Editing Eyes: 3 Photoshop Steps to Eyes that POP

Editing Eyes: 3 Photoshop Steps to Eyes that POP

Here’s how to make eyes POP in three steps using Photoshop.

1. Duplicate the background layer and rename it ‘Natalie’s Eye Pop’ (of course).

2. Select the dodge tool and lighten the iris.

Stay away for the thin, darker, perimeter of the iris and the pupil.

I generally set the tool as follows:

  • Brush Size: Varies depending on the size of the eye.
  • Brush Hardness: 10%
  • Range: Midtones
  • Exposure: 20%

3. Select the burn tool and darken the perimeter of the iris and the pupil.*
I generally set the tool as follows:

  • Brush Size: Varies depending on the size of the eye.
  • Brush Hardness: 5-10%
  • Brush Range: Shadows
  • Exposure: no greater than 15%

*You may also decide to slightly extend the eyelashes by changing your brush size to roughly 5px and running the burn tool along the length of the lashes. I rarely do this, but it can add a more dramatic pop for fashion pics.



And there you have it. It really is as easy as 1, 2, 3!

Before we wrap up this little tutorial, I’d like to introduce a quick Natalie-ism in regards to post processing. This is called a Natalie-ism for a reason, it’s MY opinion and the way I personally roll, but you are free to take it or leave it as suits your fancy.

Natalie Says: “less is almost always more in post processing.”

When I first started working Photoshop into my workflow I was a NUT. I went crazy with every effect I could muster to digitally enhance my images. It didn’t take me long to pull back and start to work towards a more natural look to my photography.

For the most part, I’m asking myself this question any time I’m processing a photograph: “Ten years from now, will this effect still look good? ” If the answer is no, and you’d like an image that will stand the test of time, well then back off a bit. If the answer is no and you want an image that stands boldly in the here and now then by all means keep rolling.

Happy shooting!

Read more from our Post Production category

Natalie Norton is a writer and a lifestyle wedding and portrait photographer who shoots across the globe. She is based off of the North Shore of Oahu and out of Gilbert, Arizona. Enjoy more of her photography and writing at www.natalienortonblog.com. You can also connect with Natalie via Twitter or on Facebook.

Some Older Comments

  • Toper's Photos | Kristoperson May 6, 2013 12:19 pm

    good tips good tips

  • Jenny November 7, 2012 05:00 am

    Creepy look .. not good.

  • Jasmine December 28, 2011 02:10 pm

    I don't see a difference with the eyes in the picture shown above. It looks the same to me! :/

  • Nina October 11, 2011 03:50 pm

    Hi Natalie,

    Do you have any tutorials on photo enhancing? I just recently got photoshop elements 9. I am looking to get that "smooth skin" look you have in your example picture above.

    Thank you,

  • Jason June 30, 2011 09:05 am

    Perfect image to start, afterwards a perfect image with glowing eyes. Good tut for what is being taught but honestly the pic looked better before you touched it.

  • Denver Photographer June 23, 2010 12:56 pm

    I love how subtle and yet effective this is. I totally agree that sometimes less is more.

  • Tiffany June 14, 2010 10:04 pm

    This tip was great, thanks! It was explained simple and now I get it. Picture is gorgeous too, very beautiful girl!

  • Adele Sykes October 27, 2009 07:34 am

    Hi, I can't suss this out in Photoshop Element 6 either - found the colour dodge button and linear dodge button but it doesn't seem to do anything? Can anyone help?

  • Sara September 25, 2009 06:40 am

    You did a great job on those eyes, they have such a clear look now.

  • Winston September 15, 2009 05:50 pm

    Could I do this trick in Photoshop Element 6

  • saqibmoghal August 22, 2009 03:13 pm

    its good tip for required photos.

  • Dan A. August 21, 2009 02:53 am

    While you are at it.. burn the outline of the lips as well..just adds that special highlight to the face, and a tad of sharpen..

  • Booker August 21, 2009 02:37 am

    I think the author "overcooked" the after image to demonstrate the technique, not to show you how eyes are supposed to look in every photograph.

    The degree to which you apply the effect is up to you.

  • Sarah July 17, 2009 12:22 am

    I'm not sure about this technique. It ends up making the eyes look like those of the vampires in the Underworld movies. Pretty creepy to me.

  • Noelle July 5, 2009 02:21 am

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! It was very helpful! I love the results!! Thanks.

  • Rusty Sterling June 12, 2009 03:41 am

    I have made this a regular part of my workflow. Great tutorial. Thanks.

  • Julija Art June 4, 2009 06:28 am

    thank you for such an awesome and easy tutorial!!!
    you're great!!! this made my day, I thought I was pretty useless with PS3 ;)

  • nikita grey April 21, 2009 02:13 pm

    i am so new at photography,photoshop & computers,but i have come a long long way in a short amont of time
    i am always looking for simle...figure i will go higher, bigger, better, all in good time..your tutorial and simple pictures allowed me to get it..many many thanks

  • Steve April 18, 2009 02:53 am

    I really like this tutorial, I was wondering if you could post a tutorial on how to smooth out skin on a persons face and not lose the details in the face. Thanks

  • Fawn April 10, 2009 05:45 pm

    Great tutorial, thanks so much for it!!! I've been trying to figure out how to do something like that for ages! Thank you! :)

  • Stacey March 11, 2009 02:15 pm

    In Lightroom 2, you would use the brush tool. Zoom in so you can see the eyes well. Then select your dodge tool and lighten the iris. Click new, choose burn from the menu and paint over the edge of the iris. As for settings, well you have to play with those to get what you want. Depends on the image. It's really quite easy.

  • DP February 23, 2009 09:11 am

    I would also love to see how to recreate this effect in Lightroom. I have been trying to enhance eyes using spot adjustment to lighten/darken areas but perhaps there is a better way to do this in LR? Thank you.

  • sarrveshkumar February 1, 2009 04:38 pm

    some what great to see this it is easier & faster to work

  • Janet January 31, 2009 08:42 am

    Would this work on editing dog's eyes?

  • Author: Natalie Norton January 24, 2009 06:30 am


    Since I don't use Lightroom, I'm definitely not the one to ask. Anyone out there want to help Paula??!



  • Mohamed Ramadan January 23, 2009 04:27 am

    Nice and so Easy :)))

  • Paula January 23, 2009 12:33 am

    Hi Natalie,
    I love the site and look forward to reading more emails and photo tips. I have a questions regarding your recent tip on "How to Make Eyes Pop." I use Adobe Lightroom to edit and store my photos - I haven't mastered PHotoshop yet. Can you explain how to do this in Lightroom - I've tried to translate these steps into Lightroom but am not sure how. Am really wanting to try this!


  • Elizabeth Daly January 22, 2009 10:01 pm

    Natalie - Thanks for your help. I often wondered how this was done. I think that the childs eyes are fab and natural, after the adjustments.

  • Victor January 20, 2009 10:21 am

    Muchas gracias. Muy simple!

    Very nice!! Thanks!!

  • Michelle January 19, 2009 04:22 am

    Thanks I needed this! I use Paint shop pro and it works perfect in this program too! I love tuts I can convert! Awesome!

  • Richard January 18, 2009 05:27 am

    Such a great post Natalie! You're articles are always SO helpful. This is GREAT!

  • Sara January 17, 2009 04:36 am

    Thanks for the help. I am just starting and the quick easy edits are great for me.

  • shelly January 16, 2009 02:50 pm

    Great article again, Natalie! This is very helpful. And I love the new look of DPS!

  • Anne January 16, 2009 01:17 pm

    thank you SO much for this!

  • Gayle January 16, 2009 10:33 am

    Great tutorial, Natalie! I am horrible at post processing. I need all the help I can get!

  • michele January 16, 2009 09:01 am

    I also noticed, maybe incorrectly, that there is some soft focus that has been applied to the photo, so to bring back the eyes I would add a white layer mask and bring back the eyes to their original crispness with a soft edged black brush.

  • Dave January 16, 2009 07:56 am

    One of the things I've found with Photoshop is that there are many ways to get to the same place. Which way is right? The correct answer to that is "it depends". Sometimes I lighten an eye, sometimes darken, sometimes add more contrast, sometimes sharpen it more. It all depends on the eye. I'm primarily a wildlife photog, but making the eye pop really makes the person, or animal, or bird, look like they are looking right back at you. If the eye's pop, then the face will grab you attention.

  • JanT January 16, 2009 07:23 am

    Oddly enough, I cannot tell a difference. The eyes seemed to pop in the first image just as much as in the second.
    Perhaps I just need to calibrate my monitor.

  • Niklas January 16, 2009 05:23 am

    Great tip! I have used it already on several photos. With these three simple step it couldn't be easier. Now I have to find more portraits to work with...

  • Taryn Rivera January 16, 2009 05:21 am

    Does anyone have a tutorial for making eyes pop in Lightroom 2??

  • Peter Carey January 16, 2009 04:25 am

    Nice, simple and to the point. Thanks Natalie! I'll be using this soon, very soon.

  • Aimee Greeblemonkey January 16, 2009 03:51 am

    Great tips - I so something very similar.

  • Joanie January 16, 2009 03:21 am

    How funny that this article appears now. I just emailed my friend with a mini tutorial on how to do this. My instructions varied ever so slightly, but the end result is pretty much the same. Don't forget, you can also sweep a larger brush in dodge (at slightly less opacity) under the eye and just under the brow. It'll add some brightness and draw very subtle attention to the eyes, as well as eliminating some of the undereye darkness that most of us have.

  • Tanya Plonka January 16, 2009 03:08 am

    I also like to sharpen the eyes a bit as well, and depending on the eye color a little bit of extra saturation on in the iris can be nice (but be sure to just adjust the saturation of the specific color)

  • DAVE ID January 16, 2009 02:25 am

    Awesome tut. Thanks

  • michele January 16, 2009 01:55 am

    great idea but would would do it with a non destructive neutral gray layer in overlay mode using photoshop CS3.
    I use this all the time to darken/lighten areas of my photos.
    If I make a mistake I can delete the layer or reverse the black/white and change any area not looking right.

  • cristiano007 January 16, 2009 01:41 am

    Great tutorial, Natalie! I think you've made the effect a little emphatic for educational reasons. I think we can tweak it easily adjusting the opacity. I have to try this on dark brown eyes which are the most frequent around here. I've used just select and levels. Thanks.

  • Abbie January 16, 2009 01:32 am

    Thanks for the simple and helpful tutorial. Each person has their own style and can do more or less of what you just taught depending on the look they would like. I think the girl's eyes look beautiful.

  • Jules @ Lovely Las Vegas January 16, 2009 01:18 am

    Cool! I want to start using Photoshop and this may be my first effect to play around with. Thank you for the tutorial!

  • Maria Sabala January 16, 2009 01:06 am

    Natalie - I love this tutorial as I've been wondering how to enhance the eyes in many of my portraits. Can't wait to try it out later today. Keep the good stuff coming. I love the articles and tutorials you write on DPS. I can see my work steadily improving. Thanks a million!

  • Marnom January 16, 2009 12:43 am

    As usual I always enjoy your posts Natalie. I learn something new every time I read you Thanks!

  • F S January 16, 2009 12:39 am

    I think the original image was way too out of focus to begin with, and nothing 'popped'. Nice technique, though. Sometimes overly done stuff is great.

  • Michael Warf January 16, 2009 12:32 am

    I usually brighten the surrounding white in the eye as well, then back down the opacity. The eyes really connect the viewer with the subject, sharpening is equally important.

  • sil January 16, 2009 12:01 am

    Nice tutorial. I will try this technique. Thanks for sharing!

  • Tricia January 15, 2009 11:57 pm

    I totally agree. I'm still pretty new to photoshop so right now I'm really trying to focus on making my images look as natural as possible by not over processing them.

    Great tutorial. Simple and to the point.

  • Teewinot January 15, 2009 11:44 pm

    I usually dodge to lighten, but I have not tried burning the perimeters to darken and add to the pop. Thanks for the tip!

  • Jerome January 15, 2009 11:31 pm

    Nice tutorial but I think her eyes pop a bit too much like that ... it feels kinda eerie?

  • Yanik's Photo School January 15, 2009 11:22 pm

    I agree with you Natalie that most of the time, less is more. I really love quick and simple tutorials like this. :)

    I would like to add to this tutorial that another way to make eyes pop would be to use the selection tool with a feather of 1px and then use curves to add contrast. You could even use curves to change the eye's color. :) I actually just did a video tutorial on curves this week. Maybe it could help:

  • Wendy Goeckner January 15, 2009 10:58 pm

    Great tips! I'm just confused on one thing. You talk about dodging the length of the lashes - do you mean burning? Then I thought maybe you meant the length of the rim of the eyelid? Can you clarify this? Thank you!!!