Image Restoration Project (Photoshop)

Many of you know that in addition to photography, I teach Adobe Photoshop in our local community college. I had a friend inquire about restoring / preserving a deteriorating document that probably dates from the later part of the 19th century (post Civil War, but pre-1900).

As you can see from the image below, the original document is faded and heavily stained.  The edges of the paper are tattered, though fortunately the damage did not extend into the body of the document with resulting loss of actual text.

The task at hand was to attempt to minimize the staining, and restore the readability of the document.

I photographed the original using a pair of SB-800 speedlights and shoot thru umbrellas at about 45-degrees to the document. I bracketed exposures to give myself some options in post processing — evaluating for contrast, staining, etc.

Here’s the original, un-retouched image:

Materia Medica Index 2 (original)

I made some initial adjustments to the image in Adobe Lightroom, using Adobe Camera Raw controls to adjust contrast, blacks and clarity, and then opened it into Photoshop for additional work.

In Photoshop, I inserted a white layer below the image layer, and used the “Blend If…” function to reduce most of the staining, being careful not to go too far and reduce the visibility of the text.  For the remaining stains that “blend if…” didn’t resolve, I flattened the image and then used a combination of the patch tool and a soft edged brush with the background color for touch up.

After I had most of the stains and spots removed, I brought in a stock image of antique paper (part of my collection of backgrounds and textures) as a new layer under the cleaned text layer, and changed the layer blend mode to “multiply”.

And here’s a sampling of the result…enlarged to show the detail:

Materia Medica Repaired copy

Saved as a PSD in case I need to tweak the color before printing.  I’ll have it printed at Costco (inexpensive lab printing up to 20 x 30).

Share and Enjoy!

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