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There are a lot of reasons why a photograph might have stains, but our main concern is getting rid of them. I am going to show you one way to do that. Some stains are going to be easier than others. Take this one for instance. It has a number of things going for it. One, it's in a rather unimportant area of the image. There is no detail under the stain, in other words; it's not over someone's face or something. Two, if you go to the Create a new fill or Adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and select Black & White adjustment, you can see, while scrolling through, especially in the light filters, like High Contrast Red, the stain is greatly diminished.
You may not be able to scroll through on a Mac, but you can select each one individually. Let's select the High Contrast Red and go back to the Create a new fill or Adjustment layer icon. This time we'll select Curves. Bring the center of the histogram up towards the upper left-hand corner. This lightens the whole image. Make sure the foreground and background colors are set to the default Black & White. And if you need to, invert them, with the black being the background color.
Hold down Ctrl+Backspace or Command+Backspace on your keyboard to invert the Curves adjustment mask. The lighten curves adjustment is now hidden. Go over to your toolbar and select the Brush tool and paint in the remaining area of the stain. You can adjust the size of your brush using the open and close bracket key. You can use a fairly large brush on an area like this; you don't have to worry too much about the detail. I am going to go back over to the toolbar and select the Zoom tool.
We are going to zoom in on the area of the stain. I am going to go back out a little bit using the Ctrl+Minus or Command+Minus key so we can see the whole stain. Next we are going up to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and we are going to blur and soften the edges of this. You can go up pretty far on this. It doesn't matter. You are not getting a great amount of detail there. You just want to blend it in really well. Keep it at around 20 pixels or so, and click OK. And now you can go and adjust the opacity of the curves layer to blend it in just a little better with the surrounding area. Let's bring it up to about 80%.
There's still a ring around the stain, so we need to blend that. First thing you want to do is use keyboard shortcut Shift+Ctrl+Alt+E on a PC, Shift+Command+Option+E on a Mac, to combine the layers. Then go over to the toolbar, select the Patch tool. Make a selection around an area at the edge of the stain and bring it over into a clean area.
Either way, it doesn't matter; we are just trying to blend in these areas. Let's do a couple more. You can get rid of your creases or whatever at the same time if you need to. Let's do another little area here. And we see we have a nice blend between areas. Stains on old photos come in all shapes and sizes and colors and are caused by many different things.
The tools and methods can differ depending on the size and placement of the stains, but sometimes something as simple as a Black & White or a Curves adjustment can do the trick.
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