More Photoshop Practice

This week’s articles and tutorials highlighted both the promise of Photoshop’s photo restoration features and the problems that come with it. In order to get started on the impending image assignment, I began toying with levels, color channels, patch tools and the clone stamp (not without some help from friends).

I began working with some 1920s Parisian exhibition photographs that were passed on to me by Prof. Michele Greet. Once I determine the licensing permissions, I plan to incorporate some of the images into a small gallery database for my final project. The photos work well for this assignment because many are faded and several have tears and spotting. However, finding a useful example for hand-coloring was a little more challenging, since many of my images contain artworks, which I’d like to avoid messing with for obvious reasons.

One of my attempts involved coloring a group of artists participating in a 1930 exhibition for the group Cercle et Carré (below).

I cropped the image to include only part of the group because I was most interested in the grumpy looking gentleman in the foreground. I finally managed to identify him as Joaquín Torres-García, probably the most famous South American visual artist of his time.

I began to colorize the cropped image, with mixed results. Adjusting the black and white levels created too much contrast, so I plan to play with those a bit more. I also need to experiment more with brush opacity when applying skin tones to avoid making Piet Mondrian (second row, with mustache) look like he spent too long in a tanning salon. The group portrait is probably still not an ideal subject for retroactively applying color, but the process does bring out a kind of dynamism in the image that wasn’t present before.

I also worked on restoring a 1930 photograph of the Galerie Zak, which, either through printing or poor scanning, had developed a grid of yellow dots running through the entire composition. It also had a tear in the upper right corner. (You may have to click on the first image to see the damage.)

Galerie Zak, 1930 (original)

Galerie Zak, 1930 (after restoration)

I’m pretty happy with how this one turned out. The picture was taken during the Exposition du Groupe Latino-Américain de Paris, the first group exhibition of Latin American artists in Paris. The yellow dots and tear distracted from important content: a show and a venue that have been written out of histories of modernism. In order to eliminate the dots, I created a new black and white layer and used color filters to filter them out. I then applied the patch tool and spot-healing brush to eliminate the tear in the corner and other less noticeable damage.

These exercises and others made me more comfortable working with layers and toggling between tools. I found the Lynda tutorials that dealt with identifying problems areas in old photographs especially helpful, since I initially had trouble differentiating between kinds of damage. I also found myself returning to last week’s videos in order to prepare for uploading my finished products to the web. I’m looking forward to being proficient enough in Photoshop that I can start modifying photographs in still more historically meaningful (but ethical) ways.


  1. Good work on the restorations! That is an interesting point that you make about color in art history. Would it be possible to get around that by, say, finding a color image of the artwork, and dropping it into the image you’re colorizing? Or would that be stretching the boundaries too far, as well, leaving you no choice but to leave the artwork black-and-white, crop it (as you did here) or not use that particular photo? I’ll be curious to see what you decide for your final assignment.

  2. I too think that your restoration projects are coming along nicely. I’m pretty jealous of your photographs as they seem more interesting than the ones I haphazardly found around LOC. I agree with David’s advice about maybe finding a color image of paintings elsewhere. But I wonder if for the sake of this project if it really matters which colors you decide to put in the paintings? Obviously it would if you were using the images as a source, but if the assignment is simply to play with color perhaps you can do just that.

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