Old Photo Restoration

Old photo restoration of your priceless family pictures can be one of the most rewarding and challenging activities you'll ever do with Paint Shop Pro and it can also be one of the most frustrating as well.

These are some the common problems you will have to deal with:

  • stains
  • scratches
  • dust specks
  • color casts
  • distracting backgrounds
  • poor composition
  • tears
  • folds
  • missing information
  • poor contrast

Old photo restoration with Paint Shop Pro (or with any program for that matter) can be a difficult and time consuming exercise but those old family pictures deserve your best effort, don't you think?

Paint Shop Pro has a nice suite of tools and adjustments that make cleaning up and restoring those priceless family pictures easier than it has ever been (in addition to the other editing techniques like channels and levels and curves).

Old Photo Restoration
The Tools

There are three Paint Shop Restore tools that will work wonders with pretty much any defect. You will find them on the tool bar and the keyboard shortcut is C.

The Clone Tool simply takes pixels from one place and puts them somewhere else to cover up a multitude of sins.  It is one of the most commonly used PSP tools for photo restoration and you can create outstanding results with the clone tool - or - really crummy results.  It is generally advisable to clone onto a new raster layer which preserves the original copy.

The Scratch Remover is amazing and can easily remove large scratches, small scratches and little specks.  It's quick and it's fun to use.  The Scratch Remover has to be used on the original picture or a duplicate of the original so make a duplicate and work there.

The Object Remover is really quite unique and with some messing around it will also produce great results.  You can use the Object Remover on a different layer and this is the preferred way of doing things.

Getting Started

When someone in your family presents you with one of these priceless (and damaged or faded) pictures because you know photo editing - just where the heck do you start with your very important old photo restoration project?

The first thing is to scan in the picture.  Before you start scanning make sure you do some initial clean up of the picture - at least try to wipe away dust from the print and the scanner bed.

If you are working with a negative and have a scanner that will scan negatives or slides make sure they are as clean as possible.  A little speck of dust on a negative becomes a big white blob you will have to eliminate later.

Even if the original is black and white always scan as if it is an RGB (color) picture.  This give you access to the different channels and you may find that one of them (either the Red or Green or Blue) is not as messy as the original so you can work with that one only.

If your scanner has the ability to change the image settings on the fly then turn them all off so you can make the decisions about the picture rather than some mathematical formula pre-programmed in the scanner.

The following picture is the resulting scan following these guidelines.  The original is black and white and it now has a color cast because it was scanned as RGB.

It has some problems, including:

  • scratches (bottom and right side)
  • fold (1/3 down the right edge)
  • more scratches (left knee and arms)
  • distracting white thing in the background close to her head)
  • distracting shadows in foreground
  • poor contrast
  • little dust marks all over

All of the Paint Shop restore techniques with this picture will be done on the best of the RGB channels and the others will be discarded, including the original.

To do this go to Image > Split Channel > Split to RGB.  When you computer finishes processing the image go to Window >  Tile Vertically and this is what you get ...

The best one to work with is a judgment call on your part so take your time to find the best one. With this Paint Shop restore project I've chosen the Red Channel - this one ...

Let's get started with the Paint Shop Restoration ...

Removing Scratches

The first step in the old photo restoration project is to remove any scratches.

Frankly I was amazed at how quickly the Paint Shop Pro Scratch Remover did its job. Previously I removed the scratches and all of that stuff in this photograph with Photoshop and it took many, many hours of tedious and time consuming cloning.

With the Scratch Remover the whole procedure took less than 10 minutes with very impressive results!

The following screen shots show two areas where the scratches were removed - the scratches were very obvious before the Scratch Remover was used.

Some hints when using the Scratch Remover ...

Use a Wacom tablet - it just makes your Paint Shop old photo restoration life much, much easier!

  1. Use short strokes to eliminate scratches - when I did the big scratch (from folding) in the trees I used about six short strokes to completely get rid of it and it blended perfectly.

  2. Experiment with different brush sizes.

  3. Make a duplicate layer of the original picture so you can easily see before and after.

  4. Zoom in and out to make sure the removals are seamless.

  5. Try using the Scratch Remover on small blemishes as well - it works really well and will decrease the need for endless and tedious cloning (which is much easier with a Wacom).

Have fun! 

Object Remover

The Object Remover may well be one of the more important tools in any old photo restoration because it will help eliminate all kinds of unwanted things from your image in the Paint Shop restore project.

These are the toolbar options when you select the Object Remover ...

This tool allows you to select and object in your image (either with the Freehand selection tool or the rectangular selection) and replace it with another area of the image that you choose.

First make a new blank Raster Layer (give it a nice name) and make sure that Use All Layers is checked.  Select the area you want to change with the little lasso tool and then click on the little rectangular box right next to it.  

When the box is selected a big bounding box appears in the middle of your image which you can resize and drag around (you will probably have to zoom out to find the edges of the box - for some strange reason Paint Shop makes this box enormous when you are working on a tiny little scratch).

Choose an area that has the brightness and texture you want and then click the little green checkmark.  If you're not ecstatic with the results just undo (Ctrk-Z) and move the box and try again or change the Opacity and/or Feathering.

Keep going until the 'replacement' meets your high standards and that may well include some cloning to get the texture and brightness just right.

In the picture I want to get rid of that really annoying white thing to the left of the little girls head - I have no idea what it is but it needs to be gone.

Here is the set up for the Object Remover and the result after some experimentation.

There are still some problems with this area of the picture but the major problem has been removed.  The texture and brightness of the area can be fixed with some careful cloning - to get this ...

This Paint Shop old photo restoration project is coming along nicely.  This image looks better but there are still some things that need fixing like the shadows in the bottom left and right as well as the shadow running up the middle of the picture.


The shadow areas are best attacked with the Clone Tool on a new Raster Layer.  The Clone Tool can be used to eliminate those distracting shadows in the bottom corners.

It's much easier, in this case, to simply crop out those areas.  You'll see this was a good choice for this old photo restoration project.

In this  example I am using an Intuos tablet and have the Brush Variance set to change Opacity with pressure.

I did clone out the shadows and then used the Smart Photo Fix (under the Enhance Photomenu) and messed about with the sliders.  

The goal was to open up the shadows just a bit, especially on the face.

As an alternative you could do some adjusting with either the Curves or the Levels adjustments - these are always useful.

Here's the end product of all of these adjustments - it does look a lot better!

The purists may complain that there is still a large expanse of white above the building in the top left.  For this picture the word on the building (Mackies) is important because the memories of the visit to the beach and eating at Mackies in the early 50's is what makes this picture so priceless in the family.

Here's a before and after view of the shame shot - a whole lot of small changes throughout the shot make a big difference in the end - it's a successful old photo restoration!

So now it's time for you to dig out those priceless old photos and do some serious old photo restoration with Paint Shop Pro.

Here's the video ...

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