3 Steps to Quick and Easy Borders in Photoshop

At the beginning of Sunday’s photo restoration tutorial, we began by cropping away the rough edges of the photograph.

However, on some images the border is what gives it that touch of polish. Especially on vintage photographs, where some kind of border is very common due to the machines used in the enlargement process. It’s possible to add genuine scanned paper borders for a lovely effect, but that’s an entirely different technique. For now we’ll start with something simple.

Let’s take the image we worked on last week.


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The Soldier’s Goodbye – a 10 step photo restoration

Restoring old photos is a rewarding pastime. I love seeing beautiful, tired old pictures emerging alive and sparkling from the restoration process. It’s always my aim to maintain the original feel of the photo. To me, this means making appear as it would have done either when it was new, or if it had appeared in an ideal world.

Today’s tutorial is a brief introduction into the world of restoration. There are of course countless techniques depending on the photo, editing software, and the preferences of the artist performing the restoration.

As a practice piece, this charming, but rather sad photo caught my eye in the Flickr Commons.

(The Commons are a great resource for practice photos, inspiration, history, and so much more. It’s always worth browsing when you get the chance.)

It’s just a little faded from age, rather than severely damaged. Perfect for a quick freshening up to bring it back to its former glory.

Keep reading to find out how…>

Photo Restoration – old photos looking like new

I miss writing Photoshop tutorials, so I thought I’d ease myself back into it with a quick overview of restoring old photos. The tutorial isn’t quite done yet, so here’s a sneak preview.

Tomorrow I’ll show you the super quick steps to make this:

(Photo from Flickr Commons)

Look like this:

This is more of a photo refresher than a restoration project, which means quick and easy gratification with little work.

How’s it done?

Tune in and find out!

Using Adjustment Layer Masks

Last week we looked at some of the reasons to use layers while working in Photoshop. Now let’s see some of the flexibility that Layer Masks can bring to the workflow. As mentioned last week, there’s more than one type of layer in Photoshop. To understand masks, we’ll begin with Adjustment Layers because they come with a mask automatically attached.

What are Layer Masks?

Quite simply, Layer Masks are your way to tell Photoshop which parts of a layer to use or hide, without having to actually delete a thing. On an Image Layer this means, for example, being able to erase part of a photo without losing the data and, with a sweep of the Paintbrush, being able to bring back what you erased.

On an Adjustment Layer, a mask lets you choose which areas of the photo to apply the adjustment to. Instead of having to use only blanket adjustments across the entire photo, this means that you can isolate certain areas. There are endless ways this can be used. Let’s look at a simple example, following on in the theme of contrast.

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Histograms in Action

Recently we looked at how histograms show the tonal data of an image, now lets put them to some practical use.

Histograms are ideal to help us understand the contrast in our images. When a picture seems a bit “foggy”, we can look at the histogram and see exactly where the graph is unbalanced. Maybe the tonal information is mainly in the middle of the histogram, thereby showing a lack of both shadows and highlights; or perhaps the graph is mainly to the left of the centre showing that, while the dark tones are fine, the whites are underexposed.

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Straightening using the Ruler Tool

Today’s tip is one that has saved me at least a couple minutes on every photo I’ve used it on… if I multiply all these minutes by the amount of photos I’ve edited, it equals a rather large amount of time saved.

When you’re shooting without a tripod, or on a boat as I was when I took the example photo, there will almost always be a slight angle to some of your horizons. I find that often when I have a niggling feeling of something being wrong with one of my photos, if I check the horizon I discover that it’s slightly tilted. Sometimes only by a degree or so, not enough that it’s obvious, but enough for me to feel that something’s not right.

To fix this problem you can either carefully rotate the photo to the right and left a degree here and there, until it starts to look straight. Or. You can use this very useful little tool to fix it in seconds.

Step One: Take a photo that needs straightening. In this example the waterline is only off kilter by a tiny amount, but it’s enough to make a difference.

Image in photoshop, crooked waterline


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Clearing a Colour Cast

This is a tutorial for one of the Photoshop techniques I use the most. It’s a great help in quick photo clean-ups.

So, let’s say you have a photo and the colours just aren’t quite right. Maybe there’s a bit of a haze, or there’s a slight colourcast over the image. Try this 30 second adjustment and see what happens.

As an example I will use a photo I took while flying over the Alps this summer. In my experience photos from the air, or across long distances, never look quite as striking and clear as the view when we took them. The moisture in the atmosphere clouds things a little. Before learning this little trick, I used to spend ages with masks, levels and selective colouring, trying to get my airplane photos looking like they should.

Try this:

Step One: Open a photo that needs some work (feel free to save my “before” image from the bottom of this tutorial and practice on that). Hazy and brown, not so nice. This is my CS4 workspace.

Step Two: Create a curves adjustment layer by clicking on the adjustment layer button at the bottom of the layers palette.

(Note: If you’re using CS2 or earlier, your curves palette won’t have the histogram that it does in CS3 or CS4. To do this tutorial and get the same result, open a Levels Layer here instead.)
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