How to Use Photo Editing Software to Remove Red Eye

How to Remove Red-eye Using Photoshop
Demonic child in bathtub, or just another case of red-eye?
Demonic child in bathtub, or just another case of red-eye?
Photo courtesy William Harris
With red-eye removal, demonic child turns angelic.
Photo courtesy William Harris

Adobe Photoshop has been around since 1990, so it's one of the industry's most venerable products. It also can present a steep learning curve to someone with no experience using photo editing software. Luckily, the engineers at Adobe have streamlined certain functions and activities to make life easier for amateur photographers. Red-eye removal is one of those activities.

It all begins with the red-eye tool, which Adobe introduced with Photoshop CS2 (CS stands for Creative Suite). We're using CS5 for this tutorial, but the basic process should be the same for any version of the software. Here's how it works.

First, from within Photoshop, open the file that needs editing. For this tutorial, make sure the subject in the photo has feral eyes, like the one pictured. Before you do anything else, duplicate your original layer (Layer > Duplicate Layer) so you're working on a copy of the image. If you need to, increase the zoom level so you can get a really good look at the eyes.

Next, from the tools palette, select the red-eye tool, which is arranged with the other healing tools, such as the spot healing tool, the healing brush tool and the patch tool. It literally looks like a red-eye, and if you mouse over it, it should say "RedEye Removal Tool" or something similar. Notice that the red-eye tool comes with its own specific controls -- one for pupil size and one for darken amount. The default setting is 50 percent for both controls. We're going to use the default settings at first to see what kind of results we get.

Once you select the red-eye tool, the normal cursor will be joined by an eyeball icon. Using the mouse, move the eyeball cursor into your photo and click and drag a box (or marquee) around one of the red eyes. Make sure your box extends far beyond the eye itself. As soon as you've drawn a box around the eye, unclick. Now do the same on the other eye. Each time you marquee around an eye, you should see the red pupil darken automatically. In the second example photo, we've used the red-eye tool on both eyes, and the results are pretty good.

Sometimes, the red-eye tool doesn't correct the entire pupil. In that case, you may need to fiddle with the pupil size value until you get satisfactory results, perhaps even upping it to its maximum of 100 percent.

Hold on a sec though. We have a few more Photoshop tricks up our sleeve next.