Create the effect of glowing eyes in Photoshop

In this lesson we will learn how to create an almost otherworldly “radial zoom” effect, with bright blur lines emanating from the center of the eye. This effect is quite simple to create using only the selection tools, a couple of Photoshop filters, layer masks and blending modes!

This version of the lesson is prepared for Photoshop CS6, but it is fully compatible with Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud). For CS5 and earlier versions, see our original tutorial.

Here is an image that I will work with (taken from Shutterstock):

And this is how our eyes will look like after completion of the work:

Eyes enlarged to see the effect more clearly:

Let’s get started!

Step 1. Select the Oval Area tool.

Let’s start with the left eye in the photo. We will go through all the steps to create an effect, and then we will just have to repeat the same steps for the other eye.

To start, select the tool Oval area (Elliptical Marquee Tool) in the toolbar on the left. The tool “hides” behind the Rectangular tool, so we need to click on it and hold until the context menu appears, from which we select the tool we need:

Step 2: Highlight the Iris

We will use the Oval area tool to highlight the iris (the colored part of the eye). Part of the model’s iris is closed by the eyelid, and in order to isolate it, we will need to use a couple of different selection methods.

First, I zoom in on my eyes by pressing Ctrl / Cmd + space on the keyboard, clicking on the eye several times. Once you have completed the approximation, release the keys, and this will return us to the previous tool – the Oval region, in our case:

With the selected Oval Tool, I will highlight the iris, temporarily ignoring the eyelid covering its part. To move the selected area while drawing, hold the spacebar, move the area to the desired position, release the spacebar and continue dragging. Do not worry, if allocating the iris, you have captured some white space around it, we can easily remove it later:

To remove the part we don’t need, just change the selection mode. By default it is set to New Selection. Change the selection mode to the Intersection of regions by clicking on the corresponding icon in the top panel:

A small “x” appears in the lower right corner of your cursor, indicating that I am in intersection mode. At a time when the first selected area is still active, I select the second area so that its upper edge cuts off the part of the century I do not need. Again, to move the selected area while drawing, hold down the spacebar, move the area to the desired position, release the spacebar and continue dragging:

I release the mouse button, making the second selection, and since we are in the intersection mode, Photoshop will leave only the part I need, where the areas intersect. The extra area with the eyelid is no longer highlighted:

Step 3. Copy the selected area to a new layer.

The next step is to copy the selected area to the new layer. Hold down Alt / option, click on the Layer menu, select New (New) and then Copy to new layer (Layer via Copy):

Holding down Alt / Option will open a new layer dialog box that will allow us to name the new layer before creating it. Name the layer Left eye and move on:

Click OK. It seems that nothing, except that the selected area has disappeared has not changed, right? But if you look at the panel with layers, you will see that the iris, which we have selected, is now on a separate layer, located above the layer with the background:

Step 4. Select a circular area around the iris.

With the tool Oval area , Click in the center of the pupil (the black part in the center of the eye) and create another circular area around the iris. Once you start pulling, hold down Shift + Alt / Option and keep pulling up. Select an area slightly larger than the iris. When you’re done, release the mouse button, and then the Shift and Alt / Option keys – in that order, otherwise you will spoil the selected area.

Step 5. Add noise to the selected area.

Let’s add noise to our chosen area, which will further help in creating blur lines. Select menu Filter (Filtr) – Noise (Noise) – Add Noise:

This will open the add noise dialog. Set the amount of approximately 10%, just put a tick in the boxes According to Gauss and Monochrome below:

Click OK to close the window. The selected area is now filled with noise:

Step 6. Add a radial blur filter.

When we added noise, open the menu again. Filter, select Blur (Radial Blur):

This will open the radial blur dialog. Install quantity about 80%, the blur method on Linear (Zoom) and quality – for the best (Best):

Click OK. We got the zoom effect from the center of our eye:

Step 7. Make a mask from the selected area.

We need to remove the blur lines where they go beyond the border of the iris. For this we create mask, clicking on the corresponding icon on the panel with layers:

Since we were on a layer with a selected area, Photoshop will create a mask for it. If we take a closer look at the thumbnail of the layer mask, we see that it is filled with black, except for the small circle, which is filled with white. The white parts of the layer mask show where the effect is visible in the document, while the black space shows where it is hidden:

Step 8. Select the brush tool.

Let’s eliminate the places where we do not want to see the effect around the iris. For this, we will need to draw on the layer mask using the tool Brush. Select it from the toolbar:

Also, make sure that the layer mask is selected in the panel with thumbnails of the layers. It should be highlighted with white lines. In fact, layer mask should already be selected, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Step 9: Paint the extra space

To hide the places where we do not want to see the effect, we need to draw black on the layer mask. Photoshop uses the foreground color as the brush color. Standard colors are black and white, to switch to them press D on the keyboard. This will make white the foreground color and black the back. Since we need just the opposite, we should press X on the keyboard, this will change the colors in places. You will see them on the left, below the toolbar:

Choose a soft round brush, set the opacity to 0% to get soft edges. The size of the brush will depend on the size of the image, in my case it is 70px:

Black paint in places where we need to remove the effect. Change the brush size if necessary:

If you accidentally hit the iris, and removed the effect where it is needed, press X again, and draw where the effect needs to be restored.

Also, the effect should be removed on the pupil:

Step 10. Select a background layer.

Now that we have added a radial blur effect to the first eye, we need to do the same with the second eye. First, select the background layer:

Step 11. Oval area tool

On the toolbar, select a tool. Oval area. Since we used it last, we don’t need to choose anything from the menu this time:

As in the second step, select the iris using the intersection mode of the selected areas to remove unnecessary areas:

Step 13. Copy the selected area to a new layer.

Now we copy the selection to a new layer. Holding Alt / option, click on the menu Layer (Layer), select New (New), and then Copy to a new layer (Layer via Copy). When the dialog box appears, name the layer Right Eye, and click OK:

The selected area appears on its own new “Right Eye” layer between the background layer and the Left Eye layer:

Step 14. Repeat steps 4 through 9.

The next step is to repeat steps 4 to 9: select the area a little wider than the iris, add noise, radial blur, remove the effect where it is not needed. That’s what happened with me when I did the steps for both eyes:

Step 15. Select both layers with eyes.

With the Right Eye layer selected, hold down the Shift key and click on the second layer with the eye, it will select both layers:

Step 16. Create a layer group

With two selected layers, click on the small icon in the upper right corner of the panel with layers:

From the menu select New group of layers (New Group from Layers):

A dialog pops up. In it, we call our group Eyes and click OK.

Now both layers are in the group. You can open a group to view its contents by clicking on the small triangle to the left of the layer group icon. Merging layers into a group will help us complete editing, because subsequent corrections will be applied to both layers.

Step 17. Add a Hue / Saturation Adjustment Layer

Holding Alt / option, Click on the icon for creating a new adjustment layer on the panel with layers:

Choose from the list that appears. Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation):

The dialog box for creating a new adjustment layer opens. Click in the column Use previous layer to create clipping mask., and change the overlay mode to Screen (Screen):

Click OK, and Photoshop will create a new adjustment layer. Please note that the small arrow pointing to our group of layers tells us that only the group will be changed, and at the top you can see the blending mode:

Since the blend mode Screen used to increase the brightness in the image, our eyes are much brighter:

We can change this adjustment layer in the Property bar. To increase saturation, drag the saturation slider to the right. Watch the image while you change the saturation, so as not to overdo it. I will install saturation by about 60:

Here’s what I got. Depending on the color of the iris, the effect may look different. Next, we will see how to further enhance the effect:

Step 18. Try other blending modes (optional)

As I said, Screen – only one of the modes that adds brightness, but you can try modes Lightening basics (Color Dodge) and Linear Dodge (Add) (Linear Dodge (Add)), which will give us a more intense result. This is what my eyes look like when changing the blending mode from Screen to Lightening basics:

Here are the eyes in this mode:

Then I will try to change the mode to Linear Dodge (Add):

And this is how the eyes look in the overlay mode. Linear Dodge (Add). Try all three modes to find the best result:

Step 19. Lower the opacity to improve the effect (optional)

Having chosen the best effect from the blending mode, you can adjust it at your discretion – for example, adjust the layer opacity:

This is where we finish editing! Here is my final image:

Done! This is how you can create a radial blur effect for the eyes, change their brightness and improve color with Photoshop!

Author: Steve Patterson

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