photoshop creative

Restore old photos with our ten top tips!

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
February 2, 2015

Bring your treasured memories back to life and ensure your photo restorations always run smoothly with these tips

1. Fix large areas

The Patch tool is fantastic for copying detail from one area of an image to another, and is perfect for repairing any backgrounds that have deteriorated. Simply select it from the Toolbar, draw around the area to fix and then click and drag that selection to the area you want to use as a replacement. It is quicker and more reliable than any other tool.

2. Clone Stamp and Spot Healing

The Patch tool is too fiddly for tiny areas, so use the Spot Healing Brush or Clone Stamp tool to take care of small imperfections. Because you can control brush size, you can see to small areas without worrying about picking up unwanted detail.

3. Clone for edges

Often the edges of photographs get damaged. If you need to repair them, or want to work anywhere near the edge of an obvious object (such as facial features), use the Clone Stamp to give you the accuracy you need.

4. Replace missing areas

If you have an image that has severe damage, with areas completely obliterated, use a simple copy-and-paste approach to get things started. Draw around an intact area with a Lasso or Marquee tool, copy and then paste. Use the Move tool to get it in place and then use the Transform tools (Edit>Transform) to adjust as needed.

5. Keep Opacity low

It’s good practice to keep the Opacity setting on the Clone tool nice and low so you can build up the effect rather than trying to get it right first time. This is especially true when it comes to undefined areas such as skin or fabric.

6. Fix noise at the end

You need as much detail as possible for the restoration so don’t fix any noise issues until the end. When you have finished all other edits, group your layers (Ctrl/Cmd+G) and then make a new layer from this group (Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+Alt/Opt+E). Label it Noise and then use Filter>Noise>Reduce Noise to remove it.

7. Many layers make it light work

Separate your task out onto different layers and, remember to name them! You can merge when it comes to the end but while the editing is happening, keep those layers in order.

8. Selective sharpening

Sharpen after all other edits, and obviously sharpen after fixing any noise (you don’t want sharp noise). ¬†Because old photo aren’t usally generous in detail, it’s often best to select an area to sharpen (such as the face or just the eyes). This way you can draw attention to the best areas.

9. Sharpen a little bit more

Printers tend to dull detail so if you want to print your photo, be a bit more generous with the sharpening than you might otherwise be.

10. Finish with Curves or Levels

A common problem with old photos is the tones, which are often flat. So make your final edit a trip to the Curves or Levels dialog. Use these to make your shadows robust and your highlights sing.

Are you skilled with Photoshop when it comes to touching up or restoring old pictures?

CareForSandy are a charity who aim to restore the damaged photos of hurricane victims. If you’d like to volunteer, visit their website and make someone’s day with your editing skills!