I scanned in an old B&W photo that has pen scribbles on it. What's the best way to remove these marks and restore the photo?

Here are the examples: alt text alt text

I don't have access to Adobe photo software. I do have Paint.NET. And I'm willing to use any free software like GIMP to get the job done.



3 Answers 3


I can give you the instructions for Photoshop that maybe someone can translate to Gimp or Paint.NET

sample1 sample2

This method is done with selections, masks and adjustment layers with no manual brush editing required. These simple examples take less than a couple of minutes to fix.

Let me know. :)


OK, so I've copped some flak for not posting a Photoshop solution, even though the OP said he couldn't use Photoshop. Here it is anyway.

Settings provided are for the 2nd image using PS CS4...

  1. Select menu -> Color Range...
    • Select: Samples Colors
    • Localized color clusters: Off
    • Fuzziness: 163
  2. Create a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. This will take the selection and apply it as a mask on the adjustment layer.
    • Desaturate the color area (Saturation: -100)
    • Lighten the dark area where the color was (Lightness: +74)
  3. Add another Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and desaturate the entire image (Saturation: -100)
  4. Optionally flatten all layers.

Depending on the severity of the marks, you could optionally use the brush tool to modify the mask after step 2. You can also use the Dodge and Burn tools after step 4.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Telling OP you know the answer isn't particularly helpful. \$\endgroup\$
    – che
    Nov 18, 2010 at 10:32
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Just share damn answer :) \$\endgroup\$
    – user1681
    Nov 18, 2010 at 11:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @che: OK, I've provide the PS solution even though the OP said he couldn't access it. Hopefully you can provide some equivalent GIMP instructions. @Rafal: Shared :) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 18, 2010 at 13:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! The equivalent tools in GIMP would be "Select by color" tool, then "Colors/Hue-Saturation", and "Colors/Desaturate". \$\endgroup\$
    – che
    Nov 18, 2010 at 13:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Cool :) If you know little about GIMP and PS and also know what are you doing in general then very often it turns you are able to use PS tutorial in GIMP without special translation. \$\endgroup\$
    – user1681
    Nov 18, 2010 at 14:23

I think I would probably try to remove as much as I could using the colour information first. By using a filter to convert it to B&W, you might be able to reduce the impact of the cyan-looking pen from the photo. Of course, it will need quite a bit of tweaking to get the best setting. It is possible to do this in GIMP using the greyscale conversion tool.

After that it would be a case of touching up as best you can using the heal or clone tools.

It can be very fiddly touching up a photo like this, especially when it is a face; any abnormalities really stand out.

You could always post the full version of the image... perhaps some post-processing wizard on here will be able to help you out ;-)


GIMP: Colors / Components / Channel Mixer

I set to monochrome, and used red = -16.1, green = 109.6, blue = 3.8

Got this:

--> new pic


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