Eye pop with Layer Mask Tutorial

As I go through these workflow tutorials, I get some questions about layers. I am certainly not the expert on this. I have learned basically through trial and error. Jodi at MCP actions describes the significance of layer order and how to determine how you should layer in your workflow. Check it out HERE!

Basically some layers are opaque and some are translucent. An action will work differently when layered on top of an adjustment layer as opposed to a duplicate layer…..


Here is how I eye pop. It is super simple. I am not a huge eye over-processor. I like them to pop just a little.

The reason I use a layer mask, is so I can incorporate it in to my workflow action and use it for every photo. Otherwise, I would have to do this seperately on every photo.

PSE-ers!!! – please do yourself a favor and download the free layer mask action from coffeeshopphotography!! It will change your life! It will also allow you to follow along.


So, here we are in the editing process. If you look in my layers pallette, you will see that at this point we have done a defog, high pass sharpen, soft light layer, screen layer.
Duplicate backgroud (select background layer and press CTRL J – we dont just do it on the top layer because duplicating the high pass sharpen layer will double the sharpening).
The settings I typically use are 150, 3, 1.
You will notice that the whole photo sharpens dramatically, don’t worry.

Now go to IMAGE>ADJUSTMENTS>LEVELS. Make sure you do it through the Edit menu. This way, it only effects this layer.
Play will the middle grey slider (tiny grey triangle) and the black slider. Do something like 214-240 on the grey slider and 4-15 on the black slider.
This will dramatically alter the whole photo but we will hide that soon. Just pay attention to the eyes.

This will create a black layer mask that will hide all of the work we just did!! (remember: Black layer mask hides and reveals only through the brush tool with foreground set to white. White layer mask shows and only hides by using the brush tool with black as foreground color.)
Now, make sure your foreground color is set to white. Choose the brush tool and brush over the eyes. Adjust the opacity as needed. I usually do about 40%.
Had to share this fun photo!

Backlighting can be scary!! It can also be amazingly beautiful!

This entry was posted in Tutorials - Photoshop, Workflow.


  1. The Hiatt Family October 17, 2009 at 2:45 am #

    I LOVE IT! Another great picture Stacey and I love how you captured the lighting!!! It looks so old fashion and Beautiful. Thanks for posting it! :)

  2. Heather October 22, 2009 at 7:48 pm #

    Look at all your great tutorials!! I need a week to read all thes and have them absorb. You are so generous to give out all your secrets and tips!! Karma baby, you will seriously be taken care of!

  3. Heather October 22, 2009 at 7:50 pm #

    P.S. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the photo beneath!! Breathtaking! Did you write the "love" at the beach or was that photoshop?
    AMAZING!! I should stop being so surprised each time and just come to accept your brilliance!

  4. Happy Grams November 1, 2009 at 3:51 pm #

    Is the big tutorial process you posted above the same as your workflow action?