Remove wrinkles, kinks and paper texture from scanned cover art

Published by: @ZincRider - May 2, 2018
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Difficulty: Intermediate Est Time: 15mins Software: Photoshop Category: Graphics General

Have you ever scanned a cover that was in poor condition? When I scan old 45rpm record picture sleeves they tend to look like editing nightmares.

Original scan

Scan of a 45rpm single sleeve

I’ve actually spent loads of time touching up sleeves like this one. But there is a technique that will get rid of the wrinkles and kinks in a few simple steps.

Of course I’ve made sure that the cover was as flat as possible on the scan bed and put a lot of weight on it, but obviously that wasn’t enough. As the light source in my consumer grade scanner is rather narrow, it’s very directional and will cause shadows and highlights wherever the surface is slightly uneven. More expensive models have a wider light source that evens everything out. But it’s possible to simulate this effect.

Making an additional scan

The fix is simple: Just turn the cover around 180° and scan the cover again. The shadows and highlights in the new scan are on opposite sides of the kinks compared with the first scan.

180° scan with inverse shadows and highlights

180° scan with inversed shadows and highlights

Aligning the layers

In Photoshop, you put the 180° scan on a layer on top of your original scan.Now you need to align the top layer perfectly with the bottom one. You could rotate and shift it around manually, but don’t bother. Doing it properly can take ages. Photoshop will do a better job on its own in a couple of seconds. Simply select both layers in the layers window. Then click „Auto-Align Layers“ in the „Edit“ menu. In the following dialogue, set projection to auto, turn all lens correction off and click ok.

Align layers dialogue

Auto-Align Layers dialogue

When Photoshop is done, the layers should be nicely aligned like these:

Perfectly aligned layers

Perfectly aligned layers

Checking alignment and setting the blending mode

You can check the alignment by selecting the top layer only and choosing “difference” as its blending mode. The artwork should turn black (ideally without any edges around objects) while the kinks and wrinkles will appear white. Now you set the top layer’s blending mode back to normal and turn its opacity down to 50%. The shadows and highlights in both layers will cancel each other out and your image will look super smooth.

Top layer at 50% opacity

Top layer at 50% opacity

Fixing paper texture

This technique works for paper texture as well as for any other unevenness.

Watch the paper texture disappear

Watch the paper texture disappear

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