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Photoshop Tutorial: Removing Red Eye

Retouching photographs is one of the many amazing abilities of Adobe Photoshop. Even the most talented photographers need help if they want to get their shots just right. Removing red eye from photos always gives photos a higher level of professionalism, and you don’t have to hire a professional graphic designer to do it.

Unless it’s Halloween and you want everyone in photos to look like red-eye ghouls, Photoshop has the cure, turning your ghouls into happy, smiling humans. In today’s example, however, we are helping my dog, Claire, who has come down with a mean case of  green eye. Fortunately, red eye and green eye can both be fixed using a Channel Mixer adjustment layer.

Claire Red Eye

In the Red (or Green)

After loading Photoshop and opening your photograph, the simplest way to use the Channel Mixer to fix red eye is to begin by selecting one of the pupils. Magnify the image so that one (or both) of the pupils is taking up a majority of the screen. Using the Elliptical Marquee tool, create a circular selection over a pupil.

The selection doesn’t have to be perfect, but try to get it close to the same shape. With the pupil selected, you’re ready to create an adjustment layer where you will remove the red eye effect from your photo.

To open an adjustment layer in Photoshop, click the Layer tab in the top navigation and find the New Adjustment Layer option. Opening this dropdown has yet another list of options. The Channel Mixer tool is what you want (it’s somewhere in the middle of the list). After clicking on Channel Mixer, a panel with red, blue and green adjustment scales pops up. These scales control which colors will dominate your selection.

Because we are dealing with red eye, the red slider should be significantly higher than the blue and green mixers. Fixing this will alleviate your subjects of the dreaded red eye effect.

Back in Black

Just like the image of Claire (above), make sure that the Output Channel is set on red.  Reducing the red slider to zero will remove any element of red within your selection. Yay! No more red eye. But, the pupil won’t look right just yet. With the red level at zero, adjust the blue and green values each to 50 by typing this value into their respective percentage boxes.

Believe it or not, pupils don’t actually look like a perfect black; playing with the blue and green mixers might help give you an understanding of what looks best. Feel free to toy with the red, blue and green mixers to get a good feel for how they effect the image. It’s Photoshop, so take advantage of the tools and the Undo button.

That’s it! Repeat these steps for the second pupil and you have effectively used Photoshop to cure your subjects of the red eye blues.

Claire No Red-Eye

Variety: The Spice of Photoshop

The steps listed above are a great quick fix to remove red eye using Adobe Photoshop. But, there are many other ways to apply digital Visine to those in your photos. For example, many people will use the Burn tool. Others will use the Brush tool on an adjustment layer. There’s even a Red Eye Removal tool in the Tools Palette (though it won’t always offer perfect results). In the end, you will have to find the method that works best for you and ultimately what level of involvement and knowledge you want to achieve. Photoshop is one of the most powerful graphic design tools out there and is limited only by your imagination and manipulation of its tools.

Now get out there and cure some red eye ghouls.