How to Fix Pet Eye in Your Photos

Border Collie lying on sofa, portrait

Beate Zoellner/Getty Images

Most current photo-editing software offers special tools for quickly and easily removing red-eye from your photos. Often, however, these red-eye tools don't work on "pet eye": the glowing white, green, red, or yellow eye reflections common in photos of animals taken in low-light conditions using a camera flash. Because pet eye is not always red, the automatic red-eye tools sometimes don't work well — if at all.

This tutorial shows you a fairly easy way to fix the pet-eye problem simply by painting over the problem part of the eye in your photo-editing software; shown here is the procedure in Photoshop Elements, but you can use any software that supports layers. Some basic familiarity with your software's paintbrush and layer features is helpful.

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Try a Practice Image

'Pet Eye' Photo Caused by Using Flash

Copy the picture here to use for practice as you follow along.

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Set the Paintbrush Options

Setting the Paintbrush Options

Open the image. Then:

  1. Zoom in on the pet eye area.
  2. Create a new, empty layer in your document.
  3. Activate your software's paintbrush tool.
  4. Set the brush to a medium-soft edge and a size slightly larger than the problem pet-eye area.
  5. Set your paint (foreground) color to black.

You might need to use an elliptical brush shape when dealing with cat eyes.

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Paint Over the Discolored Pupil

Painting Over the Bad Pupil

Click on each eye to paint over the pet eye reflections. You might need to click a few times with the paintbrush to cover the entire problem area. At this point, the eye will look strange because there is no glint of light reflection in the eye.

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Hide the Painted Layer Temporarily

Hide the Painted Layer Temporarily

Temporarily hide the layer where you painted black over the eye in the last step. In Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, you can do this by clicking the eye icon next to the layer in the Layers palette. Other software should have a similar method for hiding a layer temporarily.

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Paint a New Glint in the Eye

Painting a New 'Glint' in the Eye

To make the eyes look natural, you need to replace the reflected points of light you painted over in the previous steps:

  1. Set the paintbrush to a very small (typically, three to five pixels), hard brush.
  2. Set the paint color to white.
  3. Create a new, empty layer above all other layers in your document.

With the painted layer hidden, you should be able to see the original photo. Make note of where the glints appear in the original photo and click once with the paintbrush directly over each eye glint in the original.

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The Finished Result (Dog)

The Finished Result (Dog Example)

Unhide the blank paint layer, and you should have a much better-looking pet eye.

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Dealing with Glint Problems

Dealing with Glint Problems

In some cases, the pet eye is so bad that you won't be able to find the original eye glints. You'll have to guess where they should be, based on the direction of the light and how other reflections appear in the photo. Just remember to keep both eye glints in relation to each other for both eyes.

If you find it doesn't look natural, just clear the layer, and keep trying. If you can't make a solid guess on the location of the glints, start with the centers of the pupils.

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The Finished Result (Cat)

The Finished Result (Cat Example)

This photo took a little more effort to get just right, but the basic technique is the same, and the results are a definite improvement.

This example required a modified brush shape and careful painting. The eraser tool cleaned up the black paint that went outside of the eye area onto the cat's fur. A slight amount of Gaussian blur on the black paint layer blended the pupil into the iris.