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Monday, 2 May 2011

Cleaning up old pictures

I have been scanning in old photographs at quite a high resolution of 720 ppi.  It always amazes me how the scanner manages to pick up every scratch and tear and a picture that at a glance doesn't look bad, is often riddled with imperfections.

Here is a picture of an adorable little girl that I have cleaned up.  The colours that I applied to the picture were kept on separate layers so that I could change them if I wished.


I use 3 main tools in PE (Photoshop Elements) to clean up photographs, the spot healing and healing brush, the clone tool and a brush.  When cleaning the face, I often find that an ordinary brush works best.  It is  painstaking but if you use the colour picker to pick an adjacent colour and then brush the imperfections at lower opacities, it is easier to get a smoother transition.

It just takes a bit of practise (and patience) but here are some tips:
  • When getting rid of little spots, use the smallest possible size for the spot healer.
  • When cleaning up a background like the picture above a bigger spot healer is often better - it requires a bit of experimentation, really.
  • If you have a long scratch it is tempting to try and get rid of it with one sweep of the spot healer but often small clicks along the scratch will do a better job.
  • Get to know the short cuts especially when using a brush for correction.  For example, I press the i to get the eye dropper tool, select the colour I want and then press the b to get the brush again.  Often, you will need to go backwards and forwards between these tools to make enough corrections.

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