125. Repair Minor Tears, Scratches, Spots, and Stains
Before You Begin
122 About Removing Scratches, Specks, and Holes
126 Repair Large Holes, Tears, and Missing Portions of a Photo
Even cute pictures from the past are vulnerable to damage. Sometimes the damage is minor but annoying, such as a thin crease, small tear, scratch, spot, or stain. As you learned in 123 Remove Scratches, you can use the Dust & Scratches filter to remove thin scratches and small specks in the same general area, in one quick step. You also learned how to use the Healing Brush to clone data and texture from one area of a photo, repairing wider scratches in the process. In 124 Remove Specks and Spots, you learned that you can use the Median filter to remove larger specks within a selected area and use the Spot Healing Brush to remove isolated, large specks.
Sometimes the damage to the image is too much for the Healing Brush to correct. Although the Healing Brush works in a manner similar to the Clone Stamp, it blends copied pixels with those in the area you're repairing, and sometimes, blending is not what you want. For example, if you're repairing a tear that's fairly white, the Healing Brush blends the copied pixels (taken from an intact part of the picture) with the whiteness of the tear, creating an almost ghostlike effect. The same thing happens if you use the Healing Brush to repair a large hole; the whiteness of the hole will interfere with the cover-up job you're trying to achieve. In this task, you'll learn how to use the Clone Stamp effectively to clone missing data back into a photo. In 126 Repair Large Holes, Tears, and Missing Portions of a Photo, you'll learn an alternative technique that's quick and effective at filling in missing information. In this task, you'll also learn how to use the Smudge tool to blend out small blemishes and the Sponge tool to swab off stains.
In some situations, you can use the Brush tool to daub over small blemishesif you can achieve an exact color match. Select the Brush tool on the Toolbox and press Alt; when the brush tip changes to an Eyedropper, use it to pick up the color you need from the image. Because the Brush delivers a solid bit of color, the patch often stands out from the blended pixels around it. The secret to using the Brush on a photo is to use it sparingly, with as small a tip as possible, and lower the Opacity setting.
Smudge Out Spots Click a bit away from your spot and drag with the Smudge tool toward the spot. This action picks up nearby colors and blends them over the spot's color. Repeat this step to blend out other spots. If there are light spots in dark areas, change the Mode setting to Darken and click to correct those areas. Change the Mode to Normal to correct less-noticeable spots, such as lighter spots on a light background or dark dust specks on a darker background.
Open an image in the Editor in Standard Edit mode and save it in Photoshop (*.psd) format. Select the Smudge tool from the Toolbox. In the Options bar, select a soft brush in a Size that will cover the spot you want to erase. Set other options as desired; because the first spot I wanted to correct was a dark spot on light-colored skin, I chose the Lighten blend Mode because it uses only pixels lighter than the spot to complete the repair.
Because the Smudge tool blends pixels into existing ones, I typically use a Strength setting at 100% to cover the spot completely. In cases where the spot is hardly there and I want to retain its color, I lower the Strength value.
Instead of smudging a color from the surrounding area, the Finger Painting option uses the current foreground color to smudge into the areas over which you drag. Although this is a fun option for playing around, it has limited use in photo repair because the color you'll want to use to cover up a spot is typically right next to the spot itself and so you can just smudge it over.
Choose the Clone Stamp
Select the Clone Stamp tool from the Toolbox. Select a soft brush tip and set the Size just a bit larger than the flaw you want to repair. Because tears and creases are lighter than surrounding pixels, select the Darken blend Mode. That way, if your brush tip is a bit larger than the crease or tear in some spots, you won't replace good pixels with cloned ones because only light pixels are replaced with this mode. Enable the Aligned option, and set Opacity to 100% to fully replace the tear.
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. That makes the Aligned option perfect for repairing a crease or large tearthe repair will match surrounding pixels perfectly. With Aligned disabled, pixels are always copied beginning at the original source point and moving in the same direction that you drag. If you begin a new stroke, the pixels are copied beginning at the original source point.
Because the Clone Stamp adjusts the source point as you drag, it allows for differences in color and tone as you drag over the tear or crease. The disadvantage is that the tool picks up and duplicates any flaws it encounters. This is why selecting your source point is important. As a rule, select the source as physically close to the flaw as you can. As the tear or crease changes direction, adjust the source point as well (by pressing Alt and clicking the image again) so that you can continue to match objects perfectly.
Select a Source
Press and hold the Alt key. Click in the image near the crease or tear to specify the source pointthe "good pixels" you want the tool to clone to fix the flaw.
Hide the Tear or Crease
Click at the beginning of the tear or crease and drag slowly down the crease. The pixels you sampled in step 3 are copied over the flaw as you drag. As you work, the source point (marked by a crosshair) moves with the brush tip.
Lighten or Darken Stain
Removing stains on color images can be tricky, but for grayscale images, it's fairly straightforward. The center of the stain will probably be lighter, especially if it's a water stain like the one shown here. To darken the pixels, select the Burn tool on the Toolbox. On the Options bar, adjust the Size of the tool to the width of the stain's interior. Set the Range to Highlights and the Exposure rate to a low value, such as 30%. This setting prevents you from darkening the pixels too quickly. Brush over the stain's interior, darkening the lightest pixels. To darken the midtones as well, change the Range setting to Midtones and brush over the interior again.
You can also use the Sponge tool to saturate pixels, which you might do in a color image that's faded over time. Use the Sponge tool after adjusting for any color shifts in the image, which also occurs as photographs get older. See 127 Restore Color and Tone to an Old Photograph.
If the stain has occurred on a color photograph, the simplest method is to clone over the stain with good data (if available). If not, isolate the stain by selecting it and copying it to a new layer. Then you can try several methods for changing its color to the color it should be. You can invert the layer colors (Filter, Adjustments, Invert) and blend the result with the image layer by changing the copy layer's blend mode to Color. Or you can colorize the layer (Enhance, Adjust Color, Hue/Saturation), enable the Colorize option, and adjust the Hue slider to change the color. Lower the Lightness value as well, because stains are darker than surrounding pixels.
If the interior of the stain is darker than the surrounding area, use the Dodge tool instead, because it lightens pixels. Set the Range to Shadows and then to Midtones to lighten the pixels in the center of the stain.
Blend Stain Edges
To hide the repair, use the Sponge tool to desaturate the pixels around the edge of the stain, where they are typically darker. This tool helps blend the edge of the stain with surrounding pixels. Change to the Sponge tool by clicking its icon on the Options bar. Select a soft brush tip and choose a Size that's slightly larger than the dark edge of the stain. Choose Desaturate from the Mode list. Lower the Flow to 50% or less, so that the tool will lower the pixels' saturation slowly and not overdo the repair. Brush the tool over the edge of the stain, desaturating the pixels.
View the Result
This photo of three elderly aunts braving a snow storm was apparently stored in someone's pocket. It has many creases, spots, specks, and a few water stains. It took a little while to repair the damage, but as you can see, the result is a great improvement.