Photoshop: Red Eye Fix for Difficult Cases in People and Pets

Photoshop: Red Eye Fix for Difficult Cases in People and Pets

Recent versions of Photoshop have an automatic Red Eye Removal tool. But what do you do when that tool fails as it does all too often with people, and always with pets?

Here’s one technique that I like to use. I’m going to illustrate it on a pet photo featuring “green eye”, but the same trick works on people with red eye, too.


1. Zoom in on the eye of your subject


2. Get your Paintbrush (Keyboard shortcut B)

3. Set your foreground color to black


4. In the options bar, set the brush mode to Color, opacity 100%


By painting with the brush in this mode, we will desaturate the area that we paint.

5. Using a small brush with a medium-soft edge, paint the mis-colored part of the eye to desaturate it.


Since all we are doing is desaturating, this leaves the highlight and other gradients that reveal the shape of the eye intact. If we simply painted black we would destroy these details that make the eye look realistic.

After desaturating, all we need to do is darken the pupil.

6. Get the Burn tool


7. In the options bar, select Midtones, Exposure 20%


8. Paint gradually in the pupil to burn (darken) the Midtones


By restricting our burn to the Midtones, we avoid destroying the highlight in the eye or darkening that natural rim around the eye. We only affect the middle gray that was originally colored red or green.

9. Darken the pupil to a reasonably dark gray (not pure black), and you’re done!


Of course, this technique won’t work in every case, because there are a lot of different types of “red eye” in people and animals, but it’s usually my first go-to method for tough cases.

To see a free video which includes this and several more techniques for difficult cases, visit

About the Author

: Phil Steele is the founder of where you‚Äôll find free tutorials on photography, Photoshop, Lightroom and more. This article is based on an excerpt from his video training course “Photoshop Basics for Photographers”.

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Some Older Comments

  • Jeremy July 29, 2013 11:59 pm

    Really helpful, thank you ! Better than the Red-Eye tool for the photo I'm editing. But I think you need to explain a bit more about the desaturation. I found this screenshot to help me (I'm a newbie in Photoshop, that's why) :

    Thank you again for the tips !

  • Era Schaffner July 31, 2012 08:12 pm

    Brown eyes are very common among asian people but those caucasians with brown eyes are really cute and good looking too. Take for example Leighton Meester, she is really pretty. ;`;.;

    Warm regards">

  • Jennifer Long May 25, 2011 07:41 am

    This is a really helpful tip! I have always had trouble making the eye look realistic after darkening it in with black. Restricting to midtones can help prevent this. Thanks!

  • Janet April 27, 2011 02:29 pm

    Excellent, thank you! Very clear and concise instructions.

  • DIANE April 12, 2011 11:17 pm

    so helpful! Great use of tools!

  • Niki Jones April 8, 2011 07:47 pm

    Really great tip thanks. I hate the red eye removal tool!

  • Janet April 8, 2011 09:34 am

    Thanks for this, great timing ... I've just taken some great shots of a schaunser, but all with green eyes, now I know what to do!

  • Marla April 8, 2011 05:50 am

    Funny...the green tint to the dog's eyes didn't bother me. However, seeing how nice the pupils look afterwards is amazing!

    Great technique! Thanks!

  • CG April 8, 2011 12:37 am

    The Kodak Picture Kiosks found at retail outlets have an automated pet eye retouch feature that performs this technique without Photoshop.

  • Greg April 7, 2011 10:40 pm

    This tip is one I'll put to much good use! I've never been able to fix "green eye" to any satisfaction. Thanks for another valuable article.

  • DavidCHR April 7, 2011 07:50 pm

    Trent: The dog in this example actually has brown eyes; not black. This technique is applied to the pupil of the eye (which is always near-black), not the iris, which can be any colour at all without having an impact on the technique.

  • TrentReznor April 7, 2011 07:47 pm

    This technique is of very limited use. The dog has black eyes, that's the only condition under which this technique will work. Try this on a person with blue eyes or a Siberian Husky and see where it takes you.

  • John April 7, 2011 04:12 pm

    Burn the eyes...nice trick!

  • Sara April 7, 2011 04:00 am

    Awesome! I shoot my dogs a lot and hate getting "green eye". It always takes me forever to get the green out and have it look nice. I can't wait to try out this technique.

  • Allison April 7, 2011 12:48 am

    Huh...that's awesome!

  • Ceri Vale April 7, 2011 12:43 am


  • DavidCHR April 7, 2011 12:03 am