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 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.
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.
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
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.
As you can see, the Hue/Saturation control panel recognizes your Yellow selection.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is the original photo.
And this is the final result.
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
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.
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.
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.
Then Create a Hue/Saturation 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
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.
To make small tweaks, use the brush tool as you did in method 1, step 5.
Whiten Teeth in Photoshop Before and After
Check the before and after by clicking on the eye icon next to the Hue/Saturation layer.
How to Whiten Teeth in Photoshop Video Tutorial
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.
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Stefano Caioni is a photographer from Sydney, Australia. Founder and editor of Pixinfocus, his passion for photography helps him explore new places and live new adventures. Thanks to photography he reconnected with the outdoors and was able to travel the world and take photos of some of the most beautiful places on Earth.