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Photo Restoration Tutorial - How To Fix Old Cracked Faded Damaged Photos In Photoshop
This is a short tutorial by Radosevic Alen from PSD Photoshop Magazine about restoring heavily damaged or very old photos. This tutorial will show you how to do simple things such as removing scratch marks, cloning, and blending missing parts of the damaged photo, and will also cover the entire process of the restoration of old photography. Some time ago, I was approached by my family to restore an old photograph of my deceased grandfather. It was small picture from an old passport and was extremely damaged: Parts of the face and head were missing. I scanned the image using the highest possible resolution I could on my desktop scanner and proceeded to fix the image and restore it to its former glory.
After you open your image in Photoshop, duplicate the background layer and name it something like Working Layer. This ensures that the original image is always there as a reference and will remain intact. This is one of the most basic things to learn in Photoshop when working with photos. Always work on a separate layer and keep the original image intact.
Okay, the next step is to desaturate this new layer. Hit [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[U] on your keyboard to remove the color from your photo. There are several ways to do this, but I found that for this photo, the desaturate option produced the best results.
The next thing I did was crop the parts of the photo I didn’t need. Depending on the photo you are trying to restore, you may need even more steps than the ones I’ve detailed or you won’t need some of them at all, so it will require some understanding of the given subject on your part.
Before after healing brush
Now that I have the image cropped to the size I need it, I proceed to remove all the small marks that appeared on the image over the time. I used the Healing Brush and Spot Healing Brush in this process. The Healing Brush is an amazing tool, absolutely priceless when it comes to photo restoration. This tool works by simulating the surrounding pixels of the image in the spot you’re trying to heal. It’s a great tool, though not a perfect one. While it works great on parts of the photo where you have a lot of similar surrounding texture and color data, as soon as you approach the edges with higher contrast, you’ll notice it will start blending with the midtones, so only use the Healing Brush away from the edges.
Healing Brush Tip
Use the Healing Brush with long strokes when you have a lot of similar surrounding texture, but use dotted strokes when approaching edges or trying to blend texture seamlessly.
After clone stamp
As you can see, the photo already looks much better, but I still have a large chunk missing from the forehead and hair. First, I’ll use the Clone Stamp on the forehead. I start by sampling large patches of existing skin and work toward smaller strokes by reducing the brush size and sampling different parts of the forehead. This is the most complicated and creative part of the photo restoration because we have no idea what this part of the head looked like before, so we have to recreate something that doesn’t exist.
Some basic knowledge of human anatomy can help with this, especially if you are restoring a face. I did my homework when it comes to anatomy, so I understand the basic shape of the face bones and muscles and had no trouble with restoring this part of the photo, though it does take some time and patience. Remember one thing: When it comes to restoring photos of people, and especially when it comes to restoring the face, no one is perfectly symmetrical, so don’t create symmetry because it will look strange. Try to take a photo of yourself and use Photoshop to copy half of your face to the opposite side and see how weird it will look. This lack of symmetry is one thing that makes us all unique and interesting.
The next step is to restore the missing hair part, and the easiest way to do it (at least in this example) is to copy the hair from the part of the photo where it already exists. I used the Polygonal Lasso Tool to select the hair, then I hit [Ctrl]+[C] to copy and [Ctrl]+[V] to paste the copied hair to a new layer.
Copy hair 1
Next, I hit [Ctrl]+[T] to enter Free Transform Mode and moved the Hair Layer to an adequate position, then transform it until it fits. Since I also copied some skin in the process, I used the Eraser Tool to erase the unecessary parts. I used a standard round soft brush in order to blend the hair to look seamless. Now that I have the entire head finished, I can move on to restoring the background.
You can either use the original background like I did, or change the background entirely. It all depends on what the personal preference or request is. I decided to keep the original background since I feel it fits nicely with the rest of the photo.
Next, I took a short break to look over the entire photo. I usually zoom out and flip the photo horizontally and vertically. This is a trick people use to get a fresh look at their work since our eyes get adjusted to what we’re look at and flipping the canvas can give us a fresh perspective of the image. I noticed that Grandpa has a different eye color and there was a spot on his cheek thatwas strangely lighter than the rest of hisskin so I decided to fix these small details.
I left one thing for the end: Remember that when it comes to any digital retouching of photos, always leave Sharpening for the end. Here, I used an Unsharpen Mask Filter with the following settings: Amount = 120, Radius = 3, Threshold = 2. Depending on the photo, different settings can be used as well as different sharpening techniques, but I found this one was enough for my photo.
Curves adjustment layer
OK, everything is fixed now and the photo has been successfully restored. My grandfather looks like he is supposed to, but the image is a little pale. I decided to increase the contrast by adding a Curves Adjustment Layer on top of my layer palette. This is a good trick to know since creating the adjustment layer will have the same effect of just applying the adjustment directly onto the photo, only this way, you can always change or delete the layer settings later.
Color balance adjustment layer
Since the original image had a Sepia tone to it, I decided to add another Adjustment Layer and use a Color Balance Adjustment Layer. I played with sliders for a while and, once I was satisfied with the result, decided the photo restoration had been finished successfully.
Before after finished
The restoration of this photograph took about one hour. I hope you found some of the info here useful. Good luck with your future photo restorations!
Written by Radosevic Alen. Sign up to the free PSD Photoshop Magazine Newsletter and get access to an amazing collection of Photoshop info.
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