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- The ethics of cleanup
- Reviewing the image
- Nondestructive cleanup
- Cleanup tools and techniques
- Removing strong color casts
- Gradient adjustments
- Extending the frame
- Using multiple exposures to remove subjects from an image
Skill Level Beginner
There is nothing like an enthusiastic smile to brighten up a photo. But in many cases, especially if that smile was your own, you might want to brighten and whiten the smile. And so, we'll take a look in this lesson at a technique we can use to brighten and whiten just about anything. Here, I'll use it for teeth. The same technique could be used for brightening and whitening the whites of a person's eyes or a variety of other situations. The technique involves two steps. First, we'll whiten and then we'll brighten. We'll start off with the whitening. I'll go ahead and create a new layer, and then I'll double-click on the layer's name, and type a new name.
I'll go ahead and just call this Whitening, and then I'm going to change the Blend Mode for this layer to color. That will cause anything I paint on this layer to only affect the color of the pixels below, in this case, the Background Image layer. And so, anywhere I paint, I'm just affecting color. I'll go ahead and choose the Brush tool from the toolbox. I want to make sure that I'm using a Soft Edge Brush. So I'm using a 0% hardness. I'll set the Blend Mode on the Options Bar to Normal. The Color Blend Mode comes into play for the layer, not for the brush itself, and I'll leave the opacity at 100%. I can then paint with any neutral color, black, white, shade of gray. It doesn't matter what shade of gray, as long as it's a neutral gray. So that we're essentially removing the color from the underlying image. I'll zoom in on the image here and adjust my brush size using the left and right square bracket keys.
Left square bracket to reduce the brush size and right square bracket to increase the brush size and then I can paint to whiten the teeth. Well actually, what's happening here is that I'm making the teeth gray. Not the most appealing result, but we'll get this corrected in just a moment. And I'm going to paint along the edges first, between the teeth and the gums. And then, I'll come back and fill in the other details. As you can probably appreciate, we can also use a selection as the basis of this correction. Simply selecting the teeth, and then, using the Fill command on the Edit menu in order fill that selection with a particular color, either black, white, or a shade of gray as we deem appropriate. Again, any of those values will work perfectly fine since we're really just removing color within the photo.
So, I'll go ahead and finish up my painting here. You can see the result is far from ideal, but we're going to take a little bit of corrective action in a moment here in order to produce a better result. So, that looks pretty good. I've gone ahead and, we'll just worry about the top teeth at the moment, rather than spending time working on the bottoms as well. But naturally, in the real world, I would probably work on all of those teeth. Of course, the key to whitening teeth is not to make them absolutely white, and certainly not to make them gray, but rather, to strip away a little bit of color.
And so, I'm going to tone down this effect by reducing the opacity for my Whitening layer. I'll simply point to the word Opacity, and then click and drag to the left in order to reduce the opacity using that scrubby slider feature. And you can see, now that we've just taken out some of that color. We've removed some of the coffee stains from the teeth here and so that looks to be a little bit better. So now we have better color, but we do need to brighten up those teeth just a little bit. So go ahead and add another Layer here. I'll click the Create New Layer button on the bottom of the Layers panel, and then double-click the Layer again. And I'll call this Layer Brightening, and I'll change the Blend Mode for this layer to Overlay.
I'll then, once again, use the Brush tool. But now, I want to paint with white in order to brighten. White is currently my background color. So I'll press the letter x on the keyboard to exchange foreground and background colors, so that white is my foreground color. And then, I could go ahead and paint in the same area. But I'd rather not have to paint over the exact same area a second time. So instead of painting, I'm going to hold the Ctrl key on Windows or the Command key on Macintosh, and click on the Whitening layer. That will create a selection based on the pixels that are visible on that layer, and then I can choose Edit > Fill from the menu. I'll go ahead and fill with the foreground color or I could explicitly choose White as well.
I'll go ahead and use Foreground Color, and then I'll click OK. You can see that I have significantly brightened the teeth now, obviously far too much, so I need to tone down the effect once again. Ill press Ctrl+D on Windows or Command+D on Macintosh in order to deselect my selection. And then, once again, I will reduce the opacity of that layer, simply pointing to the word Opacity, and clicking and dragging over towards the left or to the right if I want to increase opacity while I'm making my adjustment. So right about there looks to be pretty good.
But whenever applying an adjustment like this, it's very important to take a step back to zoom out on the image, and to turn off your adjustments, and turn them back on again. In this case, I can actually just turn off all of the adjustments except for the Background Image Layer. I'll hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while clicking on the eye icon for the Background Image Layer, that will cause only the Background Image Layer to be visible. I can then hold the Alt or Option key and click again to allow all the layers to be visible once again. So we get that overall before and after, and you can see, certainly brighter and whiter teeth, but a little too much, a little overdone.
So I'm going to bring the Opacity down a little further on my Brightening layer. And I'm going to bring the Opacity down a little bit as well on my Lightening layer, so that we can get a little bit more realistic results. So perhaps, somewhere around there will work a little bit better. We'll take a look at that preview once again. And now, we've got some pearly whites that are maybe a little overdone still, but more realistic anyway than they were just a moment ago. So by using the Color Blend Mode on one layer and the Overlay Blend Mode on another layer, we're able to both brighten and whiten any area of a photo, either by painting or filling a selection.
As you can see, the process is relatively straightforward. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that you probably need less of an adjustment than you think. So in most cases, you'll want to reduce the opacity rather significantly for both your Brightening layer and your Whitening layer to produce a result that's an improvement on the original but not too artificial looking.