Iris Removal in Photoshop
A tutorial on how to remove those pesky irises and pupils from photos using photoshop.
This is a technique I developed whilst working on Project: 56
. It works best with the huge files you tend to get if you use digital cameras, if the eyes are too small, then it's just fiddly as hell, so wait until after you've removed the iris to shrink the photo.
So, you have your photo open in photoshop, on a single layer. First, create a new layer above the photo layer.
Select a softbrush/airbrush to work with, 100% opacity (brushtool keyboard shortcut: b). The size you need will depend on the size of the eyes in your photo - select a brush that is about the same size as the iris, or just slightly smaller.
3.Now, use the eyedropper tool (keyboard shortcut: i) to select a colour from the eyewhite close to the iris (not too close, or it will be tinged with the iris colour). Now, starting at the edge you colour-dropped from, paint over the iris. Stop when you reach the middle.
4. Now, go to the other side of the iris, colour drop from there, and paint in again. It should look fairly hideously sloppy at this point - don't worry, it will get better.
5. Do the same with a few more colours from around the iris - I usually use three. Blend them in the middle a little (lower your brush's opacity to 30-40% and eyedrop the various colours you've used, do one or two strokes to blend, then eyedrop the next colour, etc.)
6. Do the same for both eyes, obviously. Now, apply a Gaussian blur (Filter > blur > Gaussian blur). What settings you'll need to use will again depend on the size of the photograph (or more particularly, the size of the eyes in the photograph), but play around with the settings until it looks like this:
7. Oh noes, but it doesn't cover the whole eye anymore! Don't panic. Duplicate the layer until it does (drag the layer down to the new layer icon, and it will duplicate it, then select the new layer and press cmd + m to merge down). This usually requires 2 or 3 duplications.
8. Obviously, the next problem is that your eye white is everywhere, not just in the eye. Select a small, hard-edged eraser (keyboard shortcut: e) and erase around the eye (the eye, not the iris).
tip: it can be pretty hard to see where all the stuff you need to erase is, so a simple way to make sure you get it all would be to roughyl lasso the area around both eyes, then invert the selection, and hit delete/backspace. Then you can just clean up the remainder with ease.
9. If everything has gone according to plan, your image should now look something like this:
Notice that pretty much the entire eyewhite is painted over. The only parts you don't want to cover up are the natural highlights that tend to fall round the bottom lid and in the corners of the eye.
10. Now, before, I used to leave the image like this. But it looks a bit flat and lifeless, right? Right. That's because you didn't just paint out the iris and pupil, you painted out half the eye's natural highlights that fall on those areas too. So now we need to add them back in. Make a new layer, and stick it at the top.
Tip:The next few steps require you to be zoomed in close, and to switch between the eyes. the hand tool (keyboard shortcut: h) let's you drag the screen around, which makes moving between the eyes a lot easier.
11. Now, hide your new eye-white layer, so you can see the iris and pupil from the photo again. Zoom in close to the eyes and select a small hard brush. (again, what size you will need will be dependent on how big your image is, use the main highlight on the pupil as a guide - you need something small enough to be able to paint that).
12. Make sure you're on your new, top layer (not the original photo layer, or your now hidden eye-white layer) and eye-drop the highlight colour from the pupil highlight - don't assume that it's actually pure white, even if it looks it. You might be surprised at the range of colours in those 'white' highlights. Now, with your small hard-brush, paint over the highlights. Yes, we're tracing.
13. If you want, you can use the eye-drop to lift two or three different colours from the highlight and add those to your 'tracing'. I do this if I'm not feeling lazy.
14. Now, in the photo I'm using, the bright highlights over the pupils were the only highlights, so currently, my photo looks like this:
You might be happy to leave it like that, but I felt it needed a few more highlights, so I'm going to add those myself. If your own photo has more highlights that just those by the pupil, you can trace over those (remember to eyedrop a new colour from the highlight you're tracing each time). Remember to unhide your eye white layer every now and then just to check it looks okay.
tip: If you're tracing over other highlights, remember that they will be tinted with colour from the iris, so when you colour drop them, you'll need to tweak the colour more towards the grey range. You may also find when you start painting that your highlight colour is actually darker than your background eye-white layer, so again, you'll need to tweak it to make it slightly lighter (slightly, not lots).
14. If, like me, you're adding your own highlights, it might be a good idea to look at some photos of eyes to see what kind of highlights you get in those. Fairly often, there will be a highlight caused by a mirror, or from natural light coming in through a window or door - all of which are usually rectangular, so I'm going to add a rectangular highlight to both eyes in my image.
15. Unfortunately, I can't teach you what kind of shapes to paint if you're painting them yourself, my best advice really is to look at other photos. After a while of manipulating photos where you just have to trace, you tend to get a feel for what the highlights should look like. But here are two points to bear in mind, first: Don't make them too symmetrical. Give one eye a highlight that the other doesn't, change the shapes of highlights slightly, etc. Second: bear in mind the light source in your photo. Don't add the highlights to the left of the eye if the light source is on the right.
16. Now you can shrink the photo to a sensible size if it wasn't before. :)
And hopefully, your end result will be something like this:
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