Join Tim Grey for an in-depth discussion in this video Brightening and whitening, part of Photoshop: Image Cleanup (2013).
Sometimes the image cleanup work you want to perform isn't so much cleanup work as it is a targeted adjustment And such is the case for what I refer to as brightening and whitening, which especially since we're looking at a portrait here, might cause you to think about brightening and whitening teeth. You can also use this same technique to brighten and whiten the whites of eyes or just about any other area of photo that could use such an improvement. In this case though, we're going to focus on the teeth, both brightening and whitening.
We'll start off with the whitening, and for that we're going to use effectively, a targeted color adjustment. I'm going to start off by adding a new image layer, but I want that image layer to have some special properties. So, I'm going to hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh, while clicking on the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the layers panel. That will bring up the New Layer dialog, so I can adjust the settings for this layer. I'll give it a name. In this case, Teeth Whitening, and I'm going to change the blend mode to Color. And what that means is that anything I do on this layer will only be able to affect the color of the underlying pixels.
I'll go ahead and click OK to create that new layer. Then, I'm going to choose the Brush tool and I'm going to paint with any shade of gray. It doesn't actually matter which shade of gray. Currently, I have black as my foreground color, and that will work perfectly fine. Black, white, or any shade of gray in between, as long as there is no color element to the value that I'm painting with. Well, what I might otherwise call a color that I'm painting with, but here, a color that specifically has no color, a shade of gray.
So, working with black as my foreground color, I can move my mouse out over the image and then adjust my brush size. Using the Left Square Bracket key as needed to reduce the brush size or the Right Square Bracket key to increase the brush size. I'll make sure that I'm working with a soft edge brush, so that the affect will sort of taper off a little bit. And that means I want the hardness setting at a value of zero on the brush pop-up on the Options bar. I'll make sure the blend mode is set to Normal. I want the color blend mode to affect the teeth whitening layer, not the brush itself.
And I'm also going to work at a 100% Opacity. I can then come back into the image and simply start painting. Now, initially, you might find that the result is a little bit problematic because we're removing the color from the teeth. In theory, that's good, we're getting rid of any of the yellowish appearance. But the result Is gray teeth, and that's perhaps even just a little bit worse than teeth that have a little bit of a yellow element to them. Now I would normally want to zoom in very very close and make sure that I'm painting with a great deal of precision. And that will help make sure that I'm not, for example, removing the color from the gums or the lips here.
But I won't worry about at just this very moment. I can always come back and retouch things a little bit later if I need to. But here you can see, we've absolutely whitened the teeth, or you might say, we've grayed the teeth a little bit, but we've removed that color element. And I think this helps to underscore a key point, and that is that when we think we want to whiten teeth, we probably don't actually want them literally to be white. We just want them to be less colorful than they were before and perhaps a little brighter, so you can appreciate, I'm sure, at this point that we don't want to completely remove the color, we just want to remove the color a little bit.
And so I've initially here removed all the color but I can tone that down by reducing the Opacity for the teeth whitening layer using the control at the top right of the layers panel. If I take the Opacity all the way down to 0%, you'll see that we have no teeth whitening happening. If I increase it back up to 100%, you see we have those grey teeth, and I can fine tune the Opacity to somewhere in between where we're just toning down that yellowing of the teeth. Next we'll turn our attention to the brightening of the teeth, and I'll follow the same basic approach.
I'll hold the Alt or Option key while clicking on the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel. I'll call this teeth brightening (SOUND) and I'm going to change the blend mode, in this case, to the Overlay blend mode. Now, the Overlay blend mode is actually a Contrast blend mode, meaning, that we can use it to lighten or darken. And in this case, I really only want to lighten. So I could use the Screen blend mode, but that one's a bit strong and so I'll just tend to use the Overlay blend mode. This also matches a dodging and burning technique that I often use. And so, to me it just makes a lot of sense to use Overlay. I'll also turn on the checkbox to fill this layer with the Overlay-neutral color, which is 50% gray and that will just make it a little bit easier to see exactly where I've painted, if I want to review this layer later. I'll go ahead and click the OK button.
And then, I'm going to press the letter D on the keyboard to make sure the colors are set to their defaults. And then, I'll press the letter X on the keyboard to switch the foreground and background colors, so now white is my foreground color. I'm going to paint at 100% Opacity and that is going to create a very bright result. We're really going to be brightening up those teeth a tremendous amount. I'll go ahead and just paint a portion of the teeth here for the moment, so that we can quickly adjust our Opacity. So that we're achieving a more pleasing result.
But this certainly underscores the point that we don't want to actually create white teeth, just brighter and whiter teeth than they originally were. I'll go ahead and reduce the Opacity for that teeth brightening layer, and that will tone down the effect, and you'll notice that as I reduce the Opacity, the effect becomes much less strong. So, maybe right about there. It can be a little bit difficult to evaluate the result when we're zoomed in so close and we haven't finished all of our painting work yet. I'll go ahead and increase my Brush size and just paint across the rest of the teeth here. Obviously, I'm probably not doing an absolutely perfect job. But hopefully you'll forgive that as I just want to finish off this work relatively quickly.
There we go. That looks to be pretty good. I'm now going to zoom out a little bit and you can probably appreciate that these teeth are still way too white. So, even though we want to brighten and lighten, we don't want to take it too far. So, in this case, I'll want to tone down that brightening effect a bit. And actually, a fairly significant amount. I don't want to have too much of that brightening effect. Likewise, I don't want too much of a whitening effect, but I can go back and forth between these layers, adjusting the Opacity as needed in order to fine-tune the final result. Now, I'm gong to take a look at the before version. And since I want to turn off two layers at once, I'm actually going to go down to the Background Image layer.
And I'll hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh and click on the Eye icon, so that only the background layer will be visible. I can then continue to hold the Alt or Option key and click once again on the eye. And that will bring back the visibility of my whitening and brightening layers. And so again holding the Alt or Option key, I can toggle the visibility off and on and then evaluate the results. And what you're likely to find is that, initially, the results look great. And then when you compare between the before and after versions, you realize that maybe you had brightened things up a little too much or removed a little too much of the color.
And so, you can go back and fine-tune, as needed, previewing the results so that you get a better sense of what the ideal Opacity setting is for each of those two layers. But as you can see, with the help of a couple of blend modes, we're able to brighten and whiten teeth relatively easily.
- Cleanup concepts
- Essential cleanup tools
- Basic cleanup techniques
- Removing strong color casts
- Adjusting brush shape
- Extending the frame
- Using multiple exposures
- Replacing a bad sky