If you make just the eyes coloured in a black and white portrait of a person or animal, you can add a whole new dimension to the image and really make it pop.

I was quite pleased with the above image of our old cat. I converted the photograph to black and white in Adobe Lightroom. I then added the original green eyes back into the black and white version in Adobe Photoshop.

You can do this yourself! I’m certainly not a Photoshop guru, so I can assure you that this effect is not difficult to achieve, even for Photoshop newbies.


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In the following tutorial, I’ll take you through the process step by step.

You can use any portrait image – be it animal or human – that prominently features the eyes. Or, if you want to practise on the same images I’ve used in this tutorial, you can click here to download a .zip file containing both images. After you download the file, unzip it and then export the images into Lightroom. Alternatively, just export them directly into Photoshop as layers and skip ahead to Step 4 in the tutorial.

If you are more of a visual learner, you can scroll down to the video version.

Tutorial – How To Make Just the Eyes Coloured in A Black and White Portrait Using Lightroom and Photoshop

  1. Open both Lightroom and Photoshop. In Lightroom, choose the image you want to process. You might want to open the image in the Develop module and make some adjustments to make the colour of the eyes really stand out.
  2. Still in Lightroom, right-click on the image and choose “Create Virtual Copy”.  Then, open the copy in the Develop module and create a black and white version. You can use one of Lightroom’s built in black and white presets or do it yourself via the Develop module panels.  (A quick way to do this is just to pull the “Saturation” slider all the way to the left and then adjust the other sliders until you get a black and white look that you like).
  3. Then, back in the Lightroom Library module, select both the colour and black and white versions, right-click, select “Edit In” and then select “Open as Layers in Photoshop”.Open Images as Layers in Photoshop
  4. Now,  jump over to Photoshop. The images should have loaded as layers. Make sure that the black and white version is on the top. You can just click and drag a layer to move it up or down.
    Photoshop Layers
  5. Make sure that your foreground colour is set to black:
    Set foreground colour Photoshop
  6. With the black and white layer selected, click the “Add a mask” button at the bottom of the Layers Panel:
    Add a layer in Photoshop
  7. The Layer Mask thumbnail should now appear beside the black and white layer thumbnail:
    Layer Mask Thumbnail in photoshop
  8. Select the brush tool from the left side toolbar. For starters, choose “Hard Round” as the brush type. Leave the mode set to “Normal” and set the Opacity slider to 100%. Now, carefully start “painting” the middle of each eye with the brush. The colour will magically appear:
    Painting in the coloured eyes
  9. Hit the magnifying glass icon in the right toolbar to zoom in on the eyes. Then, make the brush smaller by hitting the left bracket key on your keyboard. Carefully paint in the rest of the eyes out to the edges. Take your time so you can get it as neat as possible:
    Finish painting in the eyes.

That’s it! Save your image and you are good to go.

Video Version:

Get more out of Lightroom and Photoshop

If you’d like to get a great deal more out of Lightroom and Photoshop, then I highly recommend that you take a look at the great Serge Ramelli’s collection of training courses. Serge shares his expert knowledge in a relaxed and easy-going manner that makes his courses both informative and enjoyable.  His passion and enthusiasm for photography and photography software shine through in every video and is really inspiring. I’ve really gained a lot out of Serge’s courses.

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Note: I’m an affiliate for Serge Ramelli’s courses.  If you buy a course via a link from Take Off The Lens Cap, I’ll receive a portion of the sale. This revenue helps pay the bills and allows me to keep posting new material. Read my Affiliate Marketing Policy

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