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Thread: Reading faint pencil

  1. #1
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    Default Reading faint pencil

    I have some really old family photos that have faint writing in pencil on the back. Is there away to enhance or magnify the contrast so I can see it without ruining the photos? Sounds like a CSI mission. I haven't found anything useful on the web.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    I don't have any experience with this, but it sounds like a fun experiment.

    If you have access to good camera equipment, you can try a variety of colored filters like these:



    You can also try infrared film and/or infrared lighting.

    Convert everything to digital and then mess with the contrast controls. You probably don't need photoshop... any photo program will have a contrast/brightness controls.

    I think the technical word is palimpsest

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Pencil leaves an indentation on paper,it is also shiny"graphite". Inspect the photos at a sharp angle, with a light shining on it. This is one to do without the computer.

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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich VanValkenburg View Post
    I have some really old family photos that have faint writing in pencil on the back. Is there away to enhance or magnify the contrast so I can see it without ruining the photos? Sounds like a CSI mission. I haven't found anything useful on the web.
    Scan the writing and post here...

    Kaa

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Scan the writing, and a good photoshopper should be able to bring it out using the photoshop "curves" function. It gives more control than the "contrast" function.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    in forensics they burn superglue to trace fingerprints, would this work
    The first J Class Designs for 75 years

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Paint.net is a good, free program, developed at Washington State University. You can do brightness, contrast, adjust hues, sharpen, change size, and more stuff than you will ever use.

    The program is absolutly free and made to work on a Windows platform. All you need is a scanner to get your picture into your computer then play with it and see what you find.

    Bob

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    I have a freebee called Photoscape and will try that. I used to have a package from Adobe called PhotoDeluxe but they dumped support and it won't load to XP.

    I've had some offers via PM and I'll get to that this morning after I play around with Photoscape. There's no indentations, just a very faint hint of writing on some of them. I'll post a few but it'll take me a few hours to get it all together.

    What started all of this was a post by a woman on an ancestry site looking for information on her grandfather. Turns out her grandfather was my grandfather's brother! He had three brothers and a sister, so off we went through the really old family photos that we found when my parents passed in the last year. My BIL has a wall in his house with photos and names of the last several generations of his family, a neat idea and something to leave for my kids.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    A palimpsest is a vellum or parchment sheet that has had the original writing removed so to be used again....

    A strong raking light will show the indentations of the pencil as was mentioned above.

    Are you sure it is pencil...? how old...? 'modern' pencil is graphite and clay, both pretty inert and no known way to enhance chemically the traces, but a 'silverpoint ' or true lead pencil can be enhanced by converting the lead present into a black lead sulphide.
    This is a problem for paper conservators (me) as the presence of airborne sulphur pollution causes the artist's pigment white lead, basic lead carbonate to blacken to lead sulphide...disfiguring to say the least...all traces of white on a painting, highlights etc become black. ... this black sulphide, is readily oxidised 'converted' by hydrogen peroxide into white lead sulphate....and the reverse of this treatment, that is exposing the lead pencil to sulphuretted hydrogen gas, can cause the lead traces in pencil to blacken, enhancing readability...
    There are other techniques for improving legibility of pigments if it isn't pencil at all......but best is to go and see a paper restorer.
    But then I would say that.......

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Rich, you need to post (or, rather, put somewhere accessible) the image at much, much higher resolution. 300 dpi -- 300 pixels per linear inch of your photograph -- would be good.

    Kaa

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Not exactly admitting defeat here, but all my above info is for various reasons probably not applicable here. You have a composite pulp board faced with a fine probably better quality paper and then embossed... acidic degradation has caused the brittleness and 'dog-eared' faults. the photo is then applied 'stuck' on the other side and will be a gelatine print from circa 1900 I'm guessing, perhaps twenty years either side.....Whatever, it's not going to be lead, it will be graphite.... Though nothing is impossible in restoration/conservation, the economics are a big factor.
    Follow the upstairs advice on photo /computer enhancement, the infra-red photos, or even looking at it under an infra-red light could help....

    UV or 'black light' , not yet mentioned, can be really effective, but the cheaper portable hand held types that antique dealers use to show up retouches and added signatures are little more than purple filters over a standard lamp..not much cop...search out a good one .......or take it to the local disco when they have a seventies night...but not if you have dodgy choppers or dandruff!!!!

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaa View Post
    Rich, you need to post (or, rather, put somewhere accessible) the image at much, much higher resolution. 300 dpi -- 300 pixels per linear inch of your photograph -- would be good.

    Kaa
    What Kaa sez, and you are also scanning the whole scanner bed. Select only the image or your file will be much too big.
    You'll probably have to email them as they may be too large to post online.
    At the present low resolution when trying to select the writing at a larger size it all breaks up.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    If your scanner software permits it, you could scan only the portion of the item where the writing is. That way you can get higher resolution where it counts and keep the file size down.
    Wherever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense. --Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    You might try just guessing at what certain of the letters may be on the picture and then see if they match up with a known name.

    If you get the highest resolution possible from your scanner and select just for the area the writing is in, then the resulting scan may not be too large to post. Just hope the picture is not a teacher or other non relative.

    Bob

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Ok, this is at 300 dpi. I don't know what the heck happened on that last one. I'm usually not that stupid, but I obviously was. I deleted it.


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Not much enhancement, unfortunately.



    What would help is more resolution and a color scan. With color image I can play with channels, with grayscale it's pretty much contrast only...

    Kaa

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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaa View Post
    Not much enhancement, unfortunately.



    What would help is more resolution and a color scan. With color image I can play with channels, with grayscale it's pretty much contrast only...

    Kaa
    I was going to suggest rescanning in color. Thr first scan was in color.....

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    The last line is almost readable
    ------ston Ont. with the letter before the 's' being 'l', 'd' or 't'
    R
    "Now Ron,don't you do anything stupid!" - Grandma B.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Williamson View Post
    The last line is almost readable
    ------ston Ont. with the letter before the 's' being 'l', 'd' or 't'
    R
    Well that makes some sense, all of our kin was from Woodstock, Ont. That should please my cousins over in London, Ont. They thought I was the black sheep of the family by being over here.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Quote Originally Posted by falchion View Post
    try a microscope/ magnifying glass. jewelers eye glass
    I tried this, and using the results from Kaa's image I was able to see 'Aunt Sarah Woodstock, Ont.' But there isn't any mention of an aunt Sarah in the family records. Some of them went by their middle name so I don't know.

    You're probably curious about the other side of the photo, so here she is. Lovely.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    You might try looking at a negative image. I think the Shroud of Turin image was discovered looking at a negative.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Quote Originally Posted by SamSam View Post
    You might try looking at a negative image. I think the Shroud of Turin image was discovered looking at a negative.
    This is a great idea.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    I also require help in reading faded pencil writing from the inside of a old book i have. Some of it is readable but if you look at the image you will see whats not. http://s13.beta.photobucket.com/user...tml?sort=3&o=0
    Last edited by albownz; 02-23-2013 at 01:53 PM. Reason: delete some text

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    If on the back..powdered graphite..

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Not sure what you mean

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Complicated problems usually have simple solutions - which are almost always wrong.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Quote Originally Posted by albownz View Post
    Not sure what you mean
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  28. #28
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    I have been looking at the picture and put it to photoshop. The image is too low res. I would recommend taking 5 raw 5 meg photos instead of scans. one straight above with two point lighting, one with a flash, one without flash at the same distance. Then one with a 30% camera offset above and one 30% offset the side.

    When one lines them all up layered the image on the back is likely to be apparent to the viewer once stacked in a layered photoshop software solution.
    The myth of the ‘information society’ is that we’re drowning in knowledge. But it’s easier for most to propagate ignorance.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    OK Ted i have done what you asked ..........just hope i got it all right angles and lighting i mean. the photo's should be here http://s13.beta.photobucket.com/user/albownz1/library/

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Working on it now...
    The myth of the ‘information society’ is that we’re drowning in knowledge. But it’s easier for most to propagate ignorance.

  31. #31
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    I layered and then used curves. It helped a bit - almost readable. http://www.flickr.com/photos/2881725...ream/lightbox/

    Last edited by Ted Hoppe; 02-23-2013 at 11:36 PM.
    The myth of the ‘information society’ is that we’re drowning in knowledge. But it’s easier for most to propagate ignorance.

  32. #32
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    use a 10X hand lens

  33. #33
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Thank you very much for your assitance. I think the bottom line above the pic says " Lambeth Town"

  34. #34
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    Default Re: Reading faint pencil

    Hello everybody,

    Can anybody work any magic on the attached??

    Thanks,
    Sam

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