How to Use Photo Editing Software to Remove Red Eye

More Red-eye Photoshop Tricks: Black-and-White Adjustment Layers
One of the steps in the process of removing red-eye with Photoshop's black-and-white adjustment layers
One of the steps in the process of removing red-eye with Photoshop's black-and-white adjustment layers
Photo courtesy William Harris
You can see the finished result of red-eye removal on one eye, using Photoshop's black-and-white adjustment layers.
Photo courtesy William Harris

Some Photoshop experts and photo restoration aficionados scoff at the red-eye tool, pointing to corrected photos in which the subject's pupils look too dark and glassy. This can be a valid argument, especially if the subject has light-colored irises. Luckily, there's another Photoshop technique -- using a black-and-white adjustment layer -- that may provide more realistic red-eye correction. Here's how you do it.

Again, you have to select a photo to edit. We're going with that same bathtub shot. Next, create a black-and-white adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Black & White). When you do, you'll see the layer palette change accordingly. The adjustments palette will also update with options specific to your new layer choice. And, of course, your image will appear to lose its color.

Now, increase the zoom level so you can get a good look at your subject's eyes. In the tools palette, select the brush tool and make sure the hardness -- one of the brush tool's settings -- is set to 100 percent. Also, make sure your foreground color is set to black.

When the brush tool is selected, the cursor changes to an open circle, which you can adjust using the bracket keys. The open bracket decreases the brush size; the close bracket increases the brush size. With the cursor situated over one of the pupils of your image, increase or decrease the brush size so the open circle just fits around the pupil. Click once on the pupil. When you do, you should reveal the red pupil in your black-and-white layer (see first photo).

Now you want to invert the layer mask you created (Image > Adjustments > Invert), which restores the original image color except for the black-and-white adjustment you made over the pupil. If you didn't quite eliminate all of the red, switch your background and foreground (at the bottom of the tools palette) and paint over any remaining red pixels with your brush tool. Then, on the adjustments palette, experiment with different black-and-white filters to change the intensity of the pupil color. On our image, we're going to use the Maximum Black setting. Finally, you'll want to add a slight blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) to soften the edges of the pupil. You won't need much -- maybe a radius of 1.0 to 1.5 pixels. When you're done, you should have something like the second photo.

Many people like this technique better than the built-in red-eye tool, because they feel it gives a bit more control over the editing process. If the idea of having control appeals to you, but you don't want to pay for Photoshop, you still have options. Keep reading to see how Pixlr, a free Web-based image editor, can remove red-eye as effectively as its expensive cousin.

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