how to whiten teeth in photoshop

How to Whiten Teeth in Photoshop

In Photoshop Tutorials, Post Processing by Stefano Caioni Leave a Comment

Let’s learn how to whiten teeth in Photoshop.

Whitening teeth in Photoshop is easy. It’s a skill that every portrait photographer has to learn. But it takes a bit of experience to do it right.

In this tutorial, I am going to run you through the process of whitening teeth using Photoshop. By the end of this article, you will have a solid grasp of what tools you need. As a result, you can apply them when editing your photos.

How to Whiten Teeth in Photoshop

How to Whiten Teeth in Photoshop Step-by-Step

First of all, let’s set things straight. Your job as a photographer is to ensure that your subjects’ smiles look amazing in the pictures you take. In particular, when you are working with commercial clients. Your images have to be outstanding.

Group of three girls smiling

Remember, the first impression is crucial when it comes to professional portraitures. Here are the challenges. Teeth’s color is not pure white. Plus, every person’s teeth may be of a different tonality.

Even when shooting professional models, you will have to work in Photoshop. Thus your goal is to make their smiles look perfect.

Let’s take this photo as an example.

Model smiling

As for many other things, there are different methods to whiten teeth in Photoshop. I’m using Photoshop’s latest version for this tutorial. But these steps will work with older versions too.

#1 Best Method: Whiten Teeth in Photoshop With the HUE/Saturation

Let’s start with the best method you can find online. You’ll see why it’s the best in a moment. Using the Hue/Saturation tool, you can deal with the specific shade of yellow you need to whiten.

Step 1: Create a New Adjustment Layer

How to Whiten Teeth in Photoshop with the Hue/Saturation layer
Creating the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer.

Adjustment layers are powerful. Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer by clicking on the icon in the layers panel.

Step 2: Pick the Shade of Yellow

With the hand tool selected, click on the yellow you want to use as a reference. You’ll refine the selection later. 

How to Whiten Teeth in Photoshop
Selecting the shade of yellow.

As you can see, the Hue/Saturation control panel recognizes your Yellow selection. 

Color shades dropdown
Select the shade manually if needed.

The default value is Master. If the Hue/Saturation panel doesn’t recognize the Yellow tint, change it manually. You can do so by changing the options to yellow from the dropdown menu.

Step 3: Refine the Selection

To make sure the gums are not affected, you need to adjust your selection. To do so, move the Hue and Saturation sliders all to the right. As a result, you’ll see which areas are selected.

image with selection
Showing the selection.

At the bottom of the Hue/Saturation panel, you can see the range of colors you are selecting. Make it narrower by clicking and dragging from left and right. The selection will change.

selection refined
Refining the selection with the range slider.

Then, holding from the middle, move the range left and right and stop when only the area you need is selected. Make sure the gums are not affected.

How to Whiten Teeth in Photoshop moving the range slider
The range slider.

Now make the selection a bit smoother. Click on the outside slider and move it left to create a gap with the inside slider. Repeat with the other side of the range. 

You can finally move the Hue and Saturation sliders back to zero.

Step 4: How to Whiten Teeth in Photoshop

At this point, you’ve selected the area to work with great precision. Now by moving the Saturation slider to the left, you’ll whiten the teeth. As simple as that. You can also play with the Lightness slider to make the teeth brighter.

How to Whiten Teeth in Photoshop
Making the teeth white.

Step 5: Fix the Skin Tone

After whitening the teeth, you’ll notice that the skin tones have changed too. That’s because the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer is affecting the whole image. Let’s fix it.

Layer mask black
Inverting the mask.

First of all, invert the adjustment layer’s mask: select it and press Ctrl + I (Windows), Cmd + I (Mac) on your keyboard. The layer mask is now black. As you can see, the black layer mask hides the Hue/Saturation effect.

Next, you have to use a white brush to paint in the effect. Select the brush tool and make sure a white background color is selected. If it’s not, switch between white and black pressing X.

Brush tool photoshop
Select the brush tool.
select white foreground
White foreground color.

With the black layer mask selected, paint over the teeth to make it white again. The good thing is you don’t have to be perfect with the brush since the gums and lips are red and won’t be affected. 

And that’s how to whiten teeth in Photoshop.

If you want to see the original image, turn off the adjustment layer. Click on the eye icon in the layers panel to show/hide the layer.

eye icon
Showing/hiding the adjustment layer

This is the original photo.

original photo
Before

And this is the final result.

Final Result How to Whiten Teeth in Photoshop
After

Bonus tip: reduce the adjustment layer’s opacity if the effect looks unnatural.

#2 Common Method: Manual Selection

On many websites and in the official guide, you’ll find this method. I’m not too fond of it because it forces you to select the teeth manually first. As a consequence, it takes some effort to be precise. 

Pick the Lasso Tool

Lasso tool

The first thing you need to do when retouching teeth in Photoshop is to select the area you want to whiten. For this task, you will use the Lasso Tool. The rope lasso icon denotes the lasso tool, and you can find it in the standard main menu.  

Lasso Tool Keyboard shortcut: ‘L’.

Know that the Lasso Tool is not the only selecting tool in Photoshop. Another useful tool is the Pen Tool, which allows for more precise selections. But it’s a bit more advanced.

Related: Photoshop Tips and Tricks for Beginners

First Make a Selection

With this method, before you begin retouching the teeth, you need to isolate them. With the lasso tool selected, draw a line around the teeth you intend to whiten.

If you are retouching several people’s teeth in a single image, don’t whiten them all at once. Different teeth need levels of whitening. So, focus on them separately to achieve the best results.

people with different teeth shades

First, with the Lasso Tool, trace a line around the teeth while caring not to draw outside the edges. Don’t worry too much if your selection is not perfect. You can fix it later.

Selection Photoshop how to whiten teeth in photoshop
Drawing the selection

Then Create a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer

how to whiten teeth in photoshop adjustment layer
Creating the adjustment layer

After you’ve drawn a selection, add a Hue/Saturation layer the same as you did before. From here, repeat steps 2, 3, and 4 from method 1. At this point, the teeth should be white.

Adjust the Brightness

Saturation adjustment layer

If you are not happy with the results, use the lightness slider to increase the brightness. Remember, don’t increase the brightness too much, or it may make the teeth appear unreal.

partial result how to whiten teeth in photoshop
Saturation how to whiten teeth in photoshop

To make small tweaks, use the brush tool as you did in method 1, step 5.

brush tool
how to whiten teeth in photoshop brightness

Whiten Teeth in Photoshop Before and After

Check the before and after by clicking on the eye icon next to the Hue/Saturation layer.

Before how to whiten teeth in photoshop
After how to whiten teeth in photoshop

How to Whiten Teeth in Photoshop Video Tutorial

Conclusion

So now you know how to make teeth white in Photoshop.
Developing your editing skills will give you an edge over your competitors. Apply the steps described in this tutorial, and you’ll produce high-quality portraits.

So choose your favorite method and start practicing today!

Are you going to use the first method, or you’ll draw a selection line with the Lasso Tool? Let me know in the comments below.

Did you find this tutorial useful? Please share it on social media!

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