PS File Fixing 5.1.2012 – 8.31.2013


You are the digital cartographers of the new version of USGS DRGs. These will become the new industry standard, and that makes this an exciting project to work on.

At times it will feel like you are working on a coloring book, but remember it takes skill and knowledge to know what to color, what to erase, and what needs to be done to get the best product in the most efficient amount of time.

Efficiency is key. There are many steps in this process, and many people working on different stages. This is a HUGE dataset, and each file needs to be opened and examined, hopefully the work of people before you will give you quality inputs so your file times can stay low and moderately consistent.  Like Dr. Dickason said, independent and reliable work is key to being part of this team. We need to be thorough and effective. Someone will come behind you and look at your work, but just as you hoped for quality inputs, so too will the people that follow you.

Helpful tips to learning photoshop

  1. Learn your keystrokes! Use your left hand for keystrokes, and your right to mouse (or inverse of course if you are left handed).
  2. Know your abbreviations, they are the key to the tools in the PS toolbox
  3. We work in the RGB color model. As a subtractive color schema, each band has a range of 0-255 with true black at 0-0-0 and true white at 255-255-255.
  4. Reset CS in middle if you notice your lines/contours “drifting”
  5. Keep you “row overlap” to a minimum

Screen shots of common mistakes/things to watch out for!!

The Replace Color tool can have unintended consequences, use with caution!!!







Replace color unintended results, continued: Water Patches (WP)




Don’t leave obvious brush marks


or places where it is clear that clone stamp was used on only part of a contour


Spot healing brush (J) works best when no other features are around. This is an example of a spot that should be cleaned.


Fix an obvious brush stroke even if it was there from someone who worked on the file previously


“CS hash” before and after


Wetlands usually have small “EB look-alikes” (see the small blue speckle), and are therefore usually left alone. Rarely, there will be legitimate EB that in the wetlands, and should be removed if possible. Notice that all small blue “fake EB” has been left behind.


Paint Bucket Tool “PB island whiten”


Paint bucket can be used in a variety of different ways, and the tolerance number is relevant to each. Not shown here is a way to whiten a large area, and/or reduce the “fuzzy” between features and white space. This technique is not easily visualized, and therefore not shown here.  PB can be used to fix your mistakes, and reduce your need to run your eraser along the border of a feature. A second PB click in the whitespace or small eraser (in the middle image) will fix it.


In the ‘don’t make it look like you colored’ section of this document, we talked briefly about being cautions with CS.  The biggest thing to be cautious of is giving the accidental appearance of a contour interval to a regular contour. Although the color is different, the contours are different widths after the CS so it is important to CS all contours in the area to not create this problem.


“CS CC” before and after


Decisions, Decisions, Decisions – or – How to find the fastest way to fix an oh-so-close file. 

Almost every file includes some small trade-off or another. Whether it’s a small amount of speckle that needs to be removed manually so features that are hard to recover don’t wash out, or you’re filling water or darkening green in Photoshop because you just can’t get rid of the speckle any other way.  Everyone has their own understanding of how the Photoshop tools work to fix the files, and it just takes practice to know what is going to get you to the finish line on a file the fastest.  Each file will have a sweet spot – the place where it’s “Done” with the fewest compromises and NO unacceptable feature washout or speckling left behind. Similarly, each file will have an ideal solution to reach this sweet spot.

Just a few examples…

1. Problem – top half is close to washout, but the bottom has speckling. Fastest Solution – use the polygon selection (Marquee –M or Lasso –L) to select only the bottom half of the map, run a replace color to remove the speckle, and the top portion is left unadulterated.  An alternate solution here would be to export two versions of this file and use clone stamp to paint back on the washed out parts of the speckle-free-bottom map. In this scenario I think the RC is fastest, but always remember to use caution with RC.

2. If your Clone Stamp gets a slight “shift” in the target/destination process, stop and reset your origin! This can cause serious error that we do not want!! Be very careful using CS!!!

3. Quite often, there will be a determination as to whether it is quicker to use the Brush tool set

 to “darken “ mode or to use the clone stamp between two files, and the determining factor is how continuous the green is and how wide the river or lake is. In the following examples, the brush, to darken, could be used at a large size to darken the green with just a few clicks in the example on the left. The only trick here is making sure you know there are no intended ‘holes’ in the green that can’t be seen because of too much washout when advising to use the brush. The brush should never be recommended if the border of the green is unclear. However the middle and right files have too many edges to the green. So for these files’ washout fix, CS is most appropriate.

A general rule is that it is easier to remove speckle than fill green and definitely over filling water unless it is isolated to a tiny region of the map (say the NW corner, or the top strip of the map).

There is a distinction between types of fixes and their expected time needed in PS.


And, oh yes, the spreadsheets

Only completely finished files will have “Done” standing alone (or with parentheses).

Parentheses are crucial for identifying all things that are considered acceptable for now, but will be fixed if we have time in a later version or something.

Files that have the word “needs” have been exported to tiffs and are ready for Photoshop.

If the comments on what fixes are required are written in following the first process, these files are exported to the “_fixed” folder. ** “duds” also apply here.

If the comments on what fixes are required are written in following the word “Done” in the comments column, these files are exported to the “quick fix” folder.

“Done (sm EB)” should be examined, but expected to go the quickest of any file.

Files that have had EB done in edit are written as

“RR1a, EB >Done”

or with other problems:

“RR1a, EB >Done (hash)”


Different people might have a hand in completing all of the Photoshop work that needs to be done.


Some blocks are going to be more trouble than others.

Files that are really difficult get an (ff) in the comments column.

You will decide if these files need to be rescanned or salvaged.

If the file is salvageable, write:

“CS CC from RR1, CS WF from RR1b, EB, GF >Done (fixed ff)”

If they are rescans, write RESCAN in your column, followed by your process fixes, and then “Done” in the comments.

Take “E8” for example. If you could not recover the file in Photoshop, your column would read:

“RESCAN, PS1, RR1, EB >Done”

*NOTE – post 9.1.2013 files are no longer rescanned. Updated photoshop processes allow for any original file to be image processed to completion.

Fixing the Georeference object is an inevitable result of a rescan, and looking in the spreadsheet for RESCANS is a good check in the georef verification process to make sure rvc archive and 250 col have their points in the right place.


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