Remove Dust and Specks From a Scanned Image With Photoshop Elements

Clean up old photographs using Photoshop Elements 2019

Woman dusting a lamp with a feather duster
Nico Hermann / Getty Images

By using the spot healing brush and filters, you can remove dust and specks from old photos in Photoshop Elements without taking out too much detail. The same technique also works in Photoshop CC.

Instructions in this article apply to Photoshop Elements 2019 for Windows and Mac.

How to Remove Dust Specks With Photoshop Elements

One of the quickest ways to reduce the amount of correction work required for any image is a simple crop. Before you begin, crop your image so that the focal point is close to one of the imaginary rule of thirds intersections.

Once your image is cropped, you can clean it up using Elements:

  1. Open your photo and select the Expert tab at the top of the workspace, then select the Spot Healing Brush tool.

    Open your photo and select the Expert tab at the top of the workspace, then select the Spot Healing Brush tool.
  2. Click on the largest spots to make them blend in with the background. Adjust the zoom so that you can view the individual pixels if you need to.

    To adjust the zoom to 100%, double click the Zoom tool, or use the keyboard shortcut Alt + Ctrl + 0 (for Windows) or Option + Command + 0 (for Mac).

    Click on the largest spots to make them blend in with the background.
  3. If the spot healing tool isn't doing the job, press Ctrl + Z (on Windows) or Command + Z (for Mac) to undo, and try again with a different size brush. Bigger brushes are ideal when the area surrounding the flaw is one similar color (such as the speck on the wall in the example image). If the blemish overlaps an area of color variations or texture (such as the line on the child's shoulder), use a brush that just barely covers the flaw.

    While zoomed in, you can move the image around as you work by pressing the spacebar to temporarily switch to the Hand tool.

    If the blemish overlaps an area of color variations or texture (such as the line on the child's shoulder), use a brush that just barely covers the flaw.
  4. After you've dealt with the larger blemishes, select Layer > Duplicate Layer to duplicate the background layer.

    Select Layer > Duplicate Layer to duplicate the background layer.
  5. Name the new layer Dust Removal and select OK.

    Name the new layer Dust Removal and select OK.
  6. Select the Dust Removal layer in the Layers palette, then go to Filter > Noise > Dust & Scratches.

    Select the Dust Removal layer in the Layers palette, then go to Filter > Noise > Dust & Scratches.
  7. Set the Radius to 3 and the Threshold to 5, then select OK.

    The ideal settings will depend on the resolution of your image. You will still notice a significant loss of detail, but it will be restored in the next steps.

    Set the Radius to 3 and the Threshold to 5, then select OK.
  8. In the Layers palette, change the blend mode of the dust removal layer to Lighten. You'll see a lot of detail come back into the image, but the darker dust spots remain concealed because the layer is only affecting the darker pixels.

    If the dust pecks you are trying to remove are light on a darker background, use the Darken blending mode instead.

    In the Layers palette, change the blend mode of the dust removal layer to Lighten.
  9. Select the Eraser tool and use a large, soft brush at about 50% opacity to paint away any areas where you want to bring back the original detail.

    To see how much you are erasing, you can turn off visibility on the the background layer by clicking the eye beside it in the Layers palette.

    Select the Eraser tool and use a large, soft brush at about 50% opacity to paint away any areas where you want to bring back the original detail.
  10. When you're done, turn the background layer back on and go to Layer > Flatten Image.

    If you see any remaining spots or splotches, brush over them with the Spot Healing Brush tool.

    Turn the background layer back on and go to Layer > Flatten Image.
  11. Select the Quick tab at the top of the workspace, and then select the down-arrow beside Sharpen.

    Select the Quick tab at the top of the workspace, and then select the down-arrow beside Sharpen.
  12. Select Auto to automatically sharpen the image.

    To manually sharpen your image, go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask.

    Select Auto to automatically sharpen the image.
  13. Go back to the Expert tab and select Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels.

    Go back to the Expert tab and select Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels.
  14. Select OK.

    Select OK.
  15. Move the top-left slider a little to the right to boosts the shadows and the mid-tone contrast.

    Move the top-left slider a little to the right to boosts the shadows and the mid-tone contrast.

Experiment with the settings to get the best results for your image. Once satisfied, you can save your image as a PSD file or in your preferred image format.