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Breath new life into old photos

Restoration plug-ins may not be new, but the ease with which they operate is steadily becoming more accessible to the entry-level market, and the range of what they can do is greatly accelerating. Retoucher from AKVIS is one such product that aims to present a comprehensive retouching tool in a simplistic platform. Retoucher is capable of removing dust, scratches, stains and other defects on damaged photos by reconstructing missing areas of the photo, utilising the image information of surrounding pixels. However, now its fourth version, AKVIS boasts ‘massive’ improvements with the addition of a second major feature: the ability to remove entire objects from the scene. While Retoucher’s main agenda – rectifying faults and smoothing out wrinkles – is an automatic process, this new second string to its bow relies on the user performing a much more manual role, which could potentially deter some of the beginners originally intrigued by its simplistic approach to improving images. To remove large areas of the photo, users have to get to grips with two key elements: the Linear Retouch and Patch tools. After selecting the elements for removal and highlighting these in red, users are required to restore the main lines of the background with the Linear tool and adopt the Patch tool as a way of cloning in the replacement data to erase the unwanted subjects.
The first part of this process is particularly fiddly if your scene incorporates a large proportion of lines or geometric shapes, and the second part can also become rather painstaking, particularly if the area you are removing is large or the background includes several integral or diverse elements. Although this process does have its merits – for example, the Linear tool is very functional for restoring the background in a specified direction, it isn’t for anyone who is looking for a one-click solution to their problems. What are of great benefit in this version are the dual interface modes: Express and Advanced. Express – offering the minimal tools required for a quick and simplified operation, is perfect for newcomers, whereas Advanced provides a greater palette of options for extended user control and creativity – ideal for those already proficient with editing suites such as Photoshop. Furthermore, version 4 of Retoucher ushers in a new age for the brand, as the product makes the difficult leap to a standalone product. That said, the plug-in version still exists and is now available with 64-bit support, thus compatible with Photoshop CS5 64-bit.