A great smile can make a photo! But sometimes that smile needs a little tweaking to help it shine.
In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to quickly whiten and brighten teeth in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.
Note: You’ll notice that many of the screenshots in the tutorial below are from the Elements workspace. This is because those particular operations/dialog boxes are nearly identical in both Elements and Photoshop. You should have no trouble understanding these steps regardless of which software you’re working in.
When there is a significant difference in the process between the two software packages, that difference will be noted.
Zoom into the smile area to make it easier to see.
In either Photoshop or Elements, you can do this by pressing Ctrl on a PC or Cmd on a Mac while holding the spacebar. This will temporarily switch to the Zoom Tool. Click on the photo once or twice to zoom in. To zoom out, press Alt on a PC or Opt on a Mac while holding the spacebar and click inside the image window.
Once zoomed in, press the spacebar to temporarily switch to the Hand Tool. Then click and drag the image to reposition it as necessary.
Next we need to create a selection outline around the teeth. We’ll use the Magic Wand tool for this because it’s works really well when selecting areas of an image that contain similar colors.
Select the Magic Wand tool from Toolbox along the left side of the Elements workspace.
The Magic Wand tool can be found in the Select section of the Toolbox, nested with the Quick Selection tool and the Selection Brush. Clicking on the icons for any of these tools in the Toolbox opens the Options bar at the bottom of the interface. There you can click on the Magic Wand tool to select it.
Select the Magic Wand tool by clicking on it in the Toolbar found along the left side of the Photoshop Workspace.
The Magic Wand tool is nested with the Quick Selection tool. If the Quick Selection tool is the one showing, click and hold on its icon and select the Magic Wand tool from the pop out menu.
With the Magic Wand tool selected, select the Add to selection option from the Options bar at the top of the interface. In addition, set the Tolerance (also found in the Options bar) to about 30-40. Make sure that the box next to Contiguous is checked.
To create the selection outline, click on one of the teeth to create an initial selection outline. Then, continue clicking around the teeth to expand this selection.
If you accidentally select an area that you don’t want included, hold down the Alt key on a PC, the Option key on a Mac. You’ll notice a negative sign appear next to the Magic Wand cursor. Click to remove the unwanted areas.
Continue working on the selection until you are happy with it.
We’re going to refine the edge of our selection to feather it slightly. This will help us avoid a harsh edge on our edit and make it look more natural.
In either Photoshop or Elements, with the selection outline still active, choose Select>Refine Edge.
The Refine Edge dialog box will appear and you will see your selection against a white background.
To soften and feather the selection edges, I’ll set the Smooth value to 2 and the Feather value to 1 px.
You will need to play with the settings to get a look that works for your particular image.
When you are happy with the settings, click OK.
With the feathered selection still active, add a new Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer.
Click on the New Adjustment Layer button at the top of the Layers panel and choose Hue/Saturation from the drop menu box.
A Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer will be added above the image layer. Since there was a selection active when the Adjustment layer was created, the layer will include a layer mask. This means that any changes we make with the Adjustment layer will only effect the area within our selection.
Click on the New Adjustment Layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Hue/Saturation from the popup menu box.
A Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer will be added above the image layer. Since there was a selection active when the Adjustment layer was created, the layer it will include a layer mask. This means that any changes we make using the Adjustment layer will only effect the area within our selection.
With the Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer (with layer mask) in place, now it’s just a matter of working with the Hue/Saturation settings to whiten the teeth.
First, since the discolored teeth are mostly yellow, we want to reduce the saturation of that color. To do this, select Yellows from the Channel selector at the top of the Hue/Saturation dialog bog. Then move the Saturation slider to the left until most of the yellow in the teeth has disappeared.
Keep in mind that you want to leave a little yellow in the teeth since that’s the color teeth are naturally.
And, finally, brighten the teeth by switching back to the Master channel in the Channel selector. Add a small amount of brightness by moving the Lightness slider to the right. Be conservative on this. Just a small amount of lightening looks best. Too much can give the teeth a neon-type glow.
That’s it! You’re done. That’s all there is to it!
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