Portrait Retouching Eyelashes by Jane Conner-ziser

Eyelashes are a very small part of portrait work, but make a big difference in the expressiveness of the eyes. Sometimes they are a bit sparse and if you are lucky, you can copy and paste a couple of them here and there to fill in, but other times there is little to use and you have to put them in "from scratch". If you've never tried to draw them before it can be daunting, so allow me to offer you some simple guidelines that will help you draw and paint them with confidence.

First we have the image of the eye:

Think of the eyeball as a wheel and the pupil of the eye as the axel. Eyelashes grow from the center like spokes on a wheel:

Notice that just above and below the pupil, in the peak of the arch of the eyelids, the direction of eyelashes is nearly vertical. From there, the eyelashes point towards either the nose or the outside corner of the eye. This remains constant no matter which direction the eye is looking - look at your own images and see the different directions eyelashes grow depending on where the subjects are looking. You do not have to change or "correct" this; it's already right. Your job is to enhance, fill in or shape what is already there.

The eyelashes are shorter towards the nose and longer towards the outside corners of the eyes:

In photographs, eyelashes rarely show very far towards the nose from the edge of the iris on the top lid or the edge of the pupil on the bottom lid:

And, finally, they curve up and away from center. Eyelashes are thicker at the base and should end in graceful points. Eyelashes are not perfect so make some of them long and others short. Mess them up a bit by crossing one over another. Use a stylus and a small brush with Shape Dynamics to press and flick your stroke to make strokes that look like this:

My favorite technique in Photoshop to make eyelashes is to create a new layer over the image I am working on (tap on the new layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Window) and change the default blending mode of Normal to Multiply.

Choose the Smudge Tool (nested with the Blur and Sharpen Tools) and set the options to:

Normal mode / 70% strength / Sample all layers (do not check Finger Painting).

Finished eyelashes might look something like this:

To finish them delicately, add a slight Gaussian blur (Filter / Blur / Gaussian Blur) and then reduce the opacity of the eyelash layer to taste before merging the layer onto the image of your subject.

Here is what eyelash enhancement looks like on a real portrait:

Eyelashes rarely extend above the crease over the subject's eyes beyond a tip here and there. Upper eyelashes are darker and more definite than lower ones. Use layer opacity to adjust them perfectly.

I hope you like my little blog about eyelashes! If you want additional information on all types of retouching and painting using Photoshop and Painter, visit my products page or drop me an email. I have both online and DVD training discs available through Software Cinema.

My newest titles are: Digital MakeUp, Facial Retouching and Enhancement and Portrait Painting for Photographers.

Thanks! - Jane

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Filed under: Photo Tutorials October 08, 2009
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