Restoring Old Photos: How To Restore Old Photos in Photoshop

Old photograph

If you’ve got an old photograph with dust specks, scratches and creases that you’d like to restore, here’s a technique you can use to bring it back to pristine condition using Photoshop Elements. I’m using Elements 9 but this technique should work with Elements 10 and on earlier Elements.

The photo I’m using  has dust specks, scratches and creases, it even has a bit missing in the top right corner, but, with a little patience and with the help of Photoshop Elements it will look  as good as the day it was taken.

If your old photo only has a few dust specks on it, then you can start from step 5 but, if like mine, it needs a bit more restoration work, then you’ll need to start at the beginning at step 1.

step 1

Start by opening your photo in the elements editor.

step 2

Now duplicate the background layer by dragging the thumbnail onto the create a new layer icon on the layers palette. this will create a background copy.

step 2

step 3

Next, select the clone stamp tool (or just press S), you’re only going to use this tool on the worst areas where there’re creases or bits missing, any tiny creases or dust specks will be dealt with later.


step 4

Now that you’ve selected the clone stamp tool, choose a medium soft brush from the drop down menu (top left in elements 9) then alter the size of the brush to suit by using the slider control. Then lower the opacity (pixels) a little to avoid any harsh lines (I used 42%)

step 4

step 5

Hold down the alt key and left click to select an area similar to the part of the photo that you want to restore, such as a crease (as in the image below). Release the alt key and and start clicking your mouse over the area that needs restoring.You’ll notice you have two cursors; one has a brush cursor where you’re painting and the other has a cross hair cursor over the area you’ve sampled, this lets you see the area your cloning from, and the area your cloning to.

step 5

step 6

Once you’ve dealt with the worst areas you can move to the next stage. As you can see from the image below, it’s starting to look a lot better already.

step 6

step 7

If you’re beginning from this step, you’ll need to duplicate the background layer as in step 2, if you’re continuing from step 6 go under the filter menu, under noise and choose dust and scratches

step 7

step 8

The dialog box appears, as in the image below.

step 8

step 9

Now drag both sliders all the way to the left, then drag the top slider to the right until any dustspecks and scratches are no longer visible. Don’t worry how blurry the photo looks at this stage, just make sure that the dust specks and scratches are all gone then click ok.

step 9

step 10

In the layers palette, hold the control key and click on the create a new layer icon. This will create a new blank layer beneath your current layer.

step 10

step 11

Click back on to the top layer and press control+G to group your blurred layer with the blank layer beneath it; this will hide the effect of the dust and scratches filter you applied earlier.

step 11

step 12

Now press the letter D, this will set your foreground colour to black. Then get the brush tool (or just press B), click on the brush thumbnail in the options bar, and choose a medium- sized, soft-edged brush.

In the layers palette, click on the middle , blank layer and change the layer blend mode pop-up menu from normal to darken. If  the dust and scatches on your photo are darker than the background, change the blend mode to lighten.

With the middle layer active, paint over the areas of your photo that have dust and scratches. As you paint, the dust will disapear because you’re revealing the blurred layer above. Remember, you can change the size of your brush for the more detailed areas of your photo.

step 12

Here’s what the photo looked like before..

before editing

..and here’s how the photo looks after editing.

after editing








  1. PRATEEK GUPTA January 11, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Tony Webber
    Thanks for sharing this with us really a great one.

    • Tony January 11, 2012 at 9:27 pm

      Thanks Prateek, glad you like it!

  2. Valérie January 17, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Very interresting tutorial. Thanks a lot !

    • Tony February 3, 2012 at 10:27 pm

      Thanks valerie.

  3. Vicky June 8, 2012 at 3:23 am

    Thank you for this, I downloaded a trial of Photoshop but I have the attention span of a gnat, this will help I have 5 pictures of my Mother In Law as a child to fix in the next few weeks!!, wish me luck

    • Tony June 18, 2012 at 9:52 am

      Thanks Vicky, good luck with your mother-in-law pics!

  4. Lynda December 8, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this tutorial! I am working on a picture of my friends mom (that she wants to give to her siblings for Christmas) that is 70+ years old and in pretty rough shape. This article has been a life saver and will help make some very happy people at Christmas!! Thank you again!

  5. cara December 9, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    a great help. would you allow me to use this photo for my photoshop class project? Is the photographer unknown?

  6. Tony December 13, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Hi Cara, you’re welcome to use the photo for your school project. The image is a school photo of my brother taken more years ago than he cares to remember! Good luck with the project!

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