How to Restore Photographs That Have Water Damage

Lead Image
  • 2-10 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 50-1,000
What You'll Need
A Scanner
Photoshop or comparable computer program
A Printer and photo paper
USB card or blank CD

Photographs that have water damage may seem lost forever, but don't despair! Follow these 5 steps to save your memories as soon as you notice the water damage.

Step 1 - Cleaning the Water Damaged Photo

You will need to clean the photograph before you do anything else. Submerge the photo in lukewarm water but don't leave it under a running faucet. This step removes any residue or mold that may be on the surface of the photo. Remove the photo to dry in natural air. Do not try to speed up the process with a hairdryer or heater; instead, leave it on an aerated rack.

Step 2 - Photoshop

Next, you'll need to use technology to restore the photograph. Scan the photo onto your computer and purchase Photoshop or a similar program. Your first step in Photoshop is to scan the photo to a very high resolution image before zooming in on the damage as closely as possible. You will need to work on tiny areas at a time to make sure you cover every bit of water damage.

Step 3 - Clone Stamp Tool

This is a great Photoshop tool that takes pixels from one part of the photos and "clones" them to another. Select the clone stamp tool from the toolbox option and decide what kind of brush and pigment you want to use. You can choose anything from a large, color-saturated brush to a small, light-colored brush. After selecting your brush, push the "alt" button down while clicking on the part of the photograph you want to copy. Release the "alt" button and click on the section you want to color. The desired pixels will be magically duplicated.

Step 4 - Healing Tool

Nicknamed “the band-aid tool,” in reference to its band-aid icon, th healing tool is a perfect way to get rid of smaller imperfections that the clone stamp tool doesn't get quite right. The tool works exactly as the clone stamp does by utilizing the "alt" button, but it goes further to detect texture.

The best thing about using a computer program for restoration is the "undo" button. If you start the photo refurbishment process, but decide that you've been too heavy handed with the virtual brush, you can always start over until you get it right.

Step 5 - Printing

Once you are satisfied with your new and improved photograph, make sure to save it to your computer so you always have a backup (scan all of your photos in case of future damage). If you have a high quality printer, simply buy photograph paper and print out your new photo at home. If not, save it onto a disk or USB card and take the file to a store or pharmacy where you can use a kiosk to print the photo yourself. You can also go to a photography store if you'd rather have a professional print out your restored photo for you.