How to Restore a Faded Photo

Due to the nature of paper and colour saturation, most old photographs will fade and deteriorate with time. Restoring old, faded photographs is relatively easy using Photoshop. A basic knowledge of Photoshop and the Tools Palette is necessary to use this tutorial. Follow these simple steps and bring life back into those old and faded photographs. Use this Photoshop tutorial and preserve those family photographs for future generations to enjoy.

Save a copy of the image to the computer. This will save the original image in case the file is accidentally damaged during editing.

To remove the yellow cast, adjust the overall balance of the image by choosing Image>Adjustments>Auto Levels from the main toolbar. If the image still has a yellow colorcast, open the Photo Filter dialogue box by clicking on the "New Adjustment Layer" button on the bottom of the Layers Palette. Select "Filter" and in the drop down menu choose blue. Check "Preserve Luminosity" and move the Density slider until the skin tones look normal and the remainder of the yellow cast is removed.

Open a curves layer by clicking on the "Create New Adjustment Layer" button at the bottom of the Layers Palette. Click on the black eyedropper and check the "Show Clipping" box. This will convert the image to a white box. Move the black slider on the curves graph till the first part of a black area in the image appears. Click on that section of the image. Now click on the white eyedropper. This will convert the image to a black box. Move the white slider on the curves graph until the first area of white appears and click on that area. Now, click "OK" on the curves dialogue box.

Use the Spot Healing brush from the Tools Palette to clone or heal imperfections, blemishes, spots and other marks on the picture.

To remove dust and scratches, choose Filter>Noise>Dust and Scratches from the main toolbar. A dialogue box will open. Move the Radius slider until the dust spots start to disappear. Move the Threshold slider in conjunction with the Radius slider until most of the dust spots are not noticeable, but the image is still clear.

Sharpen the image by choosing Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask. In the dialogue box that opens choose a Radius between 1 and 2. Set the Threshold around 14. Move the Amount slider till the image is over-sharpened. This may be around 300-400. Click "OK." Now, choose Edit>Fade Unsharp Mask. Under the Mode drop-down menu, select "Luminosity." Move the Opacity slider until the image has the desired sharpness. Click "OK."

Flatten and save the image. Congratulations, your image is restored and ready to be printed.


Not all images will need all the steps, but all the steps should be applied in chronological order.


Advanced Photoshop users can colour correct using more in-depth methods with curves and channels. This tutorial is an overall correction for general use by advanced amateurs.

Things You'll Need

  • Photoshop 7 or later version
  • Scanned image of old photograph to be restored
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About the Author

Caroline Thompson is a professional photojournalist who has been working for print and online publications since 1999. Her work has appeared in the "Sacramento Bee," "People Magazine," "Newsweek" and other publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in photojournalism from California State University at Hayward and a personal trainer certification from the university's Health and Fitness Institute.