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Simple Stain Remover in Photoshop

You’re stumped, you’ve met your match, you don’t know what to do – have you ever felt like that when you see a photo, or a particular area on a photo? I’m sure you have! I know I have, and do, quite often. When you do feel this way, just stop and get ahead of the panic! There are a zillion ways to fix things in Photoshop, at least one way is bound to help; a combination of techniques even more likely! But before you get all inventive on the photo, combining every tool with every filter you know, start with the easiest, most obvious route. In a twist on Occam’s razor (Occam’s Photoshop?), sometimes the simplest solution is most likely the correct one.

By way of a very quick example, the rusty stain on the suit jacket, in the photo above, looks pretty daunting! Where, and how, to start? In this case, I started with the simplest methods, the Clone Stamp Tool, Healing Brush and Patch tools; and the Patch tool seemed to do the best job. Select small areas and move them to similar areas. This example has a lot of nice, clean areas to choose from, which makes it an ideal Patch tool candidate. When selecting an area on the jacket, for example, don’t hesitate to borrow from areas that are darker or lighter than your selected area, even if just to see what happens. You can always use keyboard shortcut Ctrl (PC) or Cmd(Mac)+Z to go back one step (Ctrl+Alt+Z (Cmd+Opt+Z on Mac) to go back more than one step) and get back to the original selection.

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When you’re done with your patching, you may find you have some remnants of the stain color, in this case a rusty red. It may look just fine, but if not you can always make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and lower the red (or whatever hue your stain happens to be) levels.

Since the overall photo had a bit of a red cast, the whole thing was desaturating, so I inverted the adjustment mask and painted the areas I wanted the red saturation lowered. In Photoshop CS4 and CS5, the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer will, of course, make its own mask. In previous versions, duplicate the patched layer (Ctrl or Cmd +J) to do the adjustment on. Once you go into Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation and lower the saturation level of the pertinent color, add a layer mask, invert the mask and paint to desaturate the color.

Even though the initial damage appeared quite intimidating, taking a minute to think things through and starting with the simplest tools garnered very positive results!

About Janine Smith (114 Articles)
Janine Smith is the owner of Landailyn Research and Restoration, a Fort Worth, Texas based company whose services include family history research and photo restoration. Janine honed her skills in restoring badly damaged photos as a volunteer with Operation Photo Rescue, a non-profit organization whose mission is to repair photographs damaged by unforeseen circumstances such as house fires and natural disasters. <br> Janine’s work is well-known in the world of genealogical and historical societies, museums, libraries, university archives, and non-profit organizations; appearing on the board of directors for several organizations and institutions. She is a sought-after lecturer on photo restoration and preservation to libraries, genealogical and historical societies. <br> In addition to being a Lynda.com author, Janine is the author of many articles on research and restoration appearing in newspapers and magazines, both on and offline. Janine's history and photo restoration columns appear regularly on TipSquirrel.com and in the popular Shades Of The Departed Digital Magazine. <br> Janine is the winner of the 2010 “Photoshop User Award” in the photo-restoration category.

1 Comment on Simple Stain Remover in Photoshop

  1. Donna Wendt // May 23, 2011 at 7:06 pm //

    Thanks very much for the “how to” instruction for photo restoration!

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