123. Remove Scratches
Before You Begin
122 About Removing Scratches, Specks, and Holes
125 Repair Minor Tears, Scratches, Spots, and Stains
This small photo has been around since the 1940s and has had plenty of opportunity to acquire dust spots, scratches, and other flaws. Such a picture is a good candidate for a progressive approach: Start with a tool such as the Dust & Scratches filter to remove thin, short scratches and scattered dust spots in a small area. Then, move up to the Healing Brush to remove longer and wider scratches.
Like any old photo, there's typically several different ways to go about repairing the damage. In this task, you'll learn a method that's best applied when you have several small scratches and dust spots in the same area. If your photo has spots but no scratches, you can still use the method described here, but if the spots are in an area that's fairly even in tone, you'll want to see 124 Remove Specks and Spots for an alternative method that might work better. If your photo has isolated spots, scratches in areas of detail, or small tears and stains, see 125 Repair Minor Tears, Scratches, Spots, and Stains.
Choose Dust & Scratches Filter
Open an image in the Editor in Standard Edit mode and save it in Photoshop (*.psd) format. Zoom in on an area of dust spotsit's easier to work with an enlarged view.
Using the Lasso tool, select an area that contains thin scratches or dust spots. Your selection will help contain the effect of the filter so that you don't lose important detail. Keep this area as small as possible while still including as many spots and scratches as you can. Choose Filter, Noise, Dust & Scratches. The Dust & Scratches dialog box appears.
If you enable the Preview check box in the Dust & Scratches dialog box, the effects of your current settings appear on the actual image. If necessary, repeat steps 1 and 2 to select another area with spots and scratches and remove them. Assuming that most of the spots and scratches in the image are grouped in smallish areas, you can use this method to remove the majority of the spots and scratches in a photo in just a few minutes.
Set Options and Click OK You control the level of correction with the Threshold setting. If Threshold is set to a low value, the spot or scratch must contrast a lot with neighboring pixels before it will be removed. As you raise the Threshold little by little, you'll remove more spots at the risk of possibly losing some detail. When you find the right balance between the settings, click OK to apply them.
The Dust & Scratches filter works by searching out pixels that contrast greatly with their neighbors and reducing this contrast, essentially removing the dust or scratch by camouflaging it. The Radius setting controls the area over which the filter searches for such differences. The larger the radius, the larger the area and the larger the spots the filter will correct. Ideally, you want to set the Radius to roughly the same size as the scratches or spots you're trying to remove.
Select the Healing Brush
When you have wider or longer scratches that seem to resist the Dust & Scratches filter, turn to the Healing Brush tool. Because the Healing Brush blends the cloned pixels with original pixels at the repair site, it preserves the original shading and texture of the picture while it overlays a repair. Thus, you should use the Healing Brush rather than the Clone Stamp whenever you want to repair scratches in a textured area, such as grass or wood. Select the Healing Brush from the Toolbox.
To remove the next set of spots, select them and then reapply the Dust & Scratches filter using the same settings. Unless these spots or scratches are really different in size, the original settings should work fine on this new selection. To reapply the last filter you used, with the exact same settings, press Ctrl+F, or choose that filter from the very top of the Filter list, where it will continue to appear until you use a different filter.
On the Options bar, open the Brush palette and adjust the brush Diameter to the size of the scratch you're trying to repair. I typically reduce the Roundness setting to flatten the brush tip and adjust the Angle to match the scratch.
Enable the Sampled option. Because the scratch is lighter than the cloned pixels will be, select Darken from the blend Mode list. Set any other options as desired.
With the Aligned option enabled, the relationship between the source point and the place where you begin cloning is maintained throughout the entire cloning procedure, regardless of how many times you stop and start. With Aligned disabled, pixels are always copied beginning at the original source point, and moving in the same direction you drag. If you begin a new stroke, the pixels are copied beginning at the original source.
Select a Source
Press Alt and click the image to establish the source for the repair. I typically click very near the scratch so that the cloned pixels will match the repair area closely.
Drag Over Scratch
Drag the brush over the scratch to remove it. As you move the brush, the source point (the crosshair) moves with it. Pixels are copied from the source and blended with existing pixels, completing the repair. Because you selected Darken blend mode, the cloned pixels replace the source pixels completely if they are darker than the scratch. Repeat steps 3 to 6 to repair any remaining scratches.
View the Result
After removing the scratches and small spots grouped in the same area, make any other changes you want, and save the PSD file. Then resave the file in JPEG or TIFF format, leaving your PSD image with its layers (if any) intact so that you can return at a later time and make different adjustments if you want.
After less than five minutes, I had easily removed the majority of the spots and faint scratches on this photo. There are a few larger spots that remain, and I'll use the Spot Healing Brush described in the next task to remove them.