lower the opacity to blend it in. I may try this method also…see which one looks best. Thanks for the tip!

  • http://www.nhsports.smugmug.com Rich Woodfin

    +1
    Not Quite perfect, but a great starting point.

  • http://www.bretography.com/ Bret Linford

    Like many above, I’ll throw my lot in with the group who likes fading or using lower opacity. But, I think we need to say why it’s better, in my opinion, to do so. We don’t need more perfect images. We need more ‘natural’ images. Personally, I don’t feel moved by an image so very much retouched. But, if we keep some of the subject’s character, I’m all for it. That technique tells me so much more about them than a perfect retouch job. The fact is, I don’t know anyone with perfectly ‘bag-less’ eyes. Everyone seems to have varying degrees of this trait.

  • http://www.bretography.com/ Bret Linford

    Hey! I’m with Phil: Scott has a great blog at http://www.lightshootedit.com/ Subscribed!

  • http://www.hot.com.au MhzQuiros

    This is such a cool tip! I’m a beginner and usually have some slips on the photos that I take, but I don’t want to trash them. So I’ve been looking to use photoshop recently and could use all the tips you’ve got!

  • http://www.gbengaloveyesimages.com Gbenga Loveeyes Images

    Interesting. I use cloning for this, will try it.

  • http://www.photographick.com Photographick Studios

    Great tip, we use it all the time when enhancing portraits.

  • http://www.photosbykacy.com Kacy Hughes

    Wow thanks for sharing this tip. I can’t wait to try it out!

  • http://www.jlsclarity.com Javis Sneed

    Love it! This + healing brush on the edges + opacity adjust = my new method :)

  • http://www.katrinawheeler.com Katrina Wheeler

    Hey there, thanks for sharing this, I was struggling trying to find the tool to do the job, and I forgot all about the patch tool, thanks for that quick tutorial! :)

  • http://wantwhatsheswearing.blogpsot.com/ Rachel

    This is perfect for what I needed to do, thanks so much! And SO EASY!

  • Kim

    This is AMAZING. WOW. And ridiculously easy.

  • http://www.dayclickerphototours.com Amelia

    This totally kicks ass!

  • Kristen

    Thanks so much for sharing your tip on how to remove under-eye bags. I can see myself getting carried away with this trick!

  • M L B

    Thank you for sharing this tip!! Always great to learn something new! :)

  • http://virtualclinic365.blogspot.com/2014/02/10-beauty-tips.html Ahad Ammar

    wowww nice tricks, but now everyone can remove their dark circles very easily in real :p hehehehe

  • Leonel Gurdian

    Nice!! easy and very effective!! wow! thank you for sharing!

  • Andrea

    thank you!

  • Jen

    Great tip unfortunately I was unable to get it to work. Maybe because I have an older version of ps?

Some older comments

  • Kristen

    January 23, 2013 07:18 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing your tip on how to remove under-eye bags. I can see myself getting carried away with this trick!

  • Amelia

    August 4, 2012 06:45 am

    This totally kicks ass!

  • Kim

    November 28, 2011 07:39 am

    This is AMAZING. WOW. And ridiculously easy.

  • Rachel

    February 20, 2011 10:14 pm

    This is perfect for what I needed to do, thanks so much! And SO EASY!

  • Katrina Wheeler

    September 14, 2010 06:28 am

    Hey there, thanks for sharing this, I was struggling trying to find the tool to do the job, and I forgot all about the patch tool, thanks for that quick tutorial! :)

  • Javis Sneed

    August 7, 2010 08:56 pm

    Love it! This + healing brush on the edges + opacity adjust = my new method :)

  • Kacy Hughes

    July 22, 2010 06:52 am

    Wow thanks for sharing this tip. I can't wait to try it out!

  • Photographick Studios

    July 22, 2010 06:00 am

    Great tip, we use it all the time when enhancing portraits.

  • Gbenga Loveeyes Images

    July 20, 2010 06:18 pm

    Interesting. I use cloning for this, will try it.

  • MhzQuiros

    July 20, 2010 08:13 am

    This is such a cool tip! I'm a beginner and usually have some slips on the photos that I take, but I don't want to trash them. So I've been looking to use photoshop recently and could use all the tips you've got!

  • Bret Linford

    July 9, 2010 01:35 pm

    Hey! I'm with Phil: Scott has a great blog at http://www.lightshootedit.com/ Subscribed!

  • Bret Linford

    July 9, 2010 01:32 pm

    Like many above, I'll throw my lot in with the group who likes fading or using lower opacity. But, I think we need to say why it's better, in my opinion, to do so. We don't need more perfect images. We need more 'natural' images. Personally, I don't feel moved by an image so very much retouched. But, if we keep some of the subject's character, I'm all for it. That technique tells me so much more about them than a perfect retouch job. The fact is, I don't know anyone with perfectly 'bag-less' eyes. Everyone seems to have varying degrees of this trait.

  • Rich Woodfin

    July 9, 2010 12:55 pm

    +1
    Not Quite perfect, but a great starting point.

  • Jack Fussell

    July 4, 2010 06:03 am

    I usually use the clone tool...on a separate layer and then lower the opacity to blend it in. I may try this method also...see which one looks best. Thanks for the tip!

  • Angela White

    July 2, 2010 09:57 am

    What a wonderful tip! Thank you for sharing it =)

  • Harvey Crosby

    July 2, 2010 03:13 am

    I hate to poop on the party as this is a neat trick - but really, the fix above looks awful It's blurred, unnaturally joined to the lower eyelid - and above all clearly has large cheek-like pores where normally people don't have any visible pores.

  • Liberian Geek

    July 1, 2010 07:10 am

    Phil, thanks for this tutorial. I have done the same in GIMP and was looking for this in Photoshop

  • Karen Stuebing

    June 30, 2010 07:31 pm

    Yes, I discovered the patch tool accidentally trying new things out in Photoshop. I agree you need to fade it a little to get a more natural look. It also works on wrinkles but again you need to reduce the opacity because no one has a completely smooth face with no lines.

    It is really great for removing power lines from skies too. I run into them all the time shooting beautiful scenics that are spoiled by the power lines. The trick is to clone them out on the edges of the frame and then you can select big areas and use the patch tool.

    If you skip that step, it will leave black areas at the end as you replace the lines.

    I used to spend a lot of time cloning power lines until I discovered this.

  • Tricia

    June 30, 2010 01:48 pm

    This tutorial is fantastic! Thank you so much.

  • Diane

    June 30, 2010 08:06 am

    Phil thanks for the timely tutorial!

  • Shannon

    June 30, 2010 08:02 am

    Up until this point, I've usually sampled color from the cheeks of the subject and painted under the eyes in a new layer. Then I blurred the layer a bit, lowered the opacity, and touched it up with the clone tool until it looked natural...

    This is great! It's much better at preserving the taxture of the skin. Makes me want to go take some portraits of my sleep-deprived self for a little practice. ;-)

  • Christie

    June 30, 2010 05:06 am

    I just tried this on a picture of my daughter (1) who has dark circles and it worked perfectly! No extra steps needed. Thank you!!

  • Lynda

    June 30, 2010 04:32 am

    I've been wanting to figure out how to use the patch tool, but haven't had time to go look up tutorials. Thanks for bringing the tutorial to me!

  • Jason Collin Photography

    June 30, 2010 04:15 am

    I will give this technique a try next time, thanks for the good screenshots.

    Like c.c. I use the clone stamp thusly: set it to LIGHTEN set opacity to 40% then sample the area just below the dark area...then make a quick horizontal brush stroke, two if necessary

  • Wayne

    June 30, 2010 03:10 am

    Fantastic.. Thanks for sharing!!

  • Phil Steele

    June 30, 2010 02:10 am

    Scott, thanks for the additional tips, which can help in difficult cases. What amazes me is how often patch alone does the job with no adjustments to opacity or anything else. The final photo above, for example, shows the result of simply using patch, with no adjustments to opacity and no cloning (even though I mention cloning, this photo actually didn't need any). It's a remarkably clean repair for a one-step technique! (By the way, I checked out your blog - great stuff).

  • jason

    June 30, 2010 01:51 am

    To be fair, the title of the tutorial is "The Fast Way to Remove Dark Circles Under Eyes in Photoshop" but I agree that you need to reduce the opacity of the patch so that the original dark circles aren't completely gone.

  • Joe Pellicone

    June 30, 2010 01:48 am

    This is a excellent tool, I use it all the time. To make your final photo more natural, consider using the FADE command immediately after you use the patch tool. You can fade what you did with the patch tool to let a limited amount of the wrinkles show and make the person look more realistic.

    Its like taking 10 years off someone instead of giving them complete plastic surgery

  • C.C.

    June 30, 2010 01:21 am

    Actually, a low opacity using the clone tool - cloning from that same highlight on the cheekbone is just as quick and you don't have to worry about edge clean up or the look of different skin texture. And I always think edits should be done on a new layer. And it is a bit untrue about the age of 25 and over. I retouch a lot of images with children and cannot understand why a great many of them have dark circles under their eyes. So I think all ages can do with a bit of retouching around the eyes.

  • scott

    June 30, 2010 01:19 am

    Both of these methods are somewhat incomplete. After you make the patch you MUST pull back the opacity! You can then do it again if you would like with a slightly different area as the clone source. Also, you will get a much better result if you learn to use the dodge and burn tools to fix the area as much as possible BEFORE you attempt this brute-force method.

    -www.lightshootedit.com

  • Kimberly

    June 30, 2010 12:29 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I had to bag a photo, because I couldn't "clone" the dark circles away from my subjects eyes (and she wasn't even the focus on the photo).

    K

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