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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.
In this movie, I am going to show you the best way to brighten teeth in Photoshop. We are going to start off in that image that we retouched in the previous movie. Notice that she has these wonderfully smooth skin tones, but her teeth are still a little bit dingy, and we are going to brighten them up so they end up pearly white as in this version of the image here. Notice that I've created the white smile in part using this Vibrance adjustment layer. I will go ahead and double-click on its thumbnail to bring up the Properties panel, and you can see that we have two sliders: Vibrance and Saturation.
And if nothing else, by the time this movie is over, you will have a firm understanding of the difference between these two options. So I am going to go ahead and hide the Properties panel for now and I'm going to switch over to this demo file called sponge rainbow.tif, so called because I am going to demonstrate Vibrance and Saturation using the Sponge tool. So I will click and hold on the Dodge tool and then select the Sponge tool from a flyout menu. Now in case you're wondering why I'm using the Sponge tool, notice up here in the Options bar, there is this Vibrance checkbox that's turned on by default.
When it's turned on, then you're affecting Vibrance; when it's turned off, you're affecting Saturation. And these are the equivalents of those Vibrance and Saturation sliders that are associated with the adjustment layer we saw just a moment ago. So I am going to turn Vibrance on for starters and then I am going to right-click inside the image window, so that you can see I've got a 65-pixel brush and the Hardness value is set to 100%. That's unusual, having a hardness of 100% when you're brushing with the sponge. So I want you to know, I am just doing this for demonstrational purposes.
And then I am going to crank the Flow value up to 100% by pressing the 0 key, so we get as much action out of this brush as possible. Notice that mode is set to Desaturate, as by default. Now this top guideline inside the image, that represents the most saturated colors inside the file. And notice if I brush across them, even going back and forth repeatedly, I am not diminishing the saturation all that much, whereas the second guideline identifies the colors that are at half saturation. So basically the saturation is diminishing as we go down the image.
And notice if I paint over these colors, I'm making them quite gray quite quickly. And I am getting more gray out of the bottom of the brushstroke than the top, and that's because the bottom colors are less saturated than those at the top. You can see that even if I paint back and forth on these top colors a second time, I don't do nearly as much damage to those saturation values as I do when I paint back and forth a second time on the medium saturation colors. And then if I just paint back and forth once on the low-saturation colors, they go close to gray very quickly.
Now something else I want you to notice here. Check out the yellow column, which is very important because that's what we want to get rid of in teeth is the yellowness. Notice in those cases where I am affecting the saturation of the yellows, those yellows are turning not white, but gray. So a couple of things about variation. First of all, the most saturated colors are the most protected, whether you're increasing or decreasing the Vibrance value. And as you pull Saturation from the yellows in particular, you're sending those yellows to gray.
Let's go ahead and compare that to Saturation. I am going to press the F12 key in order to revert the image. Then I will turn off the Vibrance checkbox. And if I brush across these top colors, you can see now that I'm taking the saturation out of them more quickly, because when you're adjusting the saturation, you're not protecting one group of saturation values over another. Also worth noticing, as I paint over these colors in order to remove the saturation, I end up sending most of the colors toward gray; however, I send the blues toward blacks, so it's a good thing that teeth are not black-colored, whereas I am sending the yellows toward white.
So in other words, the saturation value doesn't protect any saturation levels; however, it does send yellow to white instead of gray. So let's see these values in practice. I am going to switch over to the retouched version of the image and zoom in on that smile. Now if this were a flat image file, I could go ahead and brush inside of it using the Sponge tool. However, I'm working with a Smart Object, so I am going to have to approach it using an adjustment layer instead. But first, I'm going to select those teeth, and I will do so using the Quick Selection tool, which generally works well for this purpose.
After selecting the tool, go up to the Options bar and turn on the Auto Enhance checkbox and then paint over the teeth, like so. Now you may end up painting into the gums a little bit. That's okay. I'll go ahead and paint some more down into the lower teeth, maybe click down here close to the lip. And that ended up selecting into the lip, so I will now press the Alt or the Option key on the Mac and paint along the lip in order to deselect that region. If you really want to protect those gums, which is a good idea--we don't want gray gums--then reduce the size of your cursor by pressing the left bracket key a few times and then go ahead and Alt+Drag or Option+Drag inside of the gums, like so.
And depending on how many teeth and how many gums that are visible is what's going to determine how long it takes to select the smile. All right! I missed a little bit of tooth over there and to get it I am going to select into the lips just a little bit. Then I will Alt+Drag or Option+Drag in order to deselect some of that lip region like so, and I will drag once again inside the teeth in order to add a little bit back in. And this looks pretty good to me. All right! Now let's soften the selection outline a little bit by going up to the Select menu, choosing Modify, and then choosing the Feather command.
And I am going to enter a Feather value of 2 pixels where this image is concerned and then click OK. Now let's add the adjustment layer. I will go and click on that black/white icon at the bottom of the panel and then I will choose Vibrance. Now notice if I reduce the Vibrance value to -100, so I am taking it down as low as it goes, I am removing way too much saturation from these teeth; however, notice the most saturated regions between the teeth remain pretty darn saturated, and any of the gum that was trapped inside of the selection is going to hang on for dear life as well. All right! As I said, I took the Vibrance too far, so I am going to press the 5 key in order to reduce the opacity of this layer to 50%. And then I want to brighten these teeth up a little bit as well, so I'll take down the Saturation value to -25.
That's not going to make a huge difference, but that will help out a little bit of brightness. To add even more brightness, I will press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, click and hold on the black/white icon, and choose Brightness/Contrast. And then I could name this layer brighten if I want to, but I definitely want to turn on Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask so that we are applying this adjustment inside the confines of the teeth selection, which is now represented as a layer mask here inside the Layers panel. Click OK.
Now you might think the thing to do is to increase the Brightness value, but that will very quickly make the teeth look radioactive, and it ends up getting rid of the shadow detail, so the teeth end up looking very flat. Instead what I will do is return the Brightness value to 0 and crank the Contrast value up to 100%. That way we have as much contouring as possible. All right! I'll go ahead and zoom out a click, and let's see what we have managed to accomplish. Here is the before version of the teeth and here is the after version of that nice bright smile, thanks to Vibrance and Saturation working together here inside Photoshop.
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