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Deke's Techniques is a collection of short Photoshop and Illustrator projects and creative effects that can be completed in ten minutes or less. The series is taught by computer graphics guru Deke McClelland, and presented in his signature step-by-step style. The intent is to reveal how various Photoshop and Illustrator features can be combined and leveraged in real-world examples so that they can be applied to creative projects right away.
Hey gang! This is Deke McClelland. Welcome to Deke's Techniques. Today's topic is red eye. Now this happens to be a photograph of my ten-year-old son. Doesn't he look just like my twin or something? Now many of you may be thinking, "Red eye? Really, that's going to be our topic Deke? I mean, I am a studio photographer and I don't get red eye. Isn't that a big surprise?" Well, possibly not with your professional shots. But when you are out there with a point-shoot camera or you've got your cell phone and it's got a tiny little strobe and the strobe bounces into the dilated eyes at night and right back into the lens element, then you got yourself a problem.
We're going to fix this problem the right way--not using the red eye tool, but rather using a Channel Mixer function, and here is the big skill I am going to impart: how to mask and nail red eyes every single time. It looks ghoulish and scary, but it's actually very safe, as you'll see, and we end up absolutely nailing that red eye, getting rid of it, making those pupils nice and black. Here is how it works. All right! So many folks I imagine might regard red eyes as a rinky-dink problem, like this isn't going to happen with professional tools.
However, you still want to get great results out of your image--even if you shot it with a rinky-dink camera or a cell phone or something along those lines. You want to get the best results you can, which is why I have come up with what I consider to be the best approach to red eye that there is. Now I shot this image with a point-and- shoot of my eldest son Max, and it's at night, so his eyes are quite dilated and the strobe is maybe a couple of millimeters away from the lens, so that light enters his eyes and comes right back out into the lens element.
As a result, we see his vivid red retina lit up like crazy. Now red eye is one of those problems that I don't consider to be an aesthetic problem. In other words, I think it actually looks good. Just because it's not the way that we see images in real life, I have actually come to appreciate red eye quite a bit. But it may be in your case that you want to wipe it out and you want to make the eyes looks more natural, nice and black, have nice big black pupils for example. What you don't want to do is take those beautiful eyes and turn them in ashtrays, which is what happens with a lot of red-eye techniques, especially if you decide to rely on an automated tool like this one right here, It's available from the Healing Brush flyout menu and it's the Red Eye tool.
I'm going to go ahead and demonstrate it here by zooming in on this image a little bit. And I'm also, to preserve the original image here, I'm going to jump it by pressing Ctrl+Alt+J, Command+Option+J on a Mac. And I will call this new layer Max, because that's my older son's name, and we'll turn it off for a moment just to keep it around. Then I'll click in the background layer once again, and this tool is very easy to use by the way. All you do is you click near the pupil, within six pixels is what you're supposed to do, of that bright red pupil, and then it is immediately filled up like an ashtray.
It's basically what happens, because I think this effect looks awful. But I'm going to click on the other pupil just to prove my point here, fill it up too. Then I'm going to zoom in on one of these pupils, and you can see if you look closely, we've got a very black inner pupil with this sort of munched highlight there, and then we have this sort of outer corona of darkness. This is the ash at the edge of the ashtray. What's happened is we've decided to go and singe the iris a little bit just for fun, and then we've got this sort of blackness above the eyelashes.
Bleh! I prefer the red eye, is what I am saying. So, that's what you can do automatically. Obviously, that takes ten seconds of your time. You're done. But of course, you ruin the image in the process. Here is the better way to work. It does take more time. It involves masking, but of course, because we want to select those eyes as accurately as possible, I am going to go to the Max layer here, and I'm going to switch away from the Red Eye tool just by pressing the M key in order to get the Rectangular Marquee tool, and I'll go to the Channels panel, and I just want you to see what these channels look like. This image is not going to win any awards in terms of quality.
I'll go to the red channel here for a moment. You can see that go figure his eyes are bright, his pupils are bright here in the red channel. That's no surprise. Then we go to the green channel. Look at that detail inside of his face. It's just wretched. But he does have good pupils inside of this channel. They are nice and dark. Then the blue channel gets reddier or still. We've got all this sort of weirdness going on inside of his flesh, but we have some fairly nice dark black pupils with a little bit of gloss on them.
So that's good news. Now, we also have a lot of comparative detail. The red channel is extremely bright where the pupils are concerned and the blue channel is extremely dark. So we can compare those two channels in order to mask this image. So I am going to go back to the RGB composite, then go to Image menu and choose the Calculations command, and then these are the settings that I recommend you use when trying to mask red eye. You want your first channel--and I am assuming you have got a flat image file here. This is probably not something elaborate layered composition that you're working on.
But I am going to make sure to set both of these layers, by the way, to the same layer, so Max. So we're working on the Max layer in both cases. The first channel should be red. So that's Source 1 set to Red. Source 2 set to Blue, and then go ahead and change Blending. By default, it's set to Multiply. I want you to change it to Difference, and you'll end up getting this horrific effect here. It's very scary and ghoulish and wonderful. All right! So that's Red, Blue, both Invert checkboxes off, Difference, 100% Opacity. End of story.
You're sending the result to a new channel. Those are all default settings by the way. Click OK and now what we need to do is exaggerate the contrast. So I am going to go up to the Image menu and choose Adjustments and then choose Levels. Or you can press Ctrl+L, Command+L on a Mac, and then you just want to drag these sliders around, the white point and the black point, until you enhance the contrast as much as humanly possible. You can step on the detail pretty good where this effect is concerned, but I'll take this to about 100, the white point down to 100.
So, any luminance level of 100 or lighter is going to be changed to white. Then I'll bring up the black point to let's say something like 20, so that any luminance level of 20 or darker is becoming black. And he is more ghoulish still; he is an absolutely certifiable zombie at this point. I'll click OK in order to accept that. That's what we want, of course. Now at this point what I would suggest you do is go ahead and take advantage of that overlay brushing technique, which those of you who've seen my masking videos, you know all about it.
But I'll go ahead and grab the Brush tool, just so that you all know all about it. I'll grab the Brush tool, which you can get by pressing the B key, and then what we want here-- I'll go and right-click in order to bring out this little Brush panel-- we want a smaller brush. probably something with radius of about 50 pixels will probably work. Hardness needs to be 0%. Very important. Then I'll go up to the Options bar here and change the Blend Mode from Normal to Overlay. That way, we'll preserve the brightest and the darkest details, and we're basically painting inside the lines. All right! So my foreground color is black. That's important.
I can see that down here at the bottom of the toolbox. So I will begin painting like so, around his eye and you don't want to paint into the eye. You just want to paint around it as you see me doing. Then I am going to take a second pass, and that should pretty well take care of it. Then I'll move over to the other one and paint around it as well. Well, the reason we're not using the Elliptical Marquee tool in order to select these pupils, even though they are round, is because the color is leaking in a random way into the eyelashes. It's just a fact of this image and other sort of ratty little snapshots that you'll run into will have that problem as well.
This is pretty common. Anyway, I went ahead and painted around there a couple of times. Now I'm going to press the X key to make my foreground color white, as you see it there, and I'm going to paint inside of those pupils like so. And notice I'm getting a nice drift into the eyelashes, especially on the left-hand side, a little bit on the right-hand side as well. Now I want to go ahead and wipe out those highlights--that is, I want to make sure the highlights remain selected. So I'm going to reduce the size of my brush a little bit, and I'm doing that by pressing the Left Bracket key. And then I'm going to right-click and I'm going to increase that Hardness value to 100%.
This is also very important, by the way. Change the Mode back from Overlay to Normal, because we're trying to make these black details white this time around. Then white is still my foreground color. I need to further reduce the size of my brush, so I'll press the Left Bracket key a couple of more times, paint that little detail away, paint that little detail away, so those highlights will be inside the selected region. He is just looking so scary inside of this mask, but that's what you want. I'll go and zoom in again, and then I'm going to grab just my Rectangular Marquee tool, and I'll select one of the eyes like so.
Notice that I'm well within the black area there and I'll Shift+Drag around the other one like so. And then, I'll go up to the Select menu and I'll choose the Inverse command--or you can press Ctrl+Shift+I, Command+ Shift+I on a Mac--and then you want to fill the selected region with black. So black is my background color. I'll press Ctrl+Backspace here on the PC, or Command+Delete on the Mac. All right! Now we need to load this guy as a selection, and you do that by going over here to the Channels panel, so you'll have to see the Channels panel on screen, and then Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on that new channel, which is called Alpha 1 by default.
Switch back to the RGB image like so. Switch back to the Layers panel, and now we're going to add an adjustment layer. From here on, it's pretty standard stuff. But here is the command. You go ahead and choose down here from this black-white icon at the bottom of the Layers icon, go ahead and choose Channel Mixer, and that allows us to bring in information from the green and blue channels into the red Channel. So by default, we're working on the red channel. You can see that right here, Output Channel is Red. We don't want any red in the red channel, so change the Red value right there to 0.
Then press the Tab key to go down here to the green value. Take it up to 50%. Press Tab to go to the blue value. Take it up to 50%. So in other words, we're grabbing 50% of the blue channel and 50% of the green channel, and we're merging them together to create a new red channel where the pupils are concerned, and then that's it. Go and press the Enter key or the Return key on a Mac in order to accept your modifications. All right! Now I still have a little bit of redness, this sort of red halo around each one of my pupils, and I don't want that.
If you end up seeing an effect like that, here is what you do. Make sure that your layer mask is selected here inside the Layers panel, and then go up to the Filter menu, and go ahead and choose Blur, and choose Gaussian Blur. I would suggest in this case, a Radius value of about 2 pixels is going to work pretty nicely. You just want to evaluate how big that halo is, and 2 pixels is probably about right. And then I'll click OK in order to accept that blur. Now it's blurring both in and out, by the way, so we're blurring the halo a little bit, but it's still quite evident.
So next what you need to do-- and this has to be your very next step-- go up to the Edit menu and choose Fade Gaussian Blur, and then inside the Fade dialog box, you want to change the Mode from Normal to Screen. So we're exclusively brightening with the Gaussian Blur effect, and notice that moves those pupils outward just a little bit, and then click OK in order to accept that modification. Now what we have, we'll go ahead and zoom back out, is very strong, crisp, black pupils at this point. Compare that to what we got with the Red Eye tool, which look like that.
These are the ashtray pupils. Perhaps I need to zoom in again. These are the ashtray pupils right there that were created by the Red Eye tool, and these are the nice crisp pupils that we created using a much more deliberate approach that involves masking the pupils and then applying the Channel Mixer adjustment layer. That's how you fix red eye like a pro inside Photoshop.
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