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This chapter is from the book

Cleaning Up a Picture, Step by Step

As you can see in Figure 21.13, this picture has been folded, ripped, faded, and generally beaten up. We'll go through this one step by step so that you can see exactly what happens at each stage. You can download this one from the Web site mentioned in the Introduction and follow along. It's called Friends.jpg.

Figure 21.13 This will take some work.(Photo courtesy of Susanna Pyatkovskaya.)

To Do: Restore a Badly Damaged Photo

To make this picture, or any other, look like new:

  1. Crop the image to remove the border and any unnecessary parts of the image. (Anything you remove doesn't have to be retouched.) Select the Crop Tool from the toolbox. Drag it across the picture, holding down the mouse button. Use the handles on the cropping outline to fine-tune the selection, and then double-click inside the window to crop the image.

  2. Set the mode to Grayscale (Image→Mode→Grayscale) to remove the colored stains.

  3. Open the Histogram window (Image→Histogram). Look at the histogram to see what needs to be done to equalize the contrast (see Figure 21.14). In this case, both the white and dark points need to be reset. To make these changes, we'll need to adjust the levels.

  4. Figure 21.14 The histogram shows a lot of middle points and not many very light or dark ones.

  5. Open the Levels window (Image→Adjust→Levels) and adjust the levels by dragging the dark point to the right until it's under the beginning of the dark peak of the histogram. Drag the white point to the left until it's under the beginning of the white peak. Figure 21.15 shows our adjustments.

  6. Figure 21.15 Adjusting the levels improves the contrast.

  7. Now we'll try the Dust & Scratches filter (Filters→Noise→Dust & Scratches). In this case, it seems that the harm it does outweighs the improvement. In removing the dust, it removes too much detail, even at a low setting. (See Figure 21.16 to see the filter applied.) Click OK to apply the filter or Cancel if you don't want to use it.

  8. Figure 21.16 Removing dust can also remove detail.

  9. Because the Dust & Scratches filter didn't work, we'll have to remove the dust and scratches by hand. Let's use the Healing Brush to cover them, starting with the background because it's a good place to practice with this tool. Select the Healing Brush and open the Brushes palette. Choose a soft-edged brush. Choose Source: Sampled and non-aligned, pick the dark tone adjacent to the scratch, and start stamping it out. Remember to set a spot to use as a source, by pressing Option (Mac) or Alt (Windows) while you click the mouse on the spot you want to copy. Figure 21.17 shows the partially treated photo. Remember to change your source selection as the areas the damage runs through change value.

  10. Figure 21.17 Obviously, I am working left to right.

  11. The best way to remove the scratches across the faces is to use the Brush Tool and repaint each face, rather than trying to stamp them. To make the task easier, enlarge the picture to at least 200%. Click the Zoom Tool at the bottom of the toolbox to enlarge the picture.

  12. Select the Eyedropper Tool and click the closest gray adjacent to the scratch. Choose a small brush and paint over the scratches, changing shades of gray with the Eyedropper as needed. Figure 21.18 shows before and after views of this step.

  13. At the same time, you can use the Smudge Tool to remove any light spots, or to blend small gaps in the image.

  14. Figure 21.18 Be careful not to apply paint too evenly.

  15. Next apply the Dodge and Burn Tools as needed to bring out details. Dodging lightens the image, and burning darkens it. Sponging increases or decreases the saturation of colors. Select the Dodge Tool and set its exposure to 25% so that the effect will be gradual. Dodge the dark shadows out of the girls' eyes. Figure 21.19 shows our progress to this point.

  16. Figure 21.19 It's looking better.

  17. As you can see, I've saved the worst for last. The girl on the left has had her eye pretty much destroyed. Repainting would be difficult because there's nothing to go by. Fortunately, one of her sisters has an eye that should match fairly well. I can copy it, paste it in, and rotate it or scale it as needed. See a close-up in Figure 21.20, and the final results in Figure 21.21.

  18. Figure 21.20 I've borrowed an eye from the girl on the far right, rotated it to be in line with the other eye, and scaled it down to fit.

    Figure 21.21 Maybe not as good as new, but darned close.


When you're applying filters such as Dust & Scratches, you can quickly toggle the filter on and off by clicking in the preview area. When the mouse button's down, the filter is off. This lets you judge the effect.

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