How to remove brown age-spots and paper stains from old documents in Photoshop

We’re looking here a scan of a drawing that
originates from a notebook that was worked on back in 1880. Unfortunately the notebook
contains a lot of those age-related spots and that horrible browning that you see in
old paper. So let’s have a look at how we can use one
technique to try and minimise the horrible browning of that paper in our scanned result. First of all let’s start with the Background
and create from that Background layer a duplicate layer by pressing Command J on the Mac or
Control J on a Windows machine. We’ll now work not on the original Background
but we’ll work on that background copy
and we’ll name that Edit Copy so that we know that’s the one we’re working on. Select the particular layer that you want
to apply some adjustments to. We’re going to be using the Levels adjustments as a technique
that we can use to try and minimise the appearance of those dark spots. In the Adjustments panel, which you can make
appear by choosing Adjustments from the Window menu, click on the Levels icon. This will immediately add the adjustment layer
in your Layers panel, you will also see that the Properties panel opens up. This panel displays the levels adjustments
that you can make. We can change the contrast. We can also change the brightness, and you
can see that the brightness adjustment is probably something we’ll be working on to
try and get rid of those spots, but unfortunately a global brightness adjustment will cause
the pencil part of the drawing also to get a lot brighter, and that’s not something
that we want to do. Let’s reset this and have a look at another
technique we can use. As part of an Adjustment Layer we’re always given a Layer Mask. This
Layer Mask is currently empty and that means that whatever levels adjustment I apply will
apply to the entire image. So what I would like to do is to only isolate
those areas in the image that I want to apply this adjustment to and we can do that with
this mask. In the Properties panel, if we click on the Mask icon, next to the Levels
icon we can actually work on this mask. Currently it is just a blank mask, we’ve
got nothing, no areas selected within the image, but if we click on Color Range you’re
able to pick up different tonal ranges and isolate those colours and only apply any levels
adjustments that you want to apply to those isolated colours. I’m going to start by
grabbing that Eyedropper tool and clicking on some of the darker spots in this image. Using the Fuzziness slider I can increase
the amount of the browning and the brown spots that I’m applying this to. I can always redo this because I’m not actually
killing any pixels as I’m going through this. So let’s have a look. Click OK. Now
just to make sure that when I apply a levels adjustment the transition between areas that
are part of the mask that are masked away with the black colouring and that are not
masked with with the white colouring, I’m going to feather the edges of this mask a
little bit. It’s a little bit like feathering the edges of a selection, and really think
of a mask as a selection. Let’s jump back to the Levels and now see
what happens if we increase that brightness. Move the slider to the left and you can immediately
see how that is starting to remove some of those dark spots. If you go too far you will
also see that things will go a little bit crazy, so try and get the colour to blend
in with the surrounding colour. Might just make it a little bit lighter, and
I’m happy with that. But, I also want to select sort of the faded orange browny parts
and apply another levels adjustment. Before I start selecting that and before I
start creating another Levels Adjustment, we’ll select the Copy layer and the initial
levels adjustment layer and from the panel menu choose Merge Layers. What that will do, that will combine those
layers into a single layer. You can also choose to select those two layers and and turn that
into a Smart Object if you want to. That way you can drill back down into all those adjustments
that you’ve made. Let’s apply another Levels Adjustment and
use the same technique once more. Click on the Mask, click on Colour Range. Let’s go
for the more general brown area, bring that down, try not to get too much for the pencil
drawing in there. Click OK, maybe a smidgen of feathering, we can always switch that off
later on, go back to the levels and just increase that brightness a bit. Now you might see that there is a little bit
of discolouration in some areas of the image. You can always apply another levels adjustment
using the same technique, and then instead of working on the RGB channels combined image,
choose to work on individual colour channels and make adjustments to get rid of that little
discolouration in there. So there you have it. Let’s do one more
Merge Layers, and we can of see the before and after result. So we haven’t lost any
of the pencil drawing it is still there. So if you’ve got some old documents, enjoy
applying this particular technique to get rid of those age related spots and that browning
in the paper that you might experience.

8 Replies to “How to remove brown age-spots and paper stains from old documents in Photoshop”

  1. ADOBE PHOTOSHOP: How to remove brown age-spots and paper stains from old scanned documents. Another tutorial that shows a technique using Levels Adjustment layers with a Layer Mask based on Colour Range, to isolate the spots and browning and gradually remove them from the scan.

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