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Need techniques for cleaning dirty appearance


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  • Need techniques for cleaning dirty appearance

    I'm working on fixing up this photo of my great grandfather's elementary school. I apologize for only using the link, size restrictions don't allow me to attach it. The photo seems to have a really dirty, dusty appearance. I didn't shrink the dimensions to make it easier to see what I mean.

    I need ideas on how to get rid of this without destroying too much of the detail. I've been using the healing brush but I feel like I'll be going at this photo until I'm 90 if I use that method.

    So I am looking for a way to get rid of this dirty, dusty, scratched appearance that will preserve a fair amount of the details for when I print a larger copy once its finished. I've got a few other photos that have this same kind of dirty appearance, all of them are about this same age. Any suggestions?

    I should probably mention I am using GIMP and not Photoshop. Thanks for your help and ideas.

  • #2
    Re: Need techniques for cleaning dirty appearance

    The picture have many ink stains i don't think you can find an automatic tool for cleaning the photo.
    Attached Files


    • #3
      Re: Need techniques for cleaning dirty appearance

      Yeah in the original photo there is a large triangle in blue ink around one of the boys in, I had noticed that some of those marks were inky-looking. Is there anyway to clear up the non-ink stains? That would make faxing the ink stains easier I would think,


      • #4
        Re: Need techniques for cleaning dirty appearance

        If you have the original image, with better resolution and without the jpg artifacts, you can do a good restoration using different techniques like per channel cleaning, working in color lab space etc.
        Sorry i don't know GIMP but I'm pretty sure do not exist an automatic stains cleaner.


        • #5
          Re: Need techniques for cleaning dirty appearance

          Originally posted by jared50613 View Post
          I should probably mention I am using GIMP and not Photoshop. Thanks for your help and ideas.
          If GIMP has a dust and Scratch filter that's the first place I'd start - and about the only automatic adjustment for this type of work. It's not perfect, but reduces a lot of the spots and scratches.

          See below for a quick PS D+S adjustment compared to the original.
          Attached Files


          • #6
            Re: Need techniques for cleaning dirty appearance

            This was a one minute fix in Gimp....obviously the more time spent could yield a more authentic look, if thats what you are after...


            • #7
              Re: Need techniques for cleaning dirty appearance

              Dirty, dusty tones (especially whites) are a common problem in old photos. I'm a relative newbie at restoration with just 2 months experience but this is generally my approach using Photoshop. You can work out what the equivalent steps are in GIMP.
              1. Make a duplicate layer and set the 'levels' to the black and white points in the photo. Maybe tweak the grey point just a bit to give darker or brighter mid-tones. Usually, this step shows any 'tone damage' much more clearly.
              2. If it's a a B&W image, add a B&W adjustment layer to minimize any colour stains. Check each colour channel and each B&W color filter to see which one shows the least damage. Use this one to work one.
              3. Duplicate the layer/channel and apply the 'dust and scratches' filter with settings that get rid of small spots and scratches but retain as much detail in faces/eyes as possible.
              4. Use the 'history brush' set to just before the 'dust and scratches' filter and paint over the fine details you want to keep sharp: eyes, mouths, nostrils, creases, edges, etc. All the dust and scratches in these small areas will of course re-appear.
              5. Zoom in and use the minimum transparency blur and/or very small 'spot healing' brush to reduce the dust/grain/scratches from around the (small) areas restored in 4.
              6. Zoom back out and see how the whole photo looks. Click the 'Dust and scratches' + history brush layer on and off to check for details that haven't been restored with the history brush. Restore these with the history brush.
              7. There may well still be 'dirty or muddy' areas of the photo left in the blacks, whites and mid-tones. If so, I usually start 'painting':
              A. Sometimes multiple masked 'curves' adjustment layer are all you need to balance 'dirty' tones. Some tones or colors in the photo need brightening. Others need darkening. Adding 'Curves' adjust layers and editing the masks to darken/brighten specific areas of the photo often goes a long way to clarifying the tones.
              B. If A doesn't do the trick, create masked layers for each of the main tones in the photo: White, Black, Dark Grey and Light Grey (or more if needed). Using the eye-dropper tool, select the grey value for each tone from the 'Dust and Scratches' layer and just paint over the relevant parts of the layer at 100% transparency with a large soft brush. No need to be precise, that comes late in the mask. It's likely the eye-dropper won't be 100% accurate so add a tied 'curves adjustment layer' to each tone layer either now or later. Then you can lighten or darken the tone layer to match the corresponding tones in the photo.
              C. Using the masks on the tone layers (and possibly fine-tuning the tone using the tied curves adjustment to brighten or darken the tone a bit) just 'paint in' the tone (white mask brush) with a soft brush transparency that matches the tone you want to make. So dirty/discolored white areas could be 'painted in' with the white mask at a brush transparency of maybe 60%-80% less discolored white ares could be 'painted in' with a 20% -40% brush transparency'. Brush transparencies of about 20%, 40%, 60& and 80% usually cover the range of discoloration/muddiness.
              D.For each tone layer, adjust the blending mode ('normal' is usually OK) and layer transparency. Just eyeball it. For example if you use a 'white' tone layer to paint over 'dirty' whites, you don't want to remove all the texture and shadows too. So a 'normal', 'overlay' or 'soft light' blending mode at perhaps 40%-80% transparency will give you 'cleaner whites' while retaining enough of the textures/lines/shadows.
              8. If there are still areas of the photo that should be the same tone/texture but aren't, the it;'s time to get patching, healing and cloning to even out the
              differences. For small differences in tone, the blur tool (at 20% - 100% transparency) is often enough to blend these.
              10. A B&W 'finish' tint (5%-15% transparency in 'soft light') in an additional color layer often helps to 'blend' the tones in a photo.

              Hope this helps,



              • #8
                Re: Need techniques for cleaning dirty appearance

                Gracious!! Too much for me to tackle.


                • #9
                  Re: Need techniques for cleaning dirty appearance

                  Here unfortunately can not do without painstaking manual work with Clone Stump Tool and Patch Tool. I usually convert photo to B&W: Alt+Shift+Strl+B. By adjusting the parameters already at this stage, you can reduce some spots and scratchs. And then Clone Stump Tool and Patch Tool all over the image. It certainly takes a long time but the result will be good. IMHO
                  Last edited by Antony_A; 11-13-2017, 12:55 AM.


                  • #10
                    Re: Need techniques for cleaning dirty appearance

                    To preface my comment, I do pro bono, high resolution, digital imagery for local artisans, collectors, and museums/historical societies that can not afford professional photography. When doing restoration work of photographs or artwork, a 50 MP digital camera is used to create a high resolution master file of the subject. In some cases a panorama or matrix panorama image is required. This master digital image is then retouched in a matrix pattern at full screen 100% zoom, or in difficult cases at 200%, in Photoshop. Start at a corner and Page Up or Page down to move vertically, and CMD/Page Up or CMD/Page Down to move left or right horizontally (Mac). The advantage is that the artifacts are significantly magnified and retouching using whatever tools can be done more easily, blend better, and in much greater detail. At lower magnifications, your retouching tools become more global and more difficult to control. Yes, it takes more time, but the end result is much smoother and acceptable. In practice, 8 to 10 hours of retouching may be required to finish a single master image file. Even small photographs composed full frame in the camera benefit from the high resolution technique.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by flowbox View Post
                      Re: Need techniques for cleaning dirty appearance

                      The picture have many ink stains i don't think you can find an automatic tool for cleaning the photo.
                      Last edited by sergio2263; 05-18-2018, 01:56 AM. Reason: This was done in less than a minute.


                      • #12
                        image_96242.jpg Here's an edit.


                        • #13
                          Cleaning dirt, debris and mold is very time consuming. Automatically converting to black and white to disguise the spots will result in you not knowing what needs to be cleaned, and filters end up blurring what looks to be a sharp and detailed photo. I always work under any color correction that can be toggled on and off and always on layers, never the original. Not sure what the Gimp equivalent is but in PS the spot healing brush works well for this. Start with the smaller spots and work up to the more extensive damage using short strokes. You may need to switch to the equivalent of the regular healing brush with a sampled area.


                          • #14
                            Well what I did was look at the blue channel and I used levels on it to increase the contrast. This is what I would use to do the restore. Later you can add sepia back in.