Photoshop is indisputably one of the best tools used by professionals and even amateurs for modifying or enhancing digital images. Besides, it can be instrumental in repairing or restoring photographs ruined by neglect, nature’s act and effects of age, etc. The fact is that even heavily damaged photographs can be brought back to grace through a strategic process of image restoration.

Check the step-by-step process to restore your old, damaged photos easily by yourself or if you need our assistance to restore the images, kindly send us an email. We are happy to help.

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cracked photo restoration

The typical photo restoration process begins with high-resolution scanning of the original image, and then the scanned digital image is imported into any of the photo editing software to fix the damaged areas of the image using photo editing techniques and filters.

How to restore old photos in Photoshop? A Quick Overview

Let start.

Open the image in the Photoshop.

how to repair old photos in photoshop

Damaged Old Picture

Picking up different pieces

Step 1

old damaged photos

In case of extremely messed up pictures, it may be almost torn into different pieces and such projects demand extensive skills for successful completion. Put together the pieces to the best of your abilities and scan it.

Step 2

Use the Lasso tool to select each piece and copy-paste them on separate layers. Hide the actual original image.

old photo restoration photoshop tutorial

Step 3

For all layers, a mask has to be created and using a sharp brush mask off the actual image’s edges. Though 23px Chalk Brush is recommended, it’s up to the preference of professionals or photo editing company doing the restoration work.

using chalk brush

Step 4

Before proceeding to masking, setup a layer underneath the one on which we will work and fill in a deep color. This is to assist visually regarding how and where to mask.

masking image

Step 5

Along edge of image, start masking and get rid of all things around it. This is very vital step for all those questing how to restore old photos.

Image masking process in old photo restoration

Step 6

Continue with the same process for all other pieces to get things in as much detail as possible. There is no need for any white border or ripped paper in the picture. This should be considered during the process.

organizing the images


Step 1

Putting puzzle together is the easiest way. Take enough time and make attempts to match edges of different pieces together. Don’t scale or distort the pieces for making it fit as it can be damaging for the authenticity of final output.

arranging the images in order

Step 2

Move, rotate and do everything possible to match to the best possible extent so that all pieces are brought together without the overlapping of content. It’s something very crucial.

adjusting the edges in photo restoration process

Step 3

After having all the section in proper place, create a group and create a duplicate of it for safe-keeping.

group duplicate layers

Step 4

After that, merge this group on the top; cover up the other one. Then proceed to the next photo restoration steps.

merge layers

Rips and cracks

Step 1

Now the actual photo restoration process starts. Get rid of all tears and scratches creatively using the Clone tool.

use clone tool

Step 2

Make use of clean sections for repairing the areas where it is damaged. Don’t create repetitive patterns as it can look unreal.

fixing damaged portion of image

Step 3

Treat the sections as separate items that need repair. Zoom in and change the size of the brush based on the need and comfort offered.

change brush size

Step 4

Eliminate tears and in this phase don’t proceed with the deeper details. Just work on the easily perceivable obvious damage.

eliminate tears

Step 5

Now work on the wrinkles and bends on the scanned photo. Reflections and shining should also be treated separately. Clone away the damages; this can take hours but it’s worth the time you invest.

reflection and shadows

Repairing important areas

Step 1

It’s in this phase that you work on the complicated sections skipped earlier. If any entity in the photograph is completely damaged, you may ask the client for any other picture of that particular entity. This is what normally the companies offering photo restoration services do.

working on complicated damaged portion

Step 2

Fixing human faces is a process that has to be done with extreme care. Set brush size as very small and go for pixel by pixel to clean the entire area. Minor details can still be left for upcoming phases.

correcting headshots

Bends and shadows

Step 1

Turn the image into black and white now. Recover the contrast and shades and then into convert it to sepia. Apply an adjustment black and white layer attached to the restoration layer.

convert the image into black and white

Step 2

Duplicate layers and hide originals for safe-keeping. Merge duplicate layers.

duplicate layers

Step 3

Use Color Range Tool with which selection of bends shining off from the paper at darker sections and returning environment lights can be done.

use color range tool

Step 4

After selection, set a Feather radius of 5 pixels can be applied.

feather radius value

Step 5

Burn Tool should be selected and make sure of needful setting in the top bar. Using a big and soft brush, burn until the areas match with the rest of shadow area.

use burn tool

Crop and heal

Step 1

Crop the image but try to retain the content to maximum possible level so that restoring old photos in Photoshop don’t make things worse by removing wanted content.

crop the image

Step 2

Get rid of unwanted spots using Spot Healing Brush tool. This tool may not be that handy in the earlier phases but at this point, it’s very effective.

remove unwanted spots

Step 3

Identify the spots that are a part of damage but don’t tamper the actual details; be careful.

identify spots

Step 4

Now paint the details if you don’t have any other choice. For that use brush tool with 1px brush size. Make use of details already available to judiciously carry out this process.

paint the damaged portion

Noise reduction

Step 1

Make use of Reduce Noise Tool for getting rid of minute specks and particles over the picture. If you are concerned on how to restore old photos in Photoshop effectively, this is one of the tools that you should master.

using reduce noise tool

Step 2

Make a replica of working layer. Then apply needed settings. Make sure not to overuse this tool so that only unwanted noise is eliminated.

duplicate the layer

Final detailing

Step 1

Use very small size of Spot Healing Tool to remove the dust and small specks that may still be there.

using spot healing tool

Step 2

Work on the human face to remove particles which stand out and show. Then check for any missing details carefully by zooming out and in.

remove particles in face

Step 3

Sometimes, issues may be found that demand you to use Brush Tool or Clone Tool again. If so, don’t hesitate and go for it.

use brush tool and clone tool incase of requirement

Following the above steps is just an overview of how to proceed. Steps to be taken can fluctuate slightly or severely based on the level of damage to the image.

damaged photo restoration final output

Countless techniques are adopted by a typical photo restoration company to work on damaged pictures. However, only those who have a proper plan and shrewd working methodology only succeed in delivering high-quality old photo restoration.

Frequently asked questions

Photo restoration is the process of reviving old photos that are damaged by water, time, or mold through the use of digital image editing tools so as to create enhanced digital image versions.

You cannot really define any particular photo editing software as the best photo restoration software. It all depends on the level of comfort that each user feels with the use of a particular program or the complexity of the task that needs to be addressed using specific features of a particular program. Some of the software to mention

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Luminar 4
  • PhotoWorks
  • Corel Paintshop Pro
  • Photoscape
  • Fotor

There are several free resources that would help you out with simple photo restoration tasks. However, the retouching effects that such free online tools will deliver may not do justice to the images and may actually fail to meet your expectations.

So if you are looking for professional outcomes, you should skip the idea of using a free online photo restoration tool and instead seek professional expertise by reputed companies that employ experienced photo editors who have strong expertise in handling diverse photo retouching projects of varying complexity levels and would do their best to keep up to their timeline commitment and costing.

Photoshop neural filter is used to restore old photos using AI technology.