/How to Restore Old Photos Using Photoshop
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How to Restore Old Photos Using Photoshop

Have you seen those old school photos people restore on the internet? They’re cool to see whenever one of them passes by your social media feed. Netizens can’t get enough of them!

Stories of social media strangers restoring old photos can put your faith back on humanity sometimes.

If you want to restore old photos, you need a lot of dedication. Even then, there’s no need to be a master graphic designer! We have a few tips up our sleeve to get your granny’s photos back to new.

So, keep reading, fire up your Photoshop, and pay attention. Here’s how you restore all those old photos.

Step 1: Adding the Pieces

Our first order of business is to get a digital copy of the damaged photo. Make sure the photo is as clear and high quality as possible. If it’s in pieces, take a picture of the pieces arranged as a whole.

It’s ideal to have a solid color background to reduce the work you need to do.

Step 2: Making Separate Layers

Once you’ve taken a photo of the pieces, create a duplicate copy for the editing. Use the lasso tool to set every part and copy as a separate layer. Hide the original layer.

If you’re not sure how layering works, there’s an entire tutorial dedicated to teaching layering online.

Step 3: Layer Masking

Add a layer mask to every piece of the photo to take care of the edges. We recommend using a 23px chalk brush for the mask. If you have a way of dealing with edges better, use it.

The goal here is to remove as much of the ripped paper or white border. This can make the old photo restoration more seamless.

Step 4: Creating Mask Borders

Start masking along the edges, following the general shape of the piece. Repeat the process for every part until you’ve done all the layers in repairing old photo.

Putting the Damaged Piece Together Step 1: Matching the Pieces

Putting the picture back together is one of the easier tasks. You need to be extra careful with this, making sure to match every line with each other in a logical manner.

Do not, under any circumstances, resize or distort the pieces to make them fit. You’ll be solving a small issue now and the end result will look artificial.

Putting the Damaged Piece Together Step 2: Combine the Sections with No Overlap

Position the parts of the damaged photo. Get every piece together with no overlaps. Your end-result when you retouch old photos like this is a complete image with cracks all over.

Putting the Damaged Piece Together Step 3: Making Backup Layers

Once you puzzle the entire image together, group the layers. Make a group and duplicate them.

Stash the groups away to make sure you have backups. There’s no need to enhance the old photo yet.

Putting the Damaged Piece Together Step 4: Merging

Once you finish making backups, merge the entire group. You will get a complete photo with creases and cracks all over.

Our next job is to remove the creases and damages during the old photo restoration.

Retouch Step 1: Clone Tool

Now it’s time to retouch old photos with a little bit of traditional Photoshop magic. To get rid of most creases and scratches, we would be using the clone tool to take care of the damaged photo.

Retouch Step 2: Touch Ups

Find undamaged sections near the area you are correcting. Use it as source and touch up the damage. You will start to see the grainy parts go away.

Take care, however, not to use a repetitive pattern. This can make your photo look artificial.

Retouch Step 3: Deep Detailing

Rinse and repeat the process with every crease, wrinkle or speckles. Go in deep detail to make the edits as clean as possible. This part of old photo restoration is the one that takes most of the time.

Retouch Step 4: Leaving Out Big Jobs

If you find yourself repairing old photo sections that are too damaged, it’s best to leave them for later. Severe damages like people’s facial features need different work.

If there are missing pieces you can fill up with the Clone tool, do that. Retouch old photos in detail. Zoom in and out and keeping the image as natural as possible.

Editing Step 1: Editing Missing Parts

If you are missing sizable chunks of the original photo, see if you can request a source photo. You would need to estimate and enhance old photo parts.

You would also want to make sure to reduce the chances of glare as much as you can. A proper light source position can help reduce any shimmer that may show on the paper.

Making an educated guess would take time, so do it as a last resort.

Editing Step 2: Deep Dive on Heavy Damages

If you need to restore heavy damage areas such as faces, opt to do a deep dive. When repairing old photo scratches and tears in human faces, here’s what to do.

Set your brush to extra small and repair the damaged photo pixel to pixel. This will help clean the entire area.

Don’t do this, however, if you run the risk of altering facial details when you retouch old photos.

Editing Step 3: Setting to Black and White

Convert the image to black and white. Recover the contrast and shades and keep it like so. If the client wants the original sepia color, tone it to sepia.

Editing Step 4: Using Color Range

Duplicate the layers and make a backup. Use the color range tool to remove bends that are shining on the photo. Apply a feather of around 5 pixels and use the Burn tool to match the colors in the image.

Use a soft brush and set the proper shadow type to match everything.

Editing Step 5: Cropping and Spot Healing

Crop the border to make a perfect rectangle. Use the spot healing tool to remove any specks on the photo. If any areas need you to detail, retouch old photos by sampling from nearby colors and enhance.

Continue to restore other sections where possible. Enhance old photo lines by painting over it.

Editing Step 6: Removing Noise

When you finish the detail work, run the Noise filter by going to Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise. Experiment through the details and make duplicate layers as a backup.

Editing Step 7: Final Fixes

Fix the final distortions and damages which need addressing, especially in human subjects. A good trick is to copy from a clean side of the body part, like lips. Flip it horizontally to make a mirror copy and transform it to its proper position.

Keep looking for smaller details like creases and wrinkles to remove. Being detail-oriented can help if you’re looking to make money online through Photoshop.

Restore Old Photos and Learn More Photoshop!

If you reached this part of the tutorial, congratulations! You restored a photo all by yourself. How does it feel?

Doing work by yourself to restore old photos is grueling, yet fulfilling at the same time. In this activity, you manipulated the Clone tool, Heal tool, and even made layer masks. We even used filters!

If you want to learn more about graphics design, photo manipulation, or you need some extra Photoshop tips, check out PSD Learning.

PSD Learning is our way of helping photographers, graphic designers, and enthusiasts learn something about photo editing. Get tips, tricks, and expert advice from us.

Take a look at our blog and see helpful content like the top 10 best photo editing software for photographers. There’s a lot of that for you, so check it out.