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Restoration of a silhouette using Photoshop.

Updated on August 30, 2017

A birthday surprise for my Mother.

The original silhouette was shaped with small scissors at a seaside stall in Blackpool when my mother was 6 years old. The year was 1948 and rationing was still in force throughout the war-torn United Kingdom. My mother, her sister and my grandparents were on holiday at the time and my grandfather was fascinated by the dexterity and skill of the old man who was cutting the profiles. The original silhouette is only 3 inches high and over the years sunlight has taken it's toll, it's never been covered over by glass so it's a little grimy too! I've always known how much my mother treasures her little gem of a cut out, so last year I decided to do something special for her birthday. I managed to borrow her silhouette for a couple of hours while she was out shopping and then but it back without her ever knowing!

The original Silhouette of 1948
The original Silhouette of 1948

A Framed print of the Silhouette for her birthday.

Over the many years that this little treasure has been in my mothers possession it's been mounted onto card and when that became damaged the silhouette was mounted onto more card. My mother will be able to store the original away safely when I give her the A3 framed print. Hopefully I can recreate the detail of the artist and the fine pencil sketching.

The detail has faded
The detail has faded
There is even small hairs stuck to the card.
There is even small hairs stuck to the card.

Poor condition of the original.

The pencil drawing has faded and there is even small hairs stuck to the cardboard. The old man who created this little marvel must have really had excellent eyesight for his years!


Project Requirements.

For this little restoration project I used a flat-bed scanner and Photoshop. A small amount of operational knowledge of Photoshop and use of layers and masks is required but by no means do you have to be an expert image manipulator. The software need not necessarily be Photoshop but can be any image editor that uses layers to build images.

I captured relevant screen snippets during the editing process to aid clarity. All dialogue has been entered as a description to the relevant photograph in the series, this means you will not have to toggle between text and picture and also there is less duplication of text. If you intend to carry out a similar project then I might suggest this guide is opened in a separate window for reference purposes.

To avoid confusion when scrolling down through the series, relevant text is placed 'beneath' each image.

(1.) Click WIA support to initialise scanner import of image.
(1.) Click WIA support to initialise scanner import of image.
(2.) Click 'Start'
(2.) Click 'Start'
(3.) Select scanner and click 'ok'
(3.) Select scanner and click 'ok'
(4.) Click 'Preview' and if happy with the resulting preview image click 'Scan'
(4.) Click 'Preview' and if happy with the resulting preview image click 'Scan'
(5.) The image is imported into a Photoshop workspace as a Background.
(5.) The image is imported into a Photoshop workspace as a Background.
(6.) Click 'Layer from background'
(6.) Click 'Layer from background'
(7.)  Click 'Ok'
(7.) Click 'Ok'
(8.) Ensure 'Layer 0' is highlighted blue then choose 'Magic Erasure' tool. Start deleting the white border card nearest the silhouette first.
(8.) Ensure 'Layer 0' is highlighted blue then choose 'Magic Erasure' tool. Start deleting the white border card nearest the silhouette first.
(9.) Select the 'Lasso tool' ...   The 'Magic Wand tool'  was not used successfully for this project!
(9.) Select the 'Lasso tool' ... The 'Magic Wand tool' was not used successfully for this project!
(10.) Delete selected background until the canvas is as blank as possible but leaving the silhouette intact.
(10.) Delete selected background until the canvas is as blank as possible but leaving the silhouette intact.
(11.) Tidy up with the 'Background Erasure tool' taking care not to erase any part of the silhouette.
(11.) Tidy up with the 'Background Erasure tool' taking care not to erase any part of the silhouette.
(12.) The captured image with all distractions removed.
(12.) The captured image with all distractions removed.
(13.) It  may now be prudent to save the project. Click 'Save'
(13.) It may now be prudent to save the project. Click 'Save'
(14.) Initially save as 'PSD'
(14.) Initially save as 'PSD'
(15.) Click 'New Layer'
(15.) Click 'New Layer'
(16.) Click 'Ok'
(16.) Click 'Ok'
(17.) Ensure 'Layer 1' is highlighted blue and select 'Pencil Tool'
(17.) Ensure 'Layer 1' is highlighted blue and select 'Pencil Tool'
(18.) Select 'Colour Picker' and set foreground colour by clicking dropper anywhere on white pencil line
(18.) Select 'Colour Picker' and set foreground colour by clicking dropper anywhere on white pencil line
(19.) Set brush hardness.
(19.) Set brush hardness.
(20.) Select 'Colour Picker' and set background colour by clicking dropper anywhere on white pencil line.
(20.) Select 'Colour Picker' and set background colour by clicking dropper anywhere on white pencil line.
(21.) Trace all the pencil work as accurately as possible.
(21.) Trace all the pencil work as accurately as possible.
(22.) Deselect and switch off layer 1.  'Layer 0' should be highlighted blue and it should have the small 'eye' icon visible in it's box.
(22.) Deselect and switch off layer 1. 'Layer 0' should be highlighted blue and it should have the small 'eye' icon visible in it's box.
(23.)  Click 'Solid Colour'
(23.) Click 'Solid Colour'
(24.) Click the 'Use previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask' box and make sure the tick is present. Then click 'Ok'
(24.) Click the 'Use previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask' box and make sure the tick is present. Then click 'Ok'
(25.) Set the solid colour to Black.
(25.) Set the solid colour to Black.
(26.) Rasterize the layer
(26.) Rasterize the layer
(27.) Ensure 'Layer 1' is highlighted blue then select 'Blending Options'
(27.) Ensure 'Layer 1' is highlighted blue then select 'Blending Options'
(28.) In the 'General Blending' section set 'Opacity' to 50%. This will reduce the intensity of the pencil drawing.
(28.) In the 'General Blending' section set 'Opacity' to 50%. This will reduce the intensity of the pencil drawing.
(29.)  The project is now completed. Photoshop will automatically fill in the missing background with white. Click 'Save As'
(29.) The project is now completed. Photoshop will automatically fill in the missing background with white. Click 'Save As'
(30.) Change save dialogue to JPEG and Click 'Save'
(30.) Change save dialogue to JPEG and Click 'Save'
(31.) Click 'Ok'
(31.) Click 'Ok'
The completed project ready to be printed as an enlargement to A3.
The completed project ready to be printed as an enlargement to A3.
Side by side comparison of the finished silhouette with the original
Side by side comparison of the finished silhouette with the original
My mother was delighted with her birthday present and I liked it so much I made a copy for our hallway.
My mother was delighted with her birthday present and I liked it so much I made a copy for our hallway.
From the bottom of the stairs you can view the silhouette of my mother in the mirror on the wall.
From the bottom of the stairs you can view the silhouette of my mother in the mirror on the wall.

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    • Patty Kenyon profile image

      Patty Kenyon 5 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Interesting and Useful!!! I personally cannot afford Photoshop but I am amazed what the program is capable of doing!!

    • toomuchmint profile image

      toomuchmint 5 years ago

      What a great present! I never knew silhouettes could be so detailed and interesting. I love the detailing of the hair and ribbons. Voted up and interesting!

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