Using Photoshop to Make Documents Easier to Read


I have a set of documents concerning an ancestor who died in the Civil War, but the papers are so light that they’re hard to read. This is probably because the paper is incredibly thin, so when the paper is scanned, the light passes through the paper a little bit and makes the whole image lighter. (This is the same reason a piece of notebook paper with words written on it won’t scan as neatly as a piece of printed cardstock.)

Page 13 Before

To fix this, I went to Photoshop. I have a collection of preset Photoshop Actions from Paint the Moon called the Grace Collection and I used two of those actions to make this document a little easier to read.

1. I opened the image in Photoshop. As you can see, the Photoshop Actions are already loaded because I use them all the time.

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 12.14.46 PM

2. I selected Save Highlights (Brush On). I used my brush tool to cover the entire document and then raised the opacity of this layer to 100% to maximize the effect.

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 12.15.03 PM

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 12.15.23 PM

3. I then selected High Resolution for Print. This isn’t a brush on action, so the effect was immediate, but I increased the opacity of the later from 85% to 100%.


Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 12.15.37 PM

4. I them opened the High Resolution for Print layer group to reveal the two sub layers and changed the opacity of both of those to 100%, which maximized how easy it is to read the document now.

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 12.15.51 PM


The result isn’t perfect, but it will be much easier to decipher this than to stare at the faded writing until my falls out.


Another Photoshop trick for documents is to use “Command + I” to invert the colors of the image to make a negative. Depending on what you’re looking at, this might make the writing easier to read. In this case, I don’t think it’s an improvement but I put a side-by-side together for you so you can judge for yourself:


What do you think?

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