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Retouch a Damaged Photograph

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4. Manual color corrections

Click in Photoshop on the thumbnail of the Background layer to make it the active layer ( a Brush Iconwill appear in front of it)
Click on the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon Adjustment Layer in the layers palette and select Curves... and click OK in the window that opens up.
Press Ctrl + i (command + i on the Mac) to invert the mask of this layer from white to black.
In a layer mask black means "ignore" so if we were to change the settings of this Curves adjustment layer we would see nothing happening. That's not what we want of course, so grab a round brush, Master Diameter of 50 or so and a Hardness of 0%.
Make sure that the mask is still active (it will have a double border) and that your foreground color is white: Foreground color is white
Now paint somewhere in this area marked with with your brush, it does not have to be accurate (Note: for the moment you won't see anything happening in your document window):

Marked area with too much red

Your layer mask will somehow look like this:

Mask content


After you're done, double click on the thumbnail of the Curves 1 layer:

Click on curves thumbmail


In the window that opens select for Channel the red channel:

Curves window, selecting red channel

Now move your mouse cursor (which has now turned into an eye dropper tool Eyedropper Tool) a few times over the area that needs to be adjusted (B). You will notice that the little circle (A) will move too:

Determine right point on curves line

Now with your mouse cursor move over to the area marked with (A) and click on the diagonal line in the spot where you saw the circle appear most of the time (it doesn't have to be very accurate).

Look at the next screenshot. The circle will turn into a black dot (C). Move your cursor until it's on top of this black dot ( the cursor will switch to this: Crossed Arrows ), hold down the mouse button and drag the black dot in the direction of the red arrow until the average color of the rocks at D is similar to the average color at E.
The values of Input and Output (F) will also change when you try to find the right adjustment. In case you have a problem finding the right color, then manually enter for input 180 and for output 160.
Click OK when you're done:

Pulling curves point to match colors


Before we go any further let's sum up what we have done:

  • We added a curves adjustment layer with a black mask, which meant that the adjustment layer was ignored.
  • We marked the top right corner of our rock in our mask with white to allow us to see how to curves correction would affect a small portion of the rock.

Since we know now what kind of color correction we need, all we need to do next is extending the white area in our mask, which will extend the area in the photograph that will be corrected by this curves adjustment layer.

Click on the mask thumbnail of your current layer (Curves 1) in your layers palette, make sure your foreground color is white and paint on the mask in those areas that need to be corrected and watch the effect in your document window. You can use the same painting techniques that you used when you painted the mask for the water (remember the letter X on your keyboard to switch between fore- and background color). Make sure that when you get close to the edge at the bottom of the white area in your mask that you change the opacity of your brush in the option bar to for example 35%...

Brush settings

...so that you will have a smooth transition between the color corrected rocks and those that don't need to be corrected.
Needless to say that you have to avoid painting over the sky.

Move with your mouse over the following image to get an idea where to paint on your mask. Notice that this image is not a screenshot of your mask, I only put it together to show you where the color color correction should take place:


Area where mask has to be painted (rollover image)


Move your mouse cursor over the image to see how the rock looks after the correction:


After/before image of manual color correction


Continue by double clicking on the layers name (curves 1) to rename it to Red rocks.

Tip: First let me say that the following steps are not really needed to understand the tutorial, but they do raise the quality of the color correction.

You probably notice that there is still a bit of red left all the way at the top of the rock. You can remove that last bit of red by repeating the whole process. Look at the next screenshot.
First you have to drag and drop (A) the layer's thumbnail onto the Create a new layer icon New Layer to duplicate the layer. You will then have a new layer called Red rocks copy.
You then have to select the layer mask of that layer (make sure it has a double border) and fill the white areas with black (make sure the opacity of your brush is set to 100% when you do this).

Switch the foreground color to white and paint those areas that should need an extra correction. When you're done you might even want to change the opacity (B) to fine tune your results. In my case I set both the Red rock and the Red rocks copy layer to an opacity of 75%. Mind you, it all depends on your situation. Some people might not need/prefer an opacity change at all.

Extra correction layer(s)

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