Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I requested a copy of my military service from my state's National Guard Headquarters.

This is what they sent me:

enter image description here

I called the State HQ to see if I could get a copy that was more readable. The Sergeant told me that the copy I received was from microfilm, the machine they had sucked and that was the best he could do.

Can I scan this at a high dpi and use some photo editing techniques to make it readable?

share|improve this question
If you could use, using the magic wand with a CAREFULLY selected similarity level may do the trick. Its going to be a royal pain in the rear though – Journeyman Geek Aug 3 '12 at 12:02
I don't have GIMP, but if you can adjust the levels using a color picker, all you have to do is set the white level to some area that's supposed to be white, and set the black level to a piece of text. – slhck Aug 3 '12 at 12:06
Does it have to be done via GIMP? – Dave Aug 3 '12 at 12:19
Does this image have any important info on it like an SSN? (If so, edit out that stuff and repost the image) – cutrightjm Aug 28 '12 at 1:37
up vote 11 down vote accepted

It has a lot of colored noise, so the color picker trick suggested by slhck will probably not work.

I have tried it in photoshop, with the following steps:

  • Select the whole image and reduce the saturation to 0. This will cause the colored noise to become grayscale noise.
  • Increase the contrast of the image (this might take multiple passes)
  • Select the lighter and darker parts and, respectively, decrease or increase the contrast of that part of the image. This will make it more uniform.

(excuse me if any of this has another term in GIMP, I have only ever used photoshop. These are basic modifications; nearly any photoshop-like program will have them.)

This is what I got after two minutes:

enter image description here

With a higher resolution image it will of course look a lot better, and I would gladly do it for you.

share|improve this answer
I orignially asked for GIMP because I do not have photoshop. However, I think this question is best served when asked w/o mentioning a specific photo tool. Thus, I am marking this one as the answer. I was able to use combination of your answer and DragonLord to make a slightly readable format. However, if you don't mind, please take a stab at this image. You should have full access to this folder. – ray023 Aug 3 '12 at 14:03
The image is a really bad photocopy and there wasn't much to be salvaged from it. But I made three versions with various methods. You should be able to download them here: – Simon Verbeke Aug 3 '12 at 14:42
yeah, that's what I was afraid of. It looks better so thanks for giving it the old college try. I'm going to submit what I have while I wait on a better copy. If you don't mind, please remove the dropbox folder. I can't imagine anyone wanting to try and read that, but the less info of me on the net, the better. thanks. – ray023 Aug 3 '12 at 15:30
@ray023 They're gone ;) – Simon Verbeke Aug 3 '12 at 15:32

As Simon Verbeke noted, desaturate the image (ColorsDesaturate) first to eliminate the color noise. GIMP has a tool for this purpose:

GIMP Desaturate tool

Then use the Curves tool (ColorsCurves) to adjust and fine-tune the image:

GIMP Curves tool

Learn more about the Curves tool here.

share|improve this answer

Regarding the "scan at higher DPI" bit, no, it is impossible to add missing information, that would violate the laws of physics (assuming you meant to scan the image and not to request a second, higher quality scan). The perceived quality can be somewhat improved as demonstrated by Simon, but there just isn't enough information in the image for that to produce a readable result. Your best bet would be to have them send you a proper image.

share|improve this answer
I believe he actually meant to have the physical document scanned at a higher resolution. But yes, he would definitely need a bigger one. Maybe that one will even be readable without modifications. – Simon Verbeke Aug 3 '12 at 13:25
@SimonVerbeke thanks, added some clarification. – kotekzot Aug 3 '12 at 15:58

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .