how to whiten teeth in photoshop
Tutorial

How To Whiten Teeth In Photoshop

In his tutorial, you will learn how to whiten teeth in Photoshop. This effect can be easily achieved in 7 easy steps using nothing more than a simple Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.

The main goal when you’re retouching someone’s teeth is not to make them look unrealistic, so be careful that you don’t overdo the effect.

Here are the steps of how to whiten teeth in Photoshop:
1. Duplicate The Original Image
2. Select The Teeth With Laso Tool
3. Apply Hue/Saturation Mask To The Image
4. Set The Edit Options To Yellow
5. Lower The Saturation of Yellows
6. Increase The Lightness of Yellows
7. Fine Tune The Teeth Selection With The Layer Mask

This is the comparison of the before and after effect, you will be creating.

how to whiten teeth in photoshop

Now lets begging with the teeth whiting.

Step 1: Duplicate The Original Image

In Photoshop, you are limited with the redo steps your work history enables, so in case something goes wrong, and you need to start all over again, duplicating the original image is crucial and can save you a lot of time.

There are many ways you can duplicate the image. The fastest way to do it is by pressing CTRL+J (Mac: Command + J ), or you can go to: Image>Duplicate.

Duplicate image
Duplicate image

The duplicated image will be placed above the original image.

Once you’ve duplicated the image, you are set to work on it, and you’re one step closer to make someone’s teeth entirely white.

Step 2: Select The Teeth With Laso Tool

Choose the Laso Tool from the left Toolbar or simply press the L key.

Select Laso Tool
Select Laso Tool

Now select all the person’s teeth.

Teeth selecting with laso tool
Select the teeth with Laso Tool

If you don’t manage to make a perfect selection, don’t worry you can improve the outcome once you apply the mask, and in the next step, you’re going do exactly that – setting the Hue/Saturation Mask to the Image.

Step 3: Apply Hue/Saturation Mask To The Image

To apply the Hue/Saturation Mask, go to: “Create new fill or adjustment layer”.

Create new fill or adjustment layer
Select: “Create new fill or adjustment layer”

Choose “Hue/Saturation…” from the list. After you make the selection, a new window will pop-up.

Choose Hue/Saturation
Choose Hue/Saturation…

Besides that, a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer will be placed above the duplicated image layer.

Hue/Saturation layer above the duplicated layer
Hue/Saturation layer above the duplicated layer

The newly added adjustment layer will allow you to change the settings of the Hue/Saturation as many times as you want.

Step 4: Set The Edit Option To Yellows

All teeth have a natural yellow pigment in them, and if you want to make them white, you need to target only the yellow tones of the applied mask.

To do so, you need to change the default setting of the Edit Option, from Master to Yellows. You can do that from the drop-down menu, or you can do that with the Alt+4 shortcut.

Set to yellows
Set to Yellows

If you don’t target only the yellow tones and work with the default selection (Master), you will desaturate all the colors across the whole image.

Step 5: Lower The Yellow Saturation

In this part, you’re going to make teeth whiter. Select the Saturation slider and drag it to the left. How far to the left you want to set it, depends on how much yellow pigment is present in someone’s teeth.

Lower the Saturation of yellows
Set Saturation

The further to the left you put the slider, the more of the desaturation effect will be visible, which will make the teeth whiter.

I found that the amount between -80 and -90, works the best, or you can play around with the saturation settings and see what works the best for your image.

There are two ways you can set the Saturation that, one is by dragging the slider manually, or you can insert the exact amount in the right text box next to the slider.

Decerested saturation will only affect the selection and mask you created in step 3. Without the layer mask, you would desaturate the yellow tones throughout the image.

You have to be really mindful of desaturation settings because if you desaturate the yellows too much, the teeth will look fake. But in the end, it all comes down to your visual preference.

Step 6: Increase The Lightness Of Yellows

You want to increase the brightness of the teeth just a little bit, which will make them brighter. To achieve that, drag the lightness slider to the right. The more to the right you go, the brighter the teeth will appeal.

Increase the lightness
Set Lightness

I suggest the settings around 10-20, or you try different ones as well and see which one is best for you.

Like in the previous step, where you decreased the saturation, you have to be careful not to overdo the lightness effect, or the teeth will look unnatural.

If you made a perfect selection of the teeth in step 2 of this tutorial and they are all looking beautiful and white, you can skip this step, but if you see that you haven’t made a perfect selection and there are some parts of the teeth that didn’t become white when you applied desaturation and lightness read along, you are going to find out how to correct it in a second.

Step 7: Fine Tune The Teeth Selection

If you’ve closed the selection too early or if you missed a part of the tooth while making a selection, the Hue/Saturation effect won’t be applied to that part, and it will remain yellowish.

image is missing the teeth whitening effect

On the other hand, if you’ve included some of the person’s skin in the selection as well, it became pale because you’ve decreased the yellow tone saturation, which besides the teeth, human skin contains as well.

It is more common to miss some parts of the teeth than selecting the skin as well. To correct the selection and apply the effect to the whole teeth evenly, you need to work on the Hue/Saturation layers mask.

You can find layers mask in the Layers panel, and it’s in this case linked to the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Because you were working on a relatively small portion of the image, almost the entire mask appears black, just a tiny part of it remained white.

Hue/Saturation mask
Hue/Saturation Mask

White mask color shows the selected elements while the black indicates the non-selected picture parts.

To access the Mask selection, click on it, and the choice will become outlined.

Choosing Hue/saturation mask
Choosing Hue/Saturation Mask

Once you’ve selected the mask, choose the Brush Tool from Toolbar or simply press the B key.

brush tool in the tool bar menu

If you‘ve missed a selection of the teeth, you need to work with the white foreground color, but if you’ve selected too much of your image, you need to work with the black foreground color.

setting the foreground color to white
White as the foreground color

Now zoom in a bit so you can target the teeth more precisely. Select the brush size that fits the teeth perfectly. Set the brush settings to: Opacity 100 and Flow 100.

opacity and flow set to 100
Brush settings

Now paint ower the tooth. Because of the adjustment layer applied to the image, the tooth will instantly become white.

Once you’re happy with the result, you can save the image, and you’re done!

Final Words

Now you know how to whiten teeth in 7 easy steps, with the help of the Hue/Saturation layer, desaturating yellow tones, and making final adjustments with the Layer Mask.

For more useful graphic design tips, be sure to check out the other interesting articles here on DesignyUp.


Photo credit: bruce mars from Pexels