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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ask The Retoucher #30 - Removing Lines from Microfilmed Newspaper With Gimp

Question: I have a photo from a newspaper article that was microfilmed. How do I take out the black lines and brighten up the background so I can see the subject better? I use Gimp. Thanks.

Answer: So let’s use Gimp (For all you Photoshop users, you can do the same thing. The names of the tools and commands differ slightly). First, I think you should clean up the lines. Then you can brighten the overall image.

1. To clean it up, let's use the Clone Tool:

2. Choose a soft-edged brush in the Brushes Palette:

3. Create a new layer.

4. In the “Create a New Layer” dialog box, you need to specify how the layer will handle the way the Clone Tool will repair the damage. Click the “Transparency” radio button.

Use this Clone Tool to repair some of the damage. If you’re not familiar with how it works, be sure to access the Help menu. However, since you will do your work on the new, blank layer, it will be easy to erase or modify your work independent of the actual image.

Eventually, you will probably need to rebuild some of the damaged areas using the Paintbrush Tool.

5. Before you start using the Paintbrush tool, make a new layer just like you did for the Clone Tool. Name it “Noise.” After you make the new layer, you should see three layers in your Layers Palette.

6. Next, you must have your Paintbrush tool set up to sample—or copy—the correct colors. It’s important to let it make an average reading of more than one pixel. Otherwise, the color will not blend as nicely. For that, you must choose the Color Picker Tool.

7. Make the following adjustments to the Color Picker Tool settings in the Toolbox as shown. I recommend you leave these settings alone after making the change. It’s a good setting for most of your work.

8. Sample the area of the photo as shown:

9. Choose the Paintbrush Tool in your Toolbox and adjust the Brush softness so the edges are not so hard (just like you did with the Clone Tool):

10. Start painting.

11. In order to make repair look realistic, it must match the grain of the photo. When you are satisfied that the area is covered, add noise. Access the Noise Filter in the Filters Menu.

12. Follow these settings in the Noise generator dialog box:

You’re almost there!

13. Next, it’s very important to blur the noise to make simulate the same grain of the photo. Use the same Filters Menu. Choose Blur=Gaussian Blur.

Now the grain matches better.

If you’re not happy with it, then go to Edit=Undo to the state before you added the noise. And try again. Adjust the settings accordingly.

If you notice the noise layer is a bit too dark or light, you will need to fix it using one of the many functions under the Colors menu. If you want to adjust the color, this is how you flatten the layers:

Once you flatten the layers, I suggest using Levels.  

The job is never over. Yet, this article must come to an end! Gimp, like Photoshop, is filled with fantastic features. So keep practicing. Keep sharing. This is how we learn new things. Below are a few books that might be of help regarding Gimp. I haven't read them. However, they have good reviews.

Beginning GIMP: From Novice to Professional, Second Edition  Free Software For Dummies  Gimp 2 for Photographers: Image Editing with Open Source Software  GIMP User Manual: GNU Image Manipulation Program : Photo Retouching, Image Composition and Image Authoring

Please send your questions and problem photos, your location—and genealogical society affiliation if appropriate—to Eric for future "Ask The Retoucher" columns. Visit Photo Grafix online for more information.

Eric runs Photo Grafix, a humble photo-retouching studio in Evanston, Illinois (USA), making photo illustrations and improving photos for hundreds of people and companies worldwide. If he doesn't know the answer, he won't rest until he finds it. Eric Basir is at your service: With each "Ask The Retoucher" article, he'll help you successfully tackle your digital photographic problems.

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