How to Remove Moiré in Photoshop

In this article, I will show you how you can reduce the effect of moiré in Adobe Photoshop. With the release of the Nikon D800E, which has a different low-pass filter compared to the regular version of the D800 (see Nikon D800 vs D800E), it seems like Nikon opened up a can of worms as it relates to a phenomenon known as “moiré“. For the first time, Nikon is letting photographers pick between two versions of the same camera: one that yields sharper images at a cost of potentially having moiré in images (D800E) and one that yields slightly softer images but has no issues with moiré (D800). This quickly created tremendous interest from photographers, many of whom never even heard of the term “moiré” before the Nikon D800E. Questions started pouring in from everywhere and I spent quite a bit of time trying to explain what moiré is all about and how one could avoid or reduce its effect. This seems to be a primary concern for landscape and macro photographers that also enjoy photographing architecture and portraits (where moiré is seen quite often). Below you will find detailed instructions on how to reduce the effect of moiré in Photoshop.

Can Moiré be completely removed in Photoshop?

Unlike Lightroom 4, which has a built-in tool to reduce moire (and in some mild cases even eliminate it), Photoshop has no automated way of reducing or removing moire. Because of this, there are literally dozens of different methods you can use to deal with moire. I have tried a number of them and I found the below method to work best for the worst moire-infested photographs out there. Most other methods use some sort of blurring technique that actually degrades image quality, which is why I prefer this one instead. If you work with the original file (RAW is preferred), you will definitely get better results than if you work with a small JPEG image (as I will be doing below). While it is possible to completely remove moire in Photoshop, the process can be very time consuming and painful. This is the reason why I have been recommending most of our readers to buy the regular version of the Nikon D800 instead of the D800E. The latter is a specialized tool for dedicated landscape and macro photographers that want to get the best out of their equipment. The last thing you want is introduce another step to your workflow in order to clean up moiré, just because you picked up the wrong camera.

Step One: Remove the Rainbow Pattern

Removing moire in Photoshop is done in two steps – the first one removes the rainbow pattern of moire and the second one takes care of the Luminance channel pattern. Let’s get started with the same jacket image I presented in “what is moiré” article. I decided to use this image, because it has a very strong moiré pattern with yellow and green rainbow discolorations. This type of moiré is pretty much a worst-case scenario:

Moiré

(Image courtesy of photo.net)

  1. Once you have the photo with moiré open in Photoshop, the first thing we’ll do is make a selection of the entire area that contains moire. You can use different tools to accomplish this. I used Magnetic Lasso Tool, along with the Quick Mask Mode to make the below selection:

    Remove Moire 1 - Selection

  2. Now use the Eyedropper tool (“I” shortcut) to select a foreground color. Make sure to pick the color from the selection – I used the top left side of the jacket.
  3. Next, create an empty layer by going to Layer->New->Layer, then select “Color” under “Mode”:
    Remove Moire 2 - New Layer
  4. With the new layer selected, go to Edit->Fill (Shift+F5), pick “Foreground Color” under Contents->Use and click OK:
    Remove Moire 3 - Fill Layer

    What the above step does, is it paints the selected area with the same or similar color as the fabric that contains moire. This, in turn, removes the rainbow pattern from the fabric completely, because the layer blend mode is set to “Color”.

The first step is complete – we have successfully removed the rainbow pattern from the affected area, as can be seen below:

Remove Moire 4 - Removed Rainbow Pattern

If the color of the fabric changes/looks different, try going back to step #2 and selecting a slightly different variation of color that more closely matches the whole fabric.

Step Two: Repair the Luminosity Channel

Now that the ugly rainbow pattern has been removed, we can now move on to repairing the luminosity channel – the wavy forms that are left from moire. This part is much more complex than the first one and might need some tweaking to get the best results. In some cases you might not be able to completely fix the luminosity channel, so you might need to introduce other tools (such as the blur tool) to minimize its effect.

  1. First, hide the lastly created layer by clicking the eye right in front of the layer.
  2. Make sure that the selected area stays selected. Now select the background/first layer (the original image) and create another layer, just like we did in step #3 in Step 1. Go to Layer->New->Layer and again set the “Mode” to “Color. Click OK
  3. Once again, go to Edit->Fill (Shift+F5), but this time select “White” under Contents->Use:
    Remove Moire 5 - Fill Layer White
  4. The selected part of the image should now become black and white and the luminosity channel with the lines/patterns should be still visible:

    Remove Moire 8 - Fill Layer White

  5. Again, click the background/first layer and go to Layer->New Adjustment Layer->Hue/Saturation. Your Layers panel should look like this:
    Remove Moire 6 - Layers Panel
  6. Right above that panel you should see the “Adjustments” panel that looks like this:
    Remove Moire 7 - Adjustments Panel

    Now the idea of this particular step is to adjust the “Hue” and “Saturation” levels until the Luminance moire patterns are completely removed. Make sure that you are looking at the problem area at 100% view in Photoshop. With the “Hue/Saturation” layer selected, start adjusting the “Hue” level with your mouse. Slowly move all the way to the left and watch the problem area, then do the same by moving it to the right. You will find that the pattern gets more pronounced as you move to the extreme left or to the extreme right, while values in between will minimize the pattern. For this particular image, a Hue value of “-40″ seemed to be give me the best result.

  7. Next, do the same with “Saturation”, by moving the slider slowly from left to right. Again, you will find that the extreme values will make the pattern even more visible. Sometimes moving this slider will accomplish nothing, as in the case of this particular image (I left the “Saturation” level at “0″). By now, most of the pattern problems should have disappeared from the selected area.
  8. The last step is to turn the second layer on by clicking on the eye in front of the layer. This will make the second layer visible and the normal fabric colors should come back.
  9. Go to Layers->Flatten Image to merge all layers and flatten the image.

Here is a before and after:

Move mouse over to see before and after

Looks much better, but it is not perfect. The smaller patterns are still visible, because they are present in all color channels. Removing those could be a much more tedious task, involving clone/blur tools to remove moire completely. But it is doable. If you work with the original RAW file, you can use the above technique with a combination of the down-sampling process in Photoshop to get much better results.


Avatar of Nasim Mansurov About Nasim Mansurov

is a professional photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. He is the author and founder of Photography Life, along with a number of other online resources. Read more about Nasim here.

Comments

  1. I think this would make a good training video Nasim. :-)

    • Aaron, agreed! Will do a video next time instead :)

  2. 2
    ) Stefan

    Good job as always, Nasim!
    Very interesting approach!

  3. 3
    ) Moe Jacknally

    Hi Nasim!
    Thanks for choosing the method I posted in your Lightroom 4 moiré article. I think it works pretty well.
    This technique here is pretty good but also very complicated.
    http://av.adobe.com/russellbrown/GoAwaySM.mov
    :D

    Now it would be interesting to see moiré reduction on a raw file with Lightroom 4 and then additional retouching with Photoshop.

    • Moe, yes, I tried out that method as well and found the results to be a little worse than the above method (for the particular image I was using). The first part is always easy, it is the Luminance channel that becomes painful to get rid of…

      I will definitely try out moire reduction on a RAW file, once I get my Nikon D800E :)

  4. 7
    ) jack

    This article best demonstrates why most people who are considering a purchase of the D800 should choose the non-E version; for most of us, the minimal gain in sharpness is far outweighed by the effort required to correct Moire. Thank you, Nasim for your excellent advice.

  5. 8
    ) Zan Marsenic

    Hello Nasim,

    My understanding is that Moire will be relatively easy to tackle in Capture NX. Am I right?

    Regards,

  6. 9
    ) Kevin Tay

    Greeting Nasim,

    I am your reader from Singaporeans. wondering you have any tip on release of lenss from nikon? Since D4 and D800 had released, im expecting releasing of lense too. Im might be wrong. But look forwarding for new 300 f4 with VR.

  7. 10
    ) MarkL

    Кстати, советую почитать вот что: http://momentextractor.livejournal.com/34052.html#cutid1

  8. 11
    ) Tim

    Yes! This worked like a charm. Thanks for posting!!!

  9. 12
    ) pelixiano

    Hi Nasim, thanks for the tutorial, you also can copy one channel with the less moire pattern, i guess its green channel for this image and put it on the layer as luminosity layer, it will reduce the pattern significantly

    hope it improves everyone here

  10. 13
    ) KIm

    You saved the day! Thank you for posting about getting rid of moire pattern in Photoshop. May good karma come your way!

  11. 14
    ) Tony Mastres

    Great Fix, Saved my bacon:-) Funny enough I’ve never had a moire problem with a D700, D3 or D3x and I really haven’t heard of many even with the D800e. Mine came from using an old D300. Anyhow your technique save me, Thanks a ton

  12. 15
    ) monique

    so surprised how simple of a fix that was. thank you so much for figuring it out, sharing and posting it in a way where the steps are easy to follow. worked like a charm!!

  13. Haven’t seen a moire pattern on my Fuji s5 for years, but just came upon one on a suit today. Your tutorial is a life saver for me. Thanks.

  14. 17
    ) Amanda Coplans

    You’d better add the Canon 5d mkiii to your list, because I was horrified by my new son-in-law’s suit when I downloaded my daughter’s wedding photographs. All the ones at the ceremony are ruined by the awful moire on his suit. Not only that, his five groomsmen all had the same suits! It is worst during the ceremony (outdoors), and other photos taken later in the day are OK – you can only really see the moire if you are looking for it, as it is very mild. But it was a real shock and not something I’ve come across before in 25 years!. Removing it is too time consuming, so I converted to b/w, where it is much less noticeable.

  15. I have tried numerous methods to remove moire from suits before and this was, by far, the most completely successful method ever. Thank you so much for this tutorial–saved me a ton of post-processing time on my latest family portrait session!!! Your steps were thoroughly explained and illustrated perfectly.(Shooting on a Canon 5D mark II)

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