In part one of our restoration series, we show you how to bring faded, tatty and creased photos back to life and even add colour to black-and-white pictures
As noted, it’s also possible to obtain fantastic image-editing tools for no cost at all. The Gimp, for example, is extremely powerful.
However, it also a little unfriendly to use in parts so we recommend novices try Paint.net. This is also free, offers many advanced features but manages to keep the interface simple to understand.
There are also several extremely good free online image-editing programs, though these are usually better suited to fixing and adding effects to digital photos. Later, we will be using Paint.net to demonstrate how to restore prints, though the techniques and tools can be used in other image-editing programs.
Online image-editing tools
There are plenty of online-only photo-editing tools that can be used at no cost and without having to download and install anything on your PC. This is useful if you have limited storage space on your PC or if you don’t like cluttering it up with unnecessary software.
The other advantage is that these programs can be accessed wherever you happen to be. However, depending on the speed of the internet connection, they can be quite slow.
Examples include Aviary, Pixlr and Picnik. The online version of Adobe’s Photoshop Express application is one of the most powerful and is well suited to restoring photos, with its Autocorrect and Touchup tools.
Before you start
Preparation is a key element of the restoration process. Before scanning a photo, ensure it’s as flat as possible. If the edges are curling up or it’s bent in half, then flatten it out. Try leaving the flattened print under something heavy for a couple of days in advance.
Equally, however, don’t try to remove blemishes from your image by hand. Any dust particles or stains can be dealt with digitally later on and wiping the surface of the print could make matters worse.
It’s worth preparing the scanner too – a dusty or dirty flatbed could end up adding further imperfections to the image. Clean the glass part of the scanner – known as the platen – and the underside of the lid with a dry anti-static cloth.
For a thorough job, use a can of compressed air to blow dust from the corners. Don’t use water, as this can streak, and avoid household glass cleaner altogether, as the chemicals may damage the scanning surface.
The scanning process is just a case of placing the photo face down on the platen and using the image editor’s Import function to control the scanner’s driver. In Paint.net, for example, first ensure the scanner is connected and switched on.
Then click File, select Acquire and choose From Camera or Scanner. In the dialogue box that opens, double-click on the icon representing the scanner. A new box will open – this is software for controlling the scanner, and it will vary from device to device.
There will usually be a Preview button to perform a quick scan, to check that the photo is aligned correctly before the proper scan. There may also be a number of other options available here, to change the scan resolution and colour settings and so forth. Read the scanning tips box for help on tweaking these settings for the best results.
Once ready, click the Scan button and the photo will be digitised and opened in Paint.net. If the scanner’s software remains on screen at this point, click Close or the red cross in the top right corner of the window; or, if you have several images to repair, just repeat until they are all scanned and displayed in Paint.net.
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