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Making Handwritten Text Readable

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  #1  
Old 01-25-2008, 07:38 AM
nspwis nspwis is offline
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Making Handwritten Text Readable

I thought this would be so easy, but I just can't figure it out. Attached is a page from a handwritten cookbook that is about one hundred years old. A friend has volunteered to transcribe the whole book, but she has had cataract surgery recently and needs to work from a printed copy, rather than looking at the pages on screen.
I need to make the handwriting as dark as possible and the background as light as possible. The cookbook has about 100 pages so I need a method that is as quick and easy as possible, as there is a backlog of other projects needing my time.
The original is about 7 in by 8 in -- I will probably print the transcription copies at around 110% to increase legibility.
If you come up with a solution, I would greatly appreciate step by step instructions as I am new to Photoshop and am learning by doing. I have Dan Margulis Photoshop book, Karin Eismann's Restoration and Retouching book, and Ctein's Digital Restoration book and have learned much from each of them -- if there is a particular section in any of these you could point me to for advice, that would also be appreciated.
Actually, this forum has been the most help in the learning process, which is why I am posting this.
I think part of my problem is I don't know what's possible -- maybe I'm expecting more than is realistic.
I'm interested in what someone else comes up with. Thanks much!
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File Type: jpg MGK-Cookbook-p-4-1.jpg (97.1 KB, 213 views)
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  #2  
Old 01-25-2008, 08:42 AM
KR1156 KR1156 is offline
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Re: Making Handwritten Text Readable

if you like i can try to explain my steps, they're not too hard, but you are new to Photoshop, so not sure if you'll follow.
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File Type: jpg book1.jpg (96.1 KB, 163 views)
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  #3  
Old 01-25-2008, 09:38 AM
Maroon Maroon is offline
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Re: Making Handwritten Text Readable

I'm no pro, but here's my try anyway. I set the calculations to use predominantly the red channel, did a levels correction, and added a lightening curve set on soft light. It wouldn't be too hard to fix the edges with another lightening layer, but you'd have to brush over it by hand unless all of the pages have pretty much the same dark areas. It would only take a second, but I figured it would add up over a hundred or so images.
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File Type: jpg cookbookrestore.jpg (97.0 KB, 133 views)

Last edited by Maroon; 01-25-2008 at 09:51 AM.
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Old 01-25-2008, 10:10 AM
nspwis nspwis is offline
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Re: Making Handwritten Text Readable

Thanks!
KR1156, I would like you to explain your steps -- I might be able to follow. I've been dabbling with Dan Margulis' techniques with channel mixing -- am still learning.
Maroon -- thanks for the thought on using a lightening layer -- I used "multiply" thinking it would make the script darker, which it did, but it also made the background darker so I didn't gain much. Would you mind explaining how you set the calculations to use predominently the red channel?
I converted the image to LAB and then worked with the L channel, but the background was still pretty grey and the script wasn't as distinct as I was hoping for.
I plan to convert the image to black and white before i print it out, which might make a difference to what can be done to it before making it b/w.
In this case, the final image isn't as important as the legibility issue. At some point, I'm hoping to make a digital flip book of all of the pages, and then they will need to be adjusted differently, but that's in the future. Right now, I just want to get a copy that is clean enough to transcribe.
I appreciate the time and advice. I'm learning a lot, as I expected!
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  #5  
Old 01-25-2008, 10:26 AM
KR1156 KR1156 is offline
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Re: Making Handwritten Text Readable

ok, in the version i did i wanted to darken the text only, and leave the rest of the image untouched.

1.first i sampled the color of the text with eye dropper tool...then go to color range and play with the slider until i picked up all of the text.
2. then went into quickmask mode (press "Q") now you have a channel to fine tune.
3. i think next step i selected all of my new channel, copy and pasted it in...nothing happens yet...next step after pasting is to "fade" paste i think you find it under "edit" ( i use all key commands), any way....choose "overlay" mode....this will bump the contrast up to help separate the text from background.
4. go to my paint brush, set it to "overlay" mode, and paint with black the areas i want to hide, and paint with white over the text, the areas i want to show. after a min of this you should have a nice mask of the text, with the horizontal rules as well....what you can do to get rid of those is switch your beush mode from overlay to normal, and just select a small brush size, and brush out those lines. (if you click on one end, hold down shift and click on the other end, it will draw a straight line over the horizontal lines, and mask them out perfectly.

after i got my mask, press "Q" again to switch out of quick mask mode, and now you have a selection of text only. add a curve adjustment layer, put it in multiply mode, and lower the opacity to your liking to control how dark the text shows up. (too dark and it gets a bit illegible.

sounds like a lot, but it's not too bad. only use this way if you want to boost the TEXT only. there are quicker ways to do it if you don't mind darkening everything else.
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  #6  
Old 01-25-2008, 10:34 AM
Maroon Maroon is offline
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Re: Making Handwritten Text Readable

Well, that's not entirely true. I experimented in Calculations, but I ended up basically duping the Red channel twice and adjusting the brightness to match the Green and Blue. It didn't do much for the text contrast, but it did help keep the edges manageable. Another thing that occured to me was that you could use a highpass sharpening layer set to allow a bit of a halo through. It would darken the text and lighten the surounding paper, but I'm not sure how easy it would be to automate that for bath processing. And yes, KR1156, please tell us your method. I'm dying to know how you made the paper so uniform.

EDIT: Always 5 minutes late... That's what I get for never refreshing.
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  #7  
Old 01-25-2008, 10:39 AM
KR1156 KR1156 is offline
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Re: Making Handwritten Text Readable

hey maroon, that;s basically what i did, just keep 1 thing in mind, when you're brushing your mask in overlay mode: do it carefully because the more passes you take at an edge, the more jagged your mask will become, and in this case, with such an extremely delicate edge (thin hand writing) you need to keep it clean so that the reader can actually make out the text (there's also no room to blur the edges either to smooth it out)....if the mask get's jagged, it will be very hard to red. we just want to give the handwriting a little boost, add some weight.....i may have over done it, who knows.
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  #8  
Old 01-27-2008, 08:07 AM
nspwis nspwis is offline
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Re: Making Handwritten Text Readable

I got as far as :
"next step i selected all of my new channel, copy and pasted it in"

If you don't mind explaining how you selected the channel and where and how you pasted it, I would appreciate it.

Thanks!
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  #9  
Old 01-27-2008, 10:40 AM
Craig Walters's Avatar
Craig Walters Craig Walters is offline
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Re: Making Handwritten Text Readable

i was playing around with this last night and there are quite a few ways to get where you want to go. i'm not posting a particular method here, for the moment, but you might look into the highlights/midtones/shadows tool, hue/sat adjustment layer (for desaturating), contrast/brightness adjustment layers and the possibility of inverting the image to a negative on a new layer and using some blend modes.

you might find that converting this to a black and white would work better. i'm not talking about making it a greyscale image, but rather just desaturating the thing.
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  #10  
Old 01-27-2008, 11:43 AM
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Frank Lopes Frank Lopes is offline
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Re: Making Handwritten Text Readable

One of the wonderful characteristics of Photoshop is the ability to accomplish the same thing via different routes.

I tried a variation of the workflows that you all have presented here.

I don't remember exactly all the steps, but it was something like this:

From the red channel created a new layer
Used the dodge and burning tools to enhance the paper and darken the ink
Duplicated the layer
Set the new layer to "multiply" (once)
Used the dodge and burning tools to enhance the paper and darken the ink
Duplicated the last layer one more time
Set the new layer to "multiply" (twice)
Used the dodge and burning tools to enhance the paper and darken the ink
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