2003-2006 Mike Russell, All Rights Reserved

Restoring the Mona Lisa

Figure 1. La Giaconda, before and after restoration.

This is a photograph of the Mona Lisa, which resides in the Louvre in Paris. It is severely yellowed, and no expert dares to step forward to risk their career restoring it. We are about to accomplish exactly this using Curvemeister. Since there are no known neutrals in this image, we will use color pinning to leverage the only known color reference: flesh tones.


Open the Mona Lisa image, and start Curvemeister in the usual way, from Photoshop's Filters menu. Then click on the shiny pin icon (see Figure 1) in the upper left of the view window, if necessary, to display the pin palette.

Figure 1. Click the icon in the upper left corner
of the image window to make the Pin Palette visible.

Figure 2. Selecting a flesh tone pin.


Normally, we would do shadow and highlight first. Since this is a pinning example, and the order does not matter much, let's start instead by pinning a flesh tone. Grab any one of the flesh colored pins from the pin palette, and drag it onto an area of medium light skin. In this case we will use Skin 4, though all of these pins work about equally well for this image.


Now drag the pin onto any area of skin, and fine tune it by dragging it around over a small area. I find that selecting an area of about 75 percent lightness works well.

Figure 3. Fine tuning the location of the pin.

Figure 4. Setting the Shadow


Now for the usual shadow and highlight drill. Add a shadow point, and drag it around until you have broken up any areas of solid black, as shown. The idea is to preserve all possible detail in the painting, while increasing contrast as much as possible.


Whoops, wait a minute - there is no highlight! What to do? Use Curvemeister's threshold feature, which allows setting of the curve's light endpoint, guided by a threshold effect applied to the image.

I have also moved the middle point of the Lightness curve upward to make the image a bit lighter and open up the shadows.

Now stand back and admire your work. Notice the recovery of blue detail in the background, and the improved flesh tones.

There's more that can be done for Mona, and I hope you are inspired to continue this exercise.

Figure 5. Setting the white end of the curve.
Although this example shows the Lightness curve of Lab, you may use the same procedure with the RGB or wgCMYK curves.

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