Reconstructing Torn or Cut Photos
While creases, cracks, and scratches often damage the photo’s surface, tears and cuts typically leave you with a clean edge, even if ragged. You can fix most tears with the Clone Stamp tool. Pull in undamaged material to bring the two edges of the tear together.
Photos that are more or less torn apart (either in half, into pieces, or partially torn and left dangling) are a bit more complicated. When repairing them, you should copy one section of the photo, paste it as a new layer, position it as if it were not torn, then use the Clone Stamp tool to stitch the two sides together.
Figure 5.21 shows a minor tear along one side of a photo. Damage like this is fairly easy to handle. Use the Clone Stamp tool to repair it like a small crease. Don’t turn up your nose at easy fixes. Appreciate them whenever you can, because you will also have your fair share of impossible problems.
Figure 5.21 Treat small tears like creases or bends.
Figure 5.22 shows a photo that has been nearly torn in half. Notice the edges of the tear. They are ragged, but the material is still there. In some ways, this makes repairing tears easier than large scratches. You just have to put the two edges together. To do that, use the Clone Stamp tool. As with other repairs in detailed areas, I brush with details like suspenders and folds in the shirt, not across them. Most of my strokes for this repair were essentially vertical. Some were from the top down, others were from the bottom up.
Figure 5.22 Treat larger tears like cracks or scratches.
Figure 5.23 is a more challenging repair. Rather than being partially torn, it has been torn completely in half and taped together. Photos like this require a bit more effort to get started. Once you position both sides, however, the repair is relatively straightforward.
Figure 5.23 select one area of a torn photo to move into the proper place.
Here’s a general outline of how to approach tears of this magnitude:
- Copy one side of the photo, as shown in Figure 5.23.
- Paste that as a new layer on top of the existing photo.
Position and rotate, if necessary, as shown in the first image of Figure 5.24.
Figure 5.24 Match details and position the top layer precisely, then blend.
This part feels like you’re working on a puzzle. Notice that the white border has torn edges that should obviously fit together. Use areas like this to help you position the upper layer as perfectly as possible. If necessary, reduce that layer’s opacity so that you can partially see the material underneath and be able to tell when details line up. Don’t worry about making the tear invisible at this point, however. You will still have to fix it, even if you position the layers well.
- Erase or mask out material on the top layer that extends too far over the bottom layer, as shown in the second image of Figure 5.24. You may not need to mask out much. Look for torn paper that covers the other side of the tear.
Finally, switch to the Clone Stamp, and on a new layer (above both photo layers), cover the tear with matching material from either side. Your goal is to erase it, as shown in the first image of Figure 5.25. The second image of Figure 5.25 shows a small portion of the completed repair.
Figure 5.25 Use the clone stamp to cover the remaining damage.
Figure 5.26 is a photo of my dad sitting in his 1955 Thunderbird. The photo was cut across the bottom in order to fit it in an album. This is a perfect photo to illustrate how you can use very simple techniques (copy and paste) to restore photos and make them look new. It’s far easier to copy and paste an undamaged side to create the bottom border than it is to try and re-create it using the Clone Stamp.
Figure 5.26 The bottom border and some photo area were cut off of this print.
Here’s how to approach repairs like this:
Enlarge the canvas, as shown in Figure 5.27, so that you can size and fit the border properly.
Figure 5.27 having a larger canvas gives you room to position copied and pasted elements.
- Select a border that isn’t missing.
- Copy and paste it as a new layer.
Rotate it to the proper orientation, then position it, as shown in Figure 5.28.
Figure 5.28 Line up the new bottom border.
As you can tell from the date, I used the top border of the photo. It’s the one side that has both corners. Cloning out the text was an easy thing to do at the end. What you can’t see is that I copied, pasted, and rotated the top border two other times and placed those copies along the sides so that I would know where all four good corners were supposed to be. That gave me all the information I needed to position the new bottom piece in place.
- Use the Eraser or mask out areas that should be hidden.
Use the Clone Stamp tool to blend the new piece with the other borders, as shown in Figure 5.29.
Figure 5.29 Clone over areas to blend new and old together.
To finish the repair, I chose to copy a square selection in the center of the photo and paste it as a new layer.
I then enlarged it using the Edit, Free Transform menu (see Figure 5.30) so that it fit the new border.
Figure 5.30 This photo is repaired and ready for more restoration work.