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Photoshop Editing for Archive Documents

Using Photoshop CS6

Changing to Grayscale

Setting High and Low Tones

Further Editing

Adding a Border


Changing to Grayscale

This step helps to ensure that the document will be true grayscale and will not use color ink during printouts. It also helps cut down on the file size, and makes the next steps much easier.

  1. After scanning the document into Photoshop using the standard workflow, click on Image -> Mode -> Grayscale.


  1. Click Discard. If you are going to be editing multiple documents, it may be helpful to cut out this step by checking Don't show again.


Setting High and Low Tones

The image will now change to true black and white. If the document were printed as is, it would still use more ink than necessary due to the gray tone throughout the document. This next step will remove the gray and make the document much more legible while still maintaining clarity.

  1. On the right hand toolbar, left-click on the Curves button.


  1. This will bring up the Curves menu. In order to remove the most noise possible, left-click on the white eyedropper and click on the picture in an area you want to be white. This will take some practice.
    1. Repeat as necessary until most or all of the gray has been eliminated as long as the letters are still visible. If the letters suddenly disappear, it is because a "black" value was selected and turned to white. Clicking anywhere in the "white" areas will change the value back.

  1. It may also be useful to zoom in to see little specks of gray that are invisible from further away.
  1. When most of the gray has been removed, change to the black eyedropper and click on the lightest part of the writing or letters; this will make the letters stand out much more and become legible.


Further Editing

Some documents, either due to their age or other factors, will finish with a multitude of black specks or splotches, or holes due to excessive wear and tear. There are several ways to fix these.



The eraser, while versatile, is prone to human error. It is useful for both large scale editing and detail work when the document is zoomed in.

  1. First, make sure that you are on the Background layer; if you edit the Curve 1 layer you will delete the adjustments you made prior.
    1. If you need to change layers, just left-click on the layer you wish to move to.

  1. Select the Eraser tool from the toolbar. You will find it in the middle section on the left toolbar.


  1. Make sure the eraser is a "hard-edge" eraser. A "soft-edge" eraser will fail to erase cleanly and will be more difficult to use. You can check this by looking at the top information bar and changing the brush to the hard-edge circle brush if necessary.


  1. Zoom into the space you wish to edit, and use the eraser to erase the blotches. You can easily control the size of the brush without moving it by using the [ and ] keys on the keyboard (open bracket to make it smaller, close to make it larger).



To add in black values where tone was lost, you can use the Paintbrush tool in order to paint over the areas that need to be black.

  1. Select the paintbrush tool from the toolbar.


  1. By default, the paintbrush "brush" will have a soft edge. This will make it difficult to work with, similar to the Eraser. Left-click on the hard-edge paintbrush via the menu at the top of the screen.


  1. Zoom in to the area you wish to paint over. You can adjust the size of the brush on the fly similar to the Eraser tool using the [ and ] keys on the keyboard.


Changing Text Color in a Scanned Document

Sometimes it may become necessary to change the color of a text from black to another color. By utilizing blending modes and layers it is easy to achieve the desired effect.

  1. Change the color mode from Grayscale to RGB Color. This will allow for colors to return to the image.


  1. A dialogue box will appear; allow it to flatten the layers. NOTE: this will remove the ability to adjust the initial curves layers, and may lead to a loss of quality in some cases. Make sure you have finished all of the editing you need to do.


  1. Create a new layer on top of the Background by left-clicking the New Layer button.


  1. Using the Paintbucket tool, fill the layer with the desired color.
  2. Once the layer is filled, left-click on the dropdown menu (which should say Normal) and change it to either Multiply or Screen depending on the desired effect.
    1. Multiply is used when you wish the turn the white values the chosen color.
    2. Screen is used when you wish to turn the black values the chosen color.


  1. The document will change colors accordingly.




Making an Image Transparent

This is another editing trick that requires you to finish any and all editing (changing text color, removing gray values, etc.) before doing this.

  1. Go to Layer > Flatten Image.


  1. Next, go to Select > Color Range.


  1. This will bring up the dialogue box below.


  1. Using the Eyedropper, click on the image in an area with white.
  2. The preview will then change colors accordingly. Left-click OK.


  1. Go to Select > Inverse.


  1. Go to Image > Duplicate.


  1. Right-click on the Background layer and select Delete Layer.


  1. Save the file as a .PNG or .GIF. For higher quality it is best to save the image as .PNG.


Adding a Border

If you want to add a border to an image, the process is extremely simple.

  1. Left-click on the top-most layer in your image, in this case Layer 1.


  1. Left-click on the New Layer button.


  1. Go to Select > All.
  2. Go to Select > Modify > Border.


  1. Enter how wide you would like the border to be.


  1. Using the Paintbucket tool, click several times on the border to fill the border.


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