Old Book Scan Question

by Mike
(Ashburn, VA)

Q: I have a family book cover from 1852 that I recently discovered as part of my genealogy research. I'd like to somehow filter this scanned image so that it brings out the written words from the background without painstakingly using something like a clone stamp tool to etch around the written words. I'm sure there is someone out there with a more creative way to do this than what I'm envisioning.

I am an Elements neophite, so take it easy on me. I have v6.


A: Thanks for the great question Mike.

I wish I could say "Just go up to the Seperate Text From Background under the Filter menu." Unfortunately no such filter exists. In fact this is one of the most challenging projects there are in Photoshop Elements, or even the full version of Photoshop.

Since the background of your document is so dark I would start with the Shadow/Highlight command. First duplicate your Background Layer and make sure your working on the duplicate layer.

Go under the Enhance menu and choose Adjust Lighting > Shadows/Highlights.

In the Dialog box that appears move the Lighten Shadows slider and the Midtone Contrast slider all the way to the right. Hit OK.

Then you need to continue teasing more contrast out of the scan. Try playing with the Levels sliders. Maybe the Brightness/Contrast command. Those are both found under the Enhance > Adjust Lighting where you went for Shadow/Highlight.

After you get as much contrast as you can get, then start your clean-up process. Besides the Clone Stamp tool you can try the Spot Healing brush to drag over some of the dark lines and click on the dark spots.

In addition to increasing contrast and cleaning up you might want to go under the Enhance menu to Adjust Color > Adjust Hue/Saturation to remove some of the yellowing. In that dialog window move the Saturation slider to the left to desaturate the color. Of course you might want to retain the color to keep the old feel to your document.

You have a very challenging task ahead. I wish I had an easy solution for you. Just go slow and you should be able to improve it quite a bit. I'm sure it will be a learning experience. Good luck!

Comments for Old Book Scan Question

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Comment on Old Book Scan
by: Yoyo

I have tried this a couple of times and found that I worked the image as far as I thought it would go and then saved it and left it be for awhile. I'd go back to the image and pray I could get a little more out of it and sure enough I could -- using all the techniques described in Rick's answer. So if at first you don't succeed.......

So a secondary question here....while doing all of the above, does it or does it not help to SAVE during certain portions of the process. Meaning, once the image is SAVED you are now sort of manipulating a different image than the one you started with, yes???

Comment on Old Book Scan
by: Rick

Thank you for your comment Yoyo. You make a very good point. Sometimes you just need to step away from it for awhile.

Also an excellent question about saving this type of file.

In fact I started to answer your question about saving altered photos and it got to be too long for this column so I decided to put it in the tips section. Watch for it in the next day or two.

Thanks again for sharing!

Comment on Old Book Scan
by: Rick

I now added instructions for saving Layered files. You can find it by clicking on the "Handy Tips" link in the Nav bar to the left. It's listed as "How To Save Layered Files"

Hopefully it answers Yoyo's question: "once the image is SAVED you are now sort of manipulating a different image than the one you started with, yes???"

I think the following part of the instructions addresses that question:

If I want to make additional changes to the photo I open my .psd file with all the Layers in it where I can add new Layers or alter the existing Layers, or delete any of the Layers. But remember the original Background Layer is there just how this photo was before I ever touched it, so if I want I can get rid of all the Layers I created and start over from the very beginning.

This can be a tough concept to grasp but is worth the effort to learn so that you can work non-destructively on your photos and have more flexibility in editing.

Feel free to add more comments on this!

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