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Stained b&w photo-how to remove stains?

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Old 03-31-2004, 01:15 PM
Terhi's Avatar
Terhi Terhi is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Kuopio, Finland
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Question Stained b&w photo-how to remove stains?

Hello everyone,

I'm a newbie posting first time. I am at the very beginning of learning to use photoshop -so far I've only learned using the clone stamp and some colour adjustments (of course I have toyed with all the tools, but haven't needed them yet ). I have only very preliminary grasp on layers (thanks to Jakaleena for excellent tutorials), so please explain your solutions step by step...
Here's the actual problem: attached is an old photo of my grandparents and their children. As you can see, there are quite a lot of cracks and stains. I have lots of pictures like this! Cracks and scratches I can somehow deal with (with a lot of cloning, painting and perspiration), but is there any other way to get rid of the nasty stains, especially on granny's blouse and on one of the children's face? I scanned the picture in RGB, and to my not-pro eyes the stains seemed almost to disappear in the red channel. How can this be used? I'm using PS6.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 03-31-2004, 03:19 PM
Noelf Noelf is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 161
There is a good tutorial written by a guy from Adobe that deals with that exact issue

- Noel
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Old 03-31-2004, 03:26 PM
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DannyRaphael DannyRaphael is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Near Seattle, Washington, USA
Posts: 6,300
Hello, Terhi, and welcome. You've found the right place to get some good advice for this sort of thing.

Since you're new at Photoshop, I've got a couple suggestions:
* While I understand the appeal of jumping right in to projects like this, when you finish this one I'd strongly recommend checking out, where for $20/course you can get some excellent instructor-led training on PS basics, like layers and tools and masks and channels, etc. Having learned Photoshop piecemeal myself, I see (now) how much better off I would have been to have gotten some basic training and skills nailed early in the game. I recommend EA not only because the classes are excellent and very reasonably priced, but since you're interacting with other students, you get the benefit of their experiences and questions (and the instructor's responses), plus a little "pressure" to keep up with the assignments / do the class work -- things that are easy to ignore or procrastinate on when trying to learn Photoshop from books.

* Secondly, the absolute best book available on retouching and restoration is Photoshop Retouching and Restoration by Katrin Eismann. Check out the reviews at They are just stellar and for good reason. Note: There are two edtions of this book. You want the first one (2001) based on PS 6 = it will be less expensive than the 2003 version based on PS7 that explains tools you don't have in PS6. Check out or other used book sources for the best prices.

On your technical questions for this image, I'll let some of the other RetouchPRO regulars give you some advice on those. I've already used up my 5 minutes!

Again, welcome. Hope you continue to learn a lot and have gobs of fun doing it.

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Old 03-31-2004, 07:17 PM
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Flora Flora is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Milan, Italy
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Hello Terhi,

Welcome to RP!

Noel and Danny pointed you in the right direction ...

Originally Posted by Terhi
...the stains seemed almost to disappear in the red channel. How can this be used?
First...I strongly advice you follow Danny's Tip and get hold of a book (Katrin Eismann's is my Photoshop Bible as well .....)

When restoring a picture, if you find a 'good' Channel, you can use it to either correct (there are many ways to do this)...or replace the worst damaged Channel/Channels or, like for this picture, you could:
  • Highlight the Red Channel by clicking on it.
  • Press Ctrl+A to select All.
  • Press Ctrl+C to copy.
  • Go back to your Layers Palette.
  • Click on the Top Layer.
  • Press Ctrl+V to paste your copied Red Channel into a Layer.

I had a go at your picture which, in my opinion, beside scratches and stains, presented also an exposure problem making the faces of your relatives look rather 'flat' (lacking consistency)....

To bring back some consistency I used the "Method 1: CURVES ADJUSTMENT LAYER" described here and for removing the stains, here is what I did:
  • Desaturated the image.
  • Created a new empty Layer (Blending=Lighten) on top of the Background.
  • Selected a soft (fuzzy) Brush (Opacity 30-60%).
  • Keeping the Alt key pressed (the brush pointer turns into a Color Picker), I picked the 'good' colour closest to the stain in your Grandmother's arm.
  • Painted on the stain until it disappeared.
  • Added a bit of noise to the 'Lighten' Layer to blend it in with the rest of the arm.

Hope this can give you a starting point .....

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