It’s often impossible to remove all the dust from family photos, lenses, historic images or negatives before scanning or taking the picture. Luckily, Adobe Photoshop has the post-processing tools to clean any image. This photography tutorial will explore the use of the Clone Stamp Tool and its options to effectively remove dust and scratches from any image without decreasing its quality.
Curated historic photography on Photistoric.
Step 1: Load the Image
Load the file into Photoshop.
Step 2: Clone Stamp Tool
In the Tools Panel select the Clone Stamp Tool.
Step 3: Clone Stamp Tool Options
The settings for the Clone Stamp tool can be found in the upper left corner of the window in the Options Panel. Set the hardness to 0% and the size to a diameter that will just fit around the dust specs. Alternatively, the stamp size can be made bigger with the close bracket ] key and smaller with the open bracket [ key.
Step 4: Clone Tool Sampling
First, Identify areas of dust. To begin using the Clone Stamp Tool, sample a dust-free area by holding alt and left-clicking. Crosshairs will appear while holding alt. The Clone Stamp Tool works by duplicating a circular area and blurring the edges. When removing dust, the tool essentially just pastes a small part of the picture without the dust, over the area with the dust. For the best results, sample from a dust-free area very close to the area that needs to be repaired without overlapping it. You will want to match the tone and gradient if possible. You can continue to clone other dust specs from the same sample area, but it is recommended that you sample in different areas so that obvious visual repetition does not occur.
Step 6: Covering Hairs
For strings of dust or hair, sample above or below with the Clone Stamp Tool, then click and drag across the dust string.
Alternative Methods of Removing Dust
There are other methods of dust and scratch removal in Adobe Photoshop. Many of them apply a blanket filter that softens the image, and wipes away film grain and other details along with the dust and scratches. These filter methods can be further refined for minimal damage to the non-dusty areas, but the Clone Stamp Tool method outlined in this tutorial will ensure a localized treatment that maintains the integrity of the image.
Once the basics of the Clone Stamp tool are understood, removing dust from photographs is simple. Continue using the clone stamp tool to remove as much dust as desired. Use the same process for dirt, blemishes or other imperfections and impurities. This method can be time consuming, and exhaustively removing every speck can be nearly impossible. A little dust here and there, in the opinion of Photistoric, will not take away from the quality and emotion of an image.
For other dust removal methods or questions, please post on the Film & Negative topic of the Photistoric Forum. Requests and suggestions are encouraged for future tutorial topics and should be submitted to the Requests topic.