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Restoring and Tinting a Badly Faded Photo for Advanced Photoshop Users

by Carole Harden

In this tutorial, I will take you on a step by step guide through the restoration process I've used to restore a faded family photo. I will be using various blending modes, the burn and dodge tool, smudge tool, and quick mask tool. If you're not familiar with these, you can find all the information you need on how to use them in the Adobe Help Center index.
Now, let's begin!

I have here a badly faded photo with much of the original detail and color gone.

(Note: Since I don't like to make changes to my original photos, the first thing I've done is to open the image I want to work with and rename it and save it as a new file). To begin with, I've duplicated my photo and set the blend mode on the new layer to multiply at 100%.

I'd still like a little more detail in the dress, so I'm going to duplicate and multiply again. Now the dress looks better, but the face and several other areas are a bit too dark.

Using the eraser tool on the top layer, I've removed several areas that I'd like to keep a little lighter.  Here is the top layer, I've made the layers underneath invisible so you can clearly see the areas I've erased.

And this is what it looks like when all three layers are visible again.  At this point I will merge the three layers into one.

Now I need to remove the yellow tint from the photo. The easiest way to do this is by using the Hue and Saturation menu (Ctrl+U). I've set the saturation slider bar all the way to the left to remove all the color from the image.

My next step is to use the burn tool very lightly on a few of the outer edges of the dress to gain just a bit more detail and separation from the background.

Now I'm going to extract the baby from the background using the Quick Mask tool. This will not only allow me to to be able to tint the photo easier, but also to replace the plain white backdrop with a pretty one later on. Here the baby is completely masked. (note:  I personally find it easier to mask the object and then select inverse (shift+Ctrl+I) and then cut (Ctrl+X) to remove the background area).

I've added a new layer directly underneath my extracted image and filled it with white using the paint bucket tool. I'll come back later and fill this in with color,  in the meantime I have a nice clean image to work with.

The eyes are a little too dark, so I've used the dodge tool to carefully lighten the irises. Make sure to use a light touch, and follow the lines that naturally radiate out from the center to the outer edge.

Now, on to the hair. I've set the smudge tool to 90%, and using a small round brush (between 6 and 8 pixels) I've pulled a few wispy hairs to replace the detail that was lost when I extracted the image.

One final thing I need to take care of before I move on to tinting, is to lighten the dark shadow under the arm. To do this I've gone over the area lightly with the dodge tool using a soft brush and the range set to shadows with the exposure at 10%.

Now for the fun part, the tinting!
My preferred method is to add a separate layer for each color that I use. This makes it much easier to control the amount of color in any given area. I normally set the blending mode to overlay, but occaisionally will use multiply or linear burn, depending on the effect I'm trying to acheive. Since my image is extracted, I will clip each layer to it, eliminating the need to worry about color bleeding into the background area.
I want to start with the skin areas, so using a soft peach color and a large round brush (leaving shape dynamics unchecked), I've colored in all of the skin areas making sure to tint the areas of skin showing underneath the lace. hint: I found it much quicker and easier to use a larger brush and then go back and erase the areas covering the lace than to try and color around them using a tiny brush.

Here, using a new separate layer for each,  I've tinted the eyes, hair, and added some rosy cheeks.The cheeks are over colored a bit because I'm trying to replicate a hant-tinted look for my photo.

Several more layers have been added as needed to warm up the dress and shoes with a light wash of amber, and color in the flower and ribbon. At this point I'll group the extracted image and all of the layers clipped to it into a Smart Object. This will clear up my layers palette while still allowing me to go back later and make changes if I need to.

Now that the tinting is finished it's time to create a new backdrop for my photo. I've added a new layer between the solid white background and my extracted image. Using a large, soft round round brush (around 500 pixels) set to 15% opacity and a medium gray color I've swirled and swooshed the brush around until I've created a soft background for my photo. You may have to play around with this for a bit to get the particular effect that you like.

Using the same method I did to tint the photo, I've added a new layer set to overlay directly above my background and tinted it a pretty peach color. I'll leave the two layers separate, that way I can go back later and change the background color if I want.

I've created a "blanket" for the baby to sit on by adding a new layer between the tinted background and the extracted image. Using a large round brush and  an off-white color I've painted in a solid area across the bottom portion of the new  layer.  Then I added some subtle shading using the burn tool to create a few shadows under the baby and the illusion of a soft cloth.

One last thing to do. Since I don't like the look of the harsh white opaque areas around the edge of the baby's dress i want to recreate the look of the sheer fabric. I accoplish this by erasing just a bit of the fabric inside the sleeves and around the edges to allow the background to peek through a little.

Here is the original photo side-by-side with the retouched photo.

And here is the finished photo in a completed layout.

I hope you'll be inspired by this project and try some of these techniques on your own photos.

© 2012 Carole Harden

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