Remove dust and smudges from a scanned image with Photoshop Elements

Below is a scanned slide of a baby about 8 months old. You may not see it in the thumbnail, but there is a lot of dust and smudges in the image. We’ll show you a quick way to remove dust in Photoshop Elements without cutting out too much detail and endlessly clicking every dot with the Spot Heal tool. This technique should also work in Photoshop.

  1. Start image
  2. Start with a harvest
  3. Remove the largest stains with the Spot Healing Tool
  4. Duplicate the background layer
  5. Apply Dust & Scratch filter
  6. Change the Blending Mode to Lighter
  7. Clear the Dust Off layer to bring back detail in areas
  8. Repair any remaining spots with the Spot Healing tool.
  9. sharpen
  10. Apply level adjustment

Start image

This is the original image for your reference.

Start with a harvest

One of the quickest ways to reduce the amount of correction work that must be done on an image is with simple cropping. So make this your first step. We’ll use the rule of thirds to crop this image so that the focus (the child’s face) is close to one of the imaginary rules for the intersection of thirds.

Remove the largest stains with the Spot Healing Tool

Then zoom in to 100% to see the actual pixels. The fastest way to increase to 100% is Alt+Ctrl+0 or double click the tool zoom depending on whether your hand is on the keyboard or the mouse.

Mac Users: For this tutorial, replace the Alt key with Option and the Ctrl key order

Choose a resource spot treatment and click on the largest spots in the background, as well as any spots on the child’s body. When you zoom in, you can move the image as you work, click room to temporarily switch to the tool hand without removing the mouse hands.

If the spot healing tool doesn’t seem to work with a defect, click Ctrl + Z to undo it and try it out with a smaller or larger brush. We find that if the area around the defect is the same color, a larger brush will suffice. (Example A: A stain on the wall behind a child’s head.) But if the stain covers an area of ​​color variation or texture, you want your brush to barely cover the defect. (Example B: A line on the child’s shoulder overlapping the folds of the clothing.)

Duplicate the background layer

After you heal large spots, drag background layer to the new layer icon to duplicate it. Rename the background layer of the copy “Dust Removal” by double clicking on the layer name.

Apply Dust & Scratch filter

If the Dust Removal layer is active, go to the section Filter Noise Dust and Scratches † The settings you use depend on the resolution of your image. You want the radius to be large enough to remove all the dust. The threshold can be raised to avoid losing so much detail. The settings shown here work well for this image.

You will still notice a significant loss of detail. Don’t worry about it – we’ll get to it in the next steps.

Click Okay to configure the settings correctly.

Change the Blending Mode to Lighter

In the palette layers change the blend mode of the dust removal layer to brighten up † If you look closely, you can see how much detail is returned to the image. But the dark dust spots remain hidden because the layer affects only the dark pixels. (If the dust we were trying to remove was light on a dark background, you’d be using blend mode darken

When you click the icon eye on the Dust Removal layer, that layer is temporarily disabled. By turning the layer visibility on and off, you can tell the difference between before and after. You may have noticed that there is still some loss of detail in some areas, such as the pony toys and bedding pattern. We’re not too concerned about the loss of detail in these areas, but it shows that there is still some loss of detail. We want to have as much detail as possible in our picture – about the child.

Clear the Dust Off layer to bring back detail in areas

Switch to instrument gum and use a large soft brush with about 50% opacity to paint over all areas where you want to bring back the original detail. That is why in step 3 we used the Healing tool to repair the spots on the baby. You can turn off the visibility on the background layer to see how much you are erasing.

When you’re done, turn the background layer back on and go to Low Flatten the image

Repair any remaining spots with the Spot Healing tool.

If you see any remaining marks or marks, brush them with the tool Spot treatment


Then go to section Filter sharpness unsharp mask † If you don’t feel comfortable typing the correct Unsharp Mask settings, you can switch to the Elements workspace instead Quick solution and use the button Auto Sharpen † It still applies unsharp mask but Photoshop Elements automatically tries to determine the best settings based on the resolution of the image.

Apply level adjustment

In the last step we added a layer Level adjustment and moved black slider slightly to the right. This slightly improves shadows and midtone contrast.

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