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The main tool used to restore this photo was the rubber stamp tool in Photoshop 5.5. Even if you never want to tackle an image as bad as this, the rubber stamp is a tool you should learn to use. You may want to fix small areas with bad spots or remove powerline wires or other unsightly items from an otherwise nice photograph.

I scanned the image at 600 dpi. The higher the resolution you scan at, the more pixels you have to work with. If you scan at 72 dpi you will have very few pixels and the changes you make will be much more noticible. If you need some basic information on scanning click here.

Tool Bar Two tools you will use a lot are the hand tool and the zoom tool. You will constantly be zooming in and out.With a high resolution scan you will not see the full image on your screen
  • Double click the zoom tool and it will reduce your image to 100%.
  • Double click the hand tool and it will reduce your image to fit the screen.
Rubber Stamp Options

Open your photo and create a new blank layer above the original. Double click the rubber stamp tool and check the box that says all layers in the options palette. This will allow your changes to go to the new layer and your original will remain untouched.

Brushes Palette

You will need to change brush sizes often. If you don't see your brushes palette go to window/show brushes.

To begin zoom in on a damaged area. Hit your S key and the stamp tool will become active. What you want to do is copy or clone the good pixels over the damaged area.

Hold down the ALT key and click on the area you want to copy with your mouse. When you release the alt key you will see a round circle that indicates the size of brush you are using. Click your mouse on the damaged area and drag. You will see a crosshair appear where you did the ALT/CLICK. This indicates the area that is being copied.

You may want to click and drag or just click, move and click again. It takes some practice and experimenting to get good at this. You may want to constantly alt click and pick up new pixels to copy.

Brush Options

Double click on one of the brushes and the brush options palette will open. Experiment with these settings to find what works best for you.


I did one click and dragged the mouse in a straight line to demonstrate the difference in brush settings.

Hard Brush Cloning

Zoomed in at 400% this image shows what the result was using a brush hardness setting of 100. The edges are much too sharp to use on this area of the photo.


This image shows the result when using a brush hardness setting of 0. You will want a hardness setting somewhere in between. A setting of 0 will usually be too blurry.


Change your brush size often as you work on a bad area. This will help things blend together more evenly.

If you do too much damage the first time and want to start over, just throw out the top layer and make a new one.

To save time I traced around the image with the lasso tool and removed it from the bad background. It was much faster to create a new background than to repair the old.

You may want to make selections around some areas before you change them with the rubber stamp tool. For instance, when you are working on an area of the face that is close to the hairline. You don't want any of the face color to get in the hair. Select the area with the lasso or another tool before you use the rubber stamp. Only the area you have selected will be changed. Hit CTRL H if you want to hide your selection. Sometimes you will forget that you have done this and wonder why your tools aren't working in another area. I do this all the time, so now it is habit, if something isn't working hit CTRL D and make sure no selections are active.

Need more help on retouching? View the Restore Old Photos Tutorial from VTC. Go to Online Learning then select Graphics & Page Layout from the dropdown menu and scroll down to the Adobe Photoshop Special FX title. You need to register before you can gain access. The movies in the first 3 chapters are FREE!
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