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Photoshop Elements Tutorials

Extract Object
Color Change
Glass Objects
Web Ads
Restore Photo
High Light Portrait Effect
Pencil Sketch
Torn Edge
Line Pattern
Cookie Cutter


Look for similar tool icons in your program:

  Polygonal Lasso

  Brush Tools


  Healing Brushes

  Crop Tool


Photoshop Elements 3 Tutorial
Restore Photo

This is a damaged photo that was carried in a wallet for a couple of decades because it was much beloved. You probably will never be asked to restore a photo with this much damage in your lifetime. This is not the only way to restore a photo, it's just the way that I approached the project. I'm going to Adobe® Photoshop Elements 3® to show you just how powerful this program's tools are but they can be duplicated to a degree in other photo editing programs. And I only had about 10 hours to devote to this project.

My goal was to get a reasonable likeness out of it before it completely falls apart and is lost forever. Also, I wanted to be able to print a fairly clear image in an 8 x 10 size and put old glory in the background on a color transparency layer in a sepia toned finished portrait. The original photo is only about 1-1/2 x 1=3/4 inch in size.

A background in portrait art is a plus on this project, since some very important parts of the main facial features are completely missing from it and will have to be painted in. Be prepared to put in a lot of time on a project like this.

1  First, I scanned the image in at the highest setting my scanner could go which is 1800 ppi, at 400 percent. I immediately saved it as a .psd untouched and backed it up to cd. The original scan was over 100 mb. I did not flatten my layers as I worked so I could have a visual record of the steps I took every few hours for each phase, creating a fresh duplicate layer to work on so I could go back if I messed up horribly without losing hours of work. I also used the undo feature (ctrl + z) a lot.

damaged photo


2  I duplicated the layer, enlarged the photo using zoom and selected the healing brush tool in 'replace' mode. Then started selecting good areas of the background to completely replace the color in most the missing areas. The 'normal' mode of the healing brush will merge the pixels with the missing white areas without completely coloring it in. We'll do a lot of that later to smooth it out.

Changing the size of the brush as needed, I worked on one small area at a time, constantly picking up color and laying it down (keep your left finger on the 'alt' key) concentrating around the head area, counting heavy on the flag layer to cover a lot of background imperfections. I also filled in some of the missing areas on the subject. Looking back, I could have saved a lot of time if I had just cut out the background and replaced it but somewhere along the line I decided to give it a 'painterly' background look showing through the flag, imitating clouds maybe??? It seemed like a better choice to me.           

photoshop elements photo restoration

3  I duplicated the working layer again and began work on the new layer, finishing filling in the remaining white areas and then painting in some shadows trying to reform the missing features. The ear and nose looked fair without a lot of work but I spent a lot of time on trying to get the eye to look right. At this stage, it looks pretty messed up. I also spent a fair amount of time on the uniform scratches and discolored areas of it and I decided to take the background color all the way out to the edges getting rid of the black border.

photo restoration technique


4  I duplicated the last layer and using the Polygonal Lasso Tool, selected the edges of the subject, inverted my selection (Ctrl+Shift+I) then hit the delete key to remove the background from the layer. Selecting the layer below it, I inserted a new layer for the flag graphic.

restore damaged photo technique

5  The flag graphic is inserted between the cutout layer and the top background layer with a transparency of about 50 percent using the Opacity slider from the layers palette. The overall tone of the photo needs adjusting. I'm ready to flatten the layers (Layer - flatten image) then resize it for inkjet printing (Image - resize - image size) adjusting the resolution to 300 pixels/inch.

add layer photo restore

Using (Enhance - adjust color - color variations) selection, the photo was lightened, color was removed, then readjusted and the contrast was kicked up a notch (Enhance - adjust lighting - brightness/contrast).  I cropped the photo changing the document size width and height to 8 x 10 inches. Below shows before and after shots.





Lastly, the restoration is ready to print. I had to adjust the tone of the finished work slightly to get the results I wanted in the print.

Is it perfect? No it's not, I don't do photo restoration for a living, but I'm pleased with the overall results. Being an artist means I'm hesitant to call it done if I think I can improve it given a little more time. Could it use a few more hours of work? Definitely, but the owner of the photo was totally impressed and delighted with the results and not only will carry the new wallet size photo in his wallet laminated, but now has an 8 x 10 proudly displayed on his mantle.

The print shows much sharper detail than it displays on the web as a compressed .jpg. Enlarged photo detail





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