Fast Fixes


Paranormal PSP8--Tutorial Index--Digital Plastic Surgery--Fast Fixes


Although I constantly preach to anyone who will listen that you’ve got to learn to ignore the names of tools and software features and pay close attention to their function instead, I’m as susceptible to the occasional oversight as the next person.

That’s what happened with the Scratch Remover.  Oh, I knew it was there, and I used it once in a while when  was restoring a damaged photo that had folds or creases, but other than that, it pretty much stayed on its toolbar, content to nap undisturbed for days or weeks at a time.

Then one day I began to restore the image above. Found in a box of photos after my Mom’s death, it is more than 100 years old, and measures less than 2” x3” It is the only period image of the woman (my Grandmother's best friend, for whom I was named) known to exist.

After scanning it at 600 ppi, I saw dozens of small flaws, dye fade, mottling, a water stain or three, and a few noticeable scratches. It was while I was repairing the scratch just above and to the left of her hair, that I realized that I had been missing something important about the Scratch Remover tool.
  It could do a lot more than just fix scratches.


It doesn't matter here, but you can't always flatten the image, so here's a workaround if you need to use this tool in  a layered image:

  • Copy your layer or selection (CTRL+C),
  • Paste it as new image (CTRL+V)
  • Do the work, then
  • Copy the corrected portion (CTRL+C again) and
  • Paste it back into your first image as a new layer (CTRL+L), position it and
  • Merge Down

Making Quick & Easy
Photo Corrections with Scratch Remover

First, because there are two functions with similar names in PSP, let’s clarify exactly which tool Im talking about, and where you’ll find it. Its icon looks like a trowel, the kind used to fill in cracks in mortar or to apply spackling compound before you paint.

In Paint Shop Pro 8, it is on the Tools Toolbar, nested under the Clone tool by default. In Paint Shop Pro 7, it is on the Tools Palette, between the Retouch and the Eraser. In version 8, the handle is blue: in 7, it is red.
   (There’s also an Automatic Small Scratch Removal dialog box on the Adjust>Add/Remove Noise Menu, but that’s a topic for another day.)

Now, let’s look at it as it was designed to be used.

Below, there is a portion of a photo that has sustained the kind of damage the scratch tool was created to fix.
At left, scratches, creases and folds. At right, the same photo after using the scratch remover. It still needs more work, but the change, both on dark scratches and light ones, is dramatic. For those of you wanting to play "Fast Fixes, the home game" you can right click on the image and copy and paste it in to your own copy of PSP or open another damaged photo that you might have and choose the Scratch Remover from the Tools toolbar

Your tool options choices are identical in version 7 and 8- they're just arranged differently . Because this site was created for version 8 education, my screenshot's come from that version, but this tool hasn't changed.

 The Scratch Remover is a very simple tool, that only has one notable quirk. It can ONLY be used on a background layer. So if yours was grayed out, that's probably why. Right click on the layer in the layers palette and choose Merge All (Flatten) from the context-sensitive menu that pops up.

You only have 2 options: the size and shape of the area to be repaired. When you choose the tool and drag it along the scratch or crease, the length is determined as you drag, but you need to set the width.  To figure out how wide to set your remover, you probably ought to see how it works. This is one of those cases where less is more.

This is a closeup of "Scratch Remover Man" in action. I clicked on the image and dragged downward following the crease in the photo.  You'll notice that the tool creates a rectangular selection with two sets of borderlines on the long edge.  The "tricks"- if there are any- to using this tool are

  • • Choose the smallest possible width that completely encompasses the defect inside the INNER borderlines, WITHOUT touching the scratch or cut any point. If your selection touches the scratch,you'll get unattractive smearing. If you make too wide a selection, the repair will look clumsy. You've got lots of undo's, use them.
  • •If there is an abrupt change in color, especially one that is NOT at a 90 degree angle to the repair, you are often better off to make 2 shorter selections than one long one.  For example, in the photo above, I got a better result by correcting the dark crease over the dark background with one selection, them making another to fix to the light flowers.
  • • Work in the direction of the scratch or crease Because scratches are not always perfectly straight, when the angle of the scratch changes, stop and make a new selection. You'll get a smoother repair.

In this tutorial we're going to use the Scratch Remover and other retouch tools to  improve the look of photos.

For more information, contact me at



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Other than width, there is only one more decision to make: you can choose one of two types of selection boxes: one with pointed ends, and one with blunt, squared off ends. The pointed end setting allows you to get into small spaces and tight corners more easily than the blunt-ended version. Otherwise, they work in exactly the same way.

What happens when you click, drag, and release the mouse button? This is unscientific, but it is what my eyes tell me happens. PSP takes a reading of the color inside the selection area and the area inside the brackets, does some fancy math, and moves some "good" pixels in toward the center to cover up the blemish.

That's what I saw while I was restoring Jean Baldwin's picture...the movement of those pixels to "heal" the damage. And it suddenly "clicked"! There were lots of other places I could use that technology.     

Digital Dermatologist

My first test project was a photo of a friend's beautiful daughter. (I don't know how we all survive the teen years, when without warning, usually when it's most important we look our best, our skin decides to go crazy.) But look at the first two frames of the image below. The ONLY tool I used to produce the results in frame 2 was the scratch remover!


While the differences in the look of the photos are dramatic, the actual changes are really quite subtle. The last thing you want is that unnatural "mask of death" look. Keep as much of  the photo intact as possible.

I would probably finish this off with a touch of "digital makeup"-- but VERY little.  Maybe a touch of blush and lipgloss, but no more. The kid is 16, not a circus clown. You want people who know the subject to be able to recognize her.





With a few quick swipes of the Scratch Remover, I took her hair out of her eye, banished the blemishes, took a slight crease out of her one eyelid and even took the shine off the tip of her nose. A little more work with a low-density, low opacity smudge brush and a little color correction to remove some shadows and redness around her eyes, and the pretty girl really shines through!

Now, a normal person might have just called it a day at that point, but we’re not talking about a normal person, we’re talking about me.  I had learned one slick trick….but there must be more. If Scratch Remover worked on the skin problems of youth, what would it do for someone with a little more maturity in their face?

Digital Face Lift

Sometimes, particularly as we get older, no matter how good the sun feels on our faces, the sun in our eyes doesn’t always produce the kindest photo.
  Now I’m the last one to believe that a woman needs to apologize for her maturity, but we all want to look our best when the camera shutter clicks.

This time, rather than show you the results of our “digital enhancement” I‘ve provided a diagram to illustrate the angles that your Scratch Remover strokes would take.

Here’s one important piece of advice: when working on photos of an adult, particularly an adult over 40, leave some of the lines, and as much of the skin texture as possible in. There’S nothing sillier or scarier looking than over-retouched photos that have that “aging -celebrity-doing-a-skincare-product- infomercial” look. The goal is to have the subject looking like they’ve just had a great night’S sleep and lunch with their best friend. Happy, relaxed and rested, not department-store mannequin perfect. Perfect isn’t very interesting, and denies all the fun we’ve had getting to this point in our lives.


To do this I used exactly the same steps outlined above, Scratch remover, followed by smudge brush to even out the skin tones, followed by a little color correction, especially beneath the eyes. Again, no heavy makeup job, but I did put little 2 pixel white highlights in her eyes and whitened the teeth just a bit to give the face a bit more "life." Also note that a "facelift" doesn't end at the face- make sure you include the neck , and if they are visible in the photo, the hands as well.

Let’s look at one more example on a human face before I move on to a couple of cute “tricks” you can do with this tool.

The next example is a photo of my mother’s Aunt Bridey. She was 100 years old the day this photo was taken. You may feel differently, but I figure if you reach your 100th birthday, you shouldn’t have to apologize to anyone for having wrinkles. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, it would be criminal to mess with them. They are visible evidence of her longevity and experience, and beautiful in their own way. I didn't give Bridey a facelift, and would resist anyone who suggested one.

But no matter what your age, you don’t have to live with a photographer’s mistakes. After I improved the contrast and got rid of the green cast, I used short strokes with the scratch remover to get rid of the shadows on her cheeks from the bifocal lenses of her glasses. The reason I like the Scratch Remover for this is that it works in a very small area, and doesn’t obliterate too much of the texture of the surrounding skin.


 Part 2-- JP Goes Completely Crazy With
Scratch Remover Man
(Coming Soon)




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