Tuesday, June 23

CoffeeShop LightRoom 4 and Up "Eye Pop" Tutorial!

It is really easy to "pop" or enhance eyes in LightRoom 4 (and up).  It takes just a few seconds to sharpen and enhance the iris and lashes, whiten the whites of the eye, and even change the eye color. I overdid my samples below to make sure you could see what I was doing in each step, so please don't be scared off by his glassy doll-looking eyes.

Sharpen Iris and Lashes:  Click to select (or press K) your adjustment brush. In the image above you can see it under the histogram, and over "New". Then look for the "Effects" menu (under "Mask") and select "Clarity" (this will sharpen the eyes and lashes) and set it to 100%. You can always dial it down later. I keep flow, feather and density on 100 in these steps. Click on Auto Mask if you want to "stay in the lines", but I actually turned it off on this step because I wanted to sharpen the iris AND the lashes.

Adjust your brush to size (use the [ and ] on your keyboard, or adjust the "Size" slider) and paint over the iris and lashes to define them. You can adjust the amount of clarity to taste, but I usually use 75-100 on this step.

A nifty trick to see if you did paint ever the entire area is to hold your mouse over the active "black" little circle that shows where you have started editing and then click on Alt on your keyboard. The red areas are where you have painted.

Now click "New" under "Mask" because we are going to use the adjustment brush for another enhancement and don't want to adjust the Clarity setting we already made.  The great thing about these adjustment layers is you can go back and edit them later!

Add a Sparkle to the Iris:  Select "Exposure" under "Effect" and dial this up to taste. Again, I usually start higher and then move it down after painting over the eyes. I used the Auto Mask this time because I am only going to paint over the iris.

Whiten Eye-Whites:  Click on "New" under "Mask" and make sure "Auto Mask" is checked and paint over your eye whites with a higher exposure. Don't overdo this step, make sure to dial it down until your whites are whiter but not glaringly white.  This screenshot has been overdone just so you can see where I was painting.

Increase Iris Color Saturation:  Select "New" then "Saturation" under "Effect" and paint over the iris. Don't overdo this step either.  Start high and then dial it down.

Change or Enhance Iris Color: If you want to actually change or enhance the color of the eyes, it is easy. Click on "New" then "Color" and pick an eye color.

Paint over the iris with this new color (I removed Auto Mask on this step because I was having problems adding green to the highlights in the Iris) and then adjust the slider to taste. I completely overdid this step for this example. Freaky green eyes! But this can be done with a very subtle hand, just dial it down.

Here is little Imp with his enhanced (and for the purposes of this tutorial, overdone and perhaps a bit scary) eyes. This sounded time-consuming, but it is actually a very quick edit. I often skip the saturation and color steps, but I love to add clarity and adjust the exposure a bit to every close-up portrait. Again, be restrained with eye enhancements. You don't want your portrait to look like a glass-eyed doll. :-) Dial down the settings until you don't notice much of a difference. Subtlety is key.

If you want to go back and make additional adjustments, just click on the little marker on the eyes to open up the Effect menu for that adjustment.

I hope this was helpful!

Do you want to download my favorite CoffeeShop PSE/Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets or Design Elements in one convenient zipped file AND help support this blog? Just click here for my action pack or here for a download of some of my most popular design elements, storyboards, and textures. 

For complete info on installing all of my actions, click here.


  1. This is so great and helpful. I have been "meaning" to utilize Lightroom better but I just never seem to get around to doing it. I love the simple steps you've shown here. What a time saver! Eyes are always a must to make sure they look as awesome as they really are. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  2. thanks for the tutorial. This is exactly what I need. I feel so lost in lightroom still, but I know I can learn...

  3. Thank you so much!!

  4. Rita,
    You are always so selfless in your gifts to those trying to learn like myself.

    I adore your work! Thanks for the tip here, my daughters eyes are always dark (when I even get a pic of her looking at me LOL), but I just know I could use this to help bring out those highlights!

    Thanks again.

  5. Hi there - love the site - any suggestions for using PS Elements?? the pricetag of PS is a dream right now...Thanks for all you do!
    Carol in

  6. Thanks, Rita! I've been experimenting with most of this, but it's always helpful to see a step-by-step process. You're the best!

  7. Yes I agree wat do you have for us to use with PS Elements, to do this great awesome feature!!

  8. I can't wait to try this!! Thank you!

  9. I have photoshop, not elements, and I want to know how to do that eye pop and change the color. Could you do a tutorial using photoshop. Thanks so much. Love all the great actions you provide.

  10. WOW! I never knew you could do this in LR2. Thank You SO much for showing us this.

  11. I have been trying to find a helpful tutotial for lightroom all over the net. I am soooo thankful I came across this! It is THE MOST helpful I have found by far! Thank you so very much! I finally get it :)

  12. WOW! Just did this and it was great. Thanks for another great tutorial!

  13. Are you able to make the eyes pop with dark eyes too? make them more hazel like or just more clarity to the eye?

  14. I love this tutorial! I used it last week with lightroom 2 (just got it) and it worked great. Yesterday, I no longer could get the active circle to show (can't do the nifty trick anymore to show where I'm editing). I can't get any white dots that show the different layers/masks I've done. I was able to tog between them...Can't figure out what has happened...Any ideas? Maybe there's some setting that needs to be changed?

    heatherlbrandt(at) verizon (dot) net

  15. WOW, I absolutely love it :) Thank you SO much for the great tutorial

  16. Very helpful and easy to follow! Thank you so much! Any ideas for really dark eyes? My son has really dark brown eyes and I have a hard time because if I try lightening them with brightness or exposure, it turns his eyes a spooky green color. I also couldn't find any browns on the color palette. I'm new to LR2, so sorry if these are obvious questions. Again, thank you so much! Great blog!


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